According to C. Wright Mills, what occurs in any one individual's life is interrelated with society as a whole. The sociological imagination gives us the ability to understand the correlation of one's biography, history, and traditions along with the knowledge of the social and historical impact and/or influence society may have on that person or group of people. Mills' notion compels us to investigate into an individual's biography and lifestyles, and place their findings within the surrounding circumstances in which events occur in order to perceive the whole picture of the society in which the individual lives.
Mills says to understand this "imagination" would be to see the connection between personal troubles and public issues. Personal troubles meaning, problems that are felt personally which are caused by occurrences or feelings in an individual's life; and public issues meaning, issues that affect a group or mass of people with their roots interwoven within an organization or institution and history of a society.
A person can become homeless for many reasons: a family member throws them out of their home because they do not contribute financially, or they become incapable of caring for themselves due to mental illness, or they become addicted to drugs and lose their home trying to support their habit. These are a few examples of personal troubles which most would think are brought about by the individual alone and therefore can be solved by them. But, when using sociological imagination, one can see that homelessness is also a social problem. Unemployment rates are high and public assistances rates being low could leave a person unable to sufficiently contribute financially, therefore being forced to leave their home, or there are cutbacks in funds for housing, the closing of hospitals for the mentally ill, or possibly today's fast paced living, working long hours and in some cases, still only making ends meet, bringing about depression; weariness; and hopelessness - or perhaps acceptable social mores concerning drugs being used at first for fun, relaxation or just to ease our everyday stressful lives eventually leads to drug addition.
Another example one may consider to be personal troubles is family violence. Whether it is a women battered by her husband, a child beaten by parents, or possibly the family pet being abused. One might say that it is a man's right to beat his wife for various reasons and that she brought it upon herself and therefore could stop it if she obeyed her husband. A parent may beat their child for justified disciplinary reasons and say, "if the child obeyed their parents they...