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C. Wright Mills | Sociological Imagination, Ascribed and Achieved Status

In fact, the development of sociology was accompanied by the emergence of diverse sociological theories. In actuality, sociology still has diverse views and approaches which lay foundation to numerous sociological theories. In this regard, it is possible to refer to works by C. Wright Mills, who developed original approach to sociology and contributed to the emergence of such concepts as sociological imagination, ascribed and achieved status and others that are extremely popular in the contemporary sociology.

In fact, sociology is virtually unthinkable without involvement of imagination. At the same time, imagination cannot be dominant in sociology but, as C. Wright Mills insists, imagination should back up sociological researches to help to shape sociological concepts and to make discoveries important for sociology (Mills, 2000). In such a context, C. Wright Mills develops the concept of sociological imagination. Sociological imagination is the application of imaginative thinking to sociological theory and issues to answer sociological questions. Sociological imagination is a type of insight that sociologists can get through using their imagination in relation to issues related to sociology.

Ascribed status is the social status that is attributed to an individual a priori but an individual may not hold the social standing or meet standards attributed to his or her presumable social status. In fact, the ascribed status is very important because it gives insight toward the social status of an individual. Achieved status is the status that an individual achieves in the course of his or her life through socially significant actions, such as career progress or participation in public organizations or movements, and so on. In fact, ascribed is closely intertwined with achieved status. Ascribed status can affect consistently the achieved status (Swedberg, 1999). For instance, if ascribed status of an individual is high, then the individual strives to achieve the ascribed social status. Or, on the contrary, if ascribed social status is low, an individual may face substantial difficulties to achieve a higher social status. In such a way, an individual’s achieved status tends to match the ascribed status.

Conflict theories explain crime by social inequality, which forces oppressed people to rebel against existing social norms and commit crimes to reach a better condition of living (Paugam, 1998). Often standards of living imposed on individuals by the society fail to correspond to their real life and they commit crimes to achieve standards and goals that the society imposes on them or that the society views as ideal but that are not attainable for individuals committing crimes (Murphy, 1988). Social relations are determined by conflicts between different social groups and conflict theories justify the tension that exists in the society by contradictions and conflicts that exist between different social groups.

Max Weber explained the emergence of capitalism in protestant countries by the domination of the ideology of pursuing wealth in protestant countries, whereas Roman Catholic countries viewed pursuing wealth as unnecessary and, more important, unworthy of a true Christian (Weber, 1978). In such a way, protestants were motivated to accumulate wealth, which is the major driver of capitalism, whereas Roman Catholic Church discouraged the pursuit of wealth that slowed down the emergence of capitalism in Roman Catholic countries.

Thus, sociology may have different theoretical grounds but sociology needs the creative approach from the part of sociologist, who should involve their imagination to study sociological issues and to make new discoveries in the field of sociology.



Mills, K. (2000). C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings, University of California Press.
Murphy, R. (1988). Social Closure: The Theory of Monopolization and Exclusion. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Paugam, S. (1998). “Poverty and Social Exclusion: a sociological view.” In The Future of European Welfare, edited by Martin Rhodes and Yves Meny, p. 41–62.
Swedberg, R. (Oct., 1999) “Max Weber as an Economist and as a Sociologist: Towards a Fuller Understanding of Weber’s View of Economics,” American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 58(4), pp. 561-582.
Weber, M. (1978). Economy and Society: An Interpretive Outline of Economics. Eds. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. Berkeley: University of California Press.