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Personal Troubles & Social Issues- C.W.Mills

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Before a distinction can be made between 'Personal troubles' and 'Social issues' it is important to determine exactly what the Sociological Imagination is.

The Sociological Imagination was introduced by C. Wright Mills in 1959. Sociological imagination refers to the relationship between individual troubles and the large social forces that are the driving forces behind them. The intent of the sociological imagination is to see the bigger picture within which individuals live their lives; to recognize personal troubles and social issues as two aspects of a single process.

Sociological imagination helps the individual to understand the society in which they live in by moving the individual away from reality and looking beyond the picture it self. By doing so it helps to show the strong link between an individual's personal life and the society in which they live. The sociological imagination requires us to engage in the study of an individual's biography; but to place that biography in the larger context of the history and tradition of the society in which that individual lives. By acknowledging the relation between history and biography we can see how personal troubles and social issues are connected. Many times people fail to see their own biographies as being correlated to the larger public of society.

Personal troubles can be defined as when an individual is having problems related to him or herself. Social issues can be defined as issues and matters that are related to society on the whole in general.

Throughout this assignment I will link the concept of Sociological Imagination to the concept of suicide. Suicide is 'the act or an instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally'. Emile Durkheim stated that "Suicide is the death resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative act of the victim himself, which he knows will produce this result."

Durkheim's aim was not to explain or predict an individual tendency to suicide, but to explain one type of non-material social facts, social currents. Social currents are characteristics of society, but may not have the permanence and stability that some parts of collective consciousness or collective representation have. In the case of suicide, these social currents are expressed as suicide rates, rates that differ among societies, and among different groups in society. These rates show regularities over time, with changes in the rates often occurring at similar times in different societies. Thus these rates can be said to be social facts (or at least the statistical representation of social facts) in the sense that they are not just personal, but are societal characteristics. Durkheim argues that the most important aspects of social organization and collective life for explaining differences in suicide rates are the degree of integration into and regulation by society. For Durkheim, integration is the "degree to which collective sentiments are shared" and regulation refers to "the degree of external constraint on people", as quoted by George Ritzer.

Ritzer argues two elements on Durkheim's theory of suicide. Ritzer argued that different collectivities have different collective consciousness or collective representation. These produce different social currents, and these lead to different suicide rates. By studying different groups and societies, some of these currents can be analyzed, and the effect of these on suicide can be determined. Secondly, Ritzer changes in the collective consciousness lead to changes in social currents. These are then associated with changes in suicide rates. The conclusion from all these facts is that the social suicide rates can be explained only sociologically. At any given moment the moral constitution of society established the contingent of voluntary deaths. There is, therefore, for each person a collective force of a definite amount of energy, impelling a person to self destruction. The victim's acts at first seem to express only personal temperament; are really the supplement and prolongation of a social condition which a person expresses externally.

The manner in which social integration and regulation work can be better seen by examining the four fold classification of suicides that Durkheim developed from his study. These four fold classifications are Egoistic suicide, Altruistic Suicide, anomic Suicide and Fatalistic Suicide.

Egoistic Suicide is the type of suicide that occurs where the degree of social integration is low, and there is a sense of meaningless among individuals. In traditional societies, with mechanical solidarity, this is not likely to be the cause of suicide. There, the strong collective consciousness gives people a broad sense of meaning to their lives. Within modern society, the weaker collective consciousness means that people may not see the same meaning in their lives, and unrestrained pursuit of individual interests may lead to strong dissatisfaction, hence resulting in an individual committing suicide. Individuals who are strongly integrated into a family structure, a religious group, or some other type of integrative group are less likely to encounter these problems, and that explains the lower suicide rates among them. The factors leading to egoistic suicide can be social currents such as depression and disillusionment. For Durkheim, these are social forces or social facts, even though it is the depressed or melancholy individual who takes his or her life voluntarily. Durkheim stated "Actors are never free of the force of the collectivity.' However individualized a man may be, there is always something collective remaining - the very depression and melancholy resulting from this same exaggerated individualism.'" Mills would argue that personal problems would lead to this form of suicide. An individual who is divorced shows a higher fluctuation of suicide as oppose to an individual who is containing a happy marriage. For example, when a couple with children are divorced, the wife may have a restraining order on the husband to keep away from their children. Along with all the personal troubles rose from the breaking up of the marriage, the fact that a father may not be allowed to see his children give him that extra sense of low integration, forming a weak collective conscience leading the father to commit suicide. The concept of personal problems in itself leads a person to commit this form of suicide.

Altruistic Suicide is the type of suicide that occurs when integration is too great; the collective consciousness too strong, and the individual is forced into committing suicide. Integration may not be the direct cause of suicide here, but the social currents that go

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