Guppy Sociology 100 001 Page 8 of 10
1. Mills Paper Percentage of final grade: 10
Pages: 5-6 pages (maximum of 1,500 words), excluding optional references
Due date/time/place: October 15th, 2018 in class or by 4:30 pm Anth/Soci Bldg.
Write a 5-6 page paper on the following topic. Follow the guidelines for writing papers available
on the course website. Be certain to submit the “Checklist: Complete and Attach to Your Term
Paper” found on page eleven of that document, add this as an appendix to your paper.
In The Sociological Imagination (1959), C. Wright Mills suggests that there is an important
distinction between personal troubles and public issues. To illustrate, Mills uses the example of
When, in a city of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his personal trouble, and
for its relief we properly look to the character of the man, his skills, and his immediate
opportunities. But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million men are
unemployed, that is an issue, and we may not hope to find its solution within the range of
opportunities open to any one individual.
Mills 1959: 9
The purpose of your first essay is to use Mills’ conception of the sociological imagination to
analyze your own biography. The requirements of this paper are four-fold. First, introduce your
topic and major point(s) in a paragraph or two. Second, explain what Mills means by the
“sociological imagination” and explain his distinction between “personal troubles” and “public
issues”. This should be done in a page or two. Third, use your sociological imagination to reflect
on your own biography. Taking something from your own experience, demonstrate how it could
be understood as a product of social or historical forces. Pick an issue, incident, or circumstance
in your life (such as your decision to attend university, or whom you are friendly with, or your
leisure interests, or a family move), and use Mills’ conceptions of personal troubles and public
issues to explain your biographical detail sociologically. This should be done in about two pages.
[NB: Mills’ does not mean, by personal trouble, some personal trauma or tragedy. He means
simply a private experience or personal decision. He wants us to understand how private
experiences are linked to broader, public issues – the seemingly private can very often be
understood more fully when seen in a public context.] Fourth, explain how you can understand
or reflect upon the interplay between personal troubles and public issues. For example, why does
Mills’ comment that the sociological imagination offers both a “terrible lesson” and a
***Papers should be submitted in class on the due date. Be certain to include your TA’s name
on the front cover of the paper. If necessary, papers can be submitted via the “Essay Drop Box”
in the Sociology Department office by 4:30 pm on the due date. Do not put papers under office
doors or in the mail room in the Anth/Soci building.