Edited by John Scott and Ann Nilsen
Chapter 6: C. Wright Mills and the contemporary challenge of biographical methods
In the first decades of the twenty-first century, C. Wright Mills has re-emerged as an inspiring figure for new generations of sociologists (see for instance, Gane 2011; Back and Gane 2012; Kerr 2008). In this chapter I argue that as a critical commentator on the rise of new forms of bureaucratized social science at its inception, he presented a set of critical resources which offer renewed appeal and insight at the moment that the nature of social science is once again being rethought in the context of digitalization and the proliferation of social data. I argue that Mills’s fundamental concerns to relate history to sociology, to link the individual and social change, although laudable general aims which are widely shared by theorists of different hues, proved difficult to redeem in practice at the time he was writing because the methodological developments of the time were pushing firmly to separate out these different dimensions. His own defence of the intellectual craft of sociology might also seem to fly in the face of modern, scientific developments which attracted many sociologists of the 1950s and 1960s. However, I provocatively argue that Mills’s moment may be re-emerging. New developments in research methods, and new types of ‘mixed methods,’ offer the potential for finding more practical ways of linking the individual and society. I also explore how these methods themselves draw on intellectual resources close to Mills’s heart, notably concerns with pragmatism, and cross-fertilize with new currents of research in social stratification.
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.