You can never really understand an individual unless you also understand the society,historical time period in which they live,personal troubles, and social issues
The more we understand what is happening in the world, the more frustrated we often become, for our knowledge leads to feelings of powerlessness. We feel that we are living in a world in which the citizen has become a mere spectator or a forced actor, and that our personal experience is politically useless and our political will a minor illusion.
Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.
The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. This is its task and its promise.
It is the political task of the social scientist — as of any liberal educator — continually to translate personal troubles into public issues, and public issues into the terms of their human meaning for a variety of individuals. It is his task to display in his work — and, as an educator, in his life as well — this kind of sociological imagination. And it is his purpose to cultivate such habits of mind among the men and women who are publicly exposed to him. To secure these ends is to secure reason and individuality, and to make these the predominant values of a democratic society.
By the power elite, we refer to those political, economic, and military circles which as an intricate set of overlapping cliques share decisions having at least national consequences. In so far as national events are decided, the power elite are those who decide them.
People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. They come readily to define themselves as inherently worthy of what they possess; they come to believe themselves ‘naturally’ elite; and, in fact, to imagine their possessions and their privileges as natural extensions of their own elite selves.
Nobody talks more of free enterprise and competition and of the best man winning than the man who inherited his father’s store or farm.
Seldom aware of the intricate connection between the patterns of their own lives and the course of world history, ordinary people do not usually know what this connection means for the kind of people they are becoming and for the kind of history-making in which they might take part.
For we cannot adequately understand ‘man’ as an isolated biological creature, as a bundle of reflexes or a set of instincts, as an ‘intelligible field’ or a system in and of itself. Whatever else he may be, man is a social and an historical actor who must be understood, if at all, in close and intricate interplay with social and historical structures
Whatever sociology may be, it is the result of constantly asking the question, what is the meaning of this?
Every revolution has its counterrevolution – that is a sign the revolution is for real.
Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them — and then, the opportunity to choose.
To really belong, we have got, first, to get it clear with ourselves that we do not belong and do not want to belong to an unfree world. As free men and women we have got to reject much of it and to know why we are rejecting it.
The mass production of distraction is now as much a part of the American way of life as the mass production of automobiles.
Power is not of a man. Wealth does not center in the person of the wealthy. Celebrity is not inherent in any personality. To be celebrated, to be wealthy, to have power requires access to major institutions.
What ordinary men are directly aware of and what they try to do are bounded by the private orbits in which they live; their visions and their powers are limited.
The professional celebrity, male and female, is the crowning result of the star system of a society that makes a fetish of competition. In America, this system is carried to the point where a man who can knock a small white ball into a series of holes in the ground with more efficiency than anyone else thereby gains social access to the President of the United States.
A society that is in its higher circles and middle levels widely believed to be a network of smart rackets does not produce men with an inner moral sense; a society that is merely expedient does not produce men of conscience. A society that narrows the meaning of ‘success’ to the big money and in its terms condemns failure as the chief vice, raising money to the plane of absolute value, will produce the sharp operator and the shady deal. Blessed are the cynical, for only they have what it takes to succeed.
To overcome the academic prose you have first to overcome the academic pose.
Each day men sell little pieces if themselves in order to try to buy then back each night and weekend.
I try to be objective. I do not claim to be detached.
If you do not specify and confront real issues, what you say will surely obscure them. If you do not embody controversy, what you say will be an acceptance of the drift to the coming human hell.
For the corporation executives, the military metaphysic often coincides with their interest in a stable and planned flow of profit; it enables them to have their risk underwritten by public money; it enables them reasonably to expect that they can exploit for private profit now and later, the risky research developments paid for by public money. It is, in brief, a mask of the subsidized capitalism from which they extract profit and upon which their power is based.
To say that you can ‘have experience,’ means, for one thing, that your past plays into and affects your present, and that it defines your capacity for future experience. As a social scientist, you have to control this rather elaborate interplay, to capture what you experience and sort it out; only in this way can you hope to use it to guide and test your reflection, and in the process shape yourself as an intellectual craftsman