Social Work

The Sociological Imagination is an inspirational book. I like the idea of thinking toward solving problems. It amazes me that such thinking is radical. Thinking in itself is not radical. At this moment, in the space I am writing, authority allows me to hold any ideas as long as I don’t act on them. This taboo on action, is a taboo on action generating thought, and radicalizes any thinker.

I really was inspired by the book, and I think there’s going to be a lot more writing here on this blog, for what Mills has written. I can use these lines:

“… understand that what we think and feel to be personal troubles are very often social problems shared by others, and more importantly, not capable of solution by any one individual but only by modifications of the structure of the groups in which we live and sometimes the structure of the entire society.”

Mills also quotes Horkheimer who speaks of a social norm that acts as a kind of taboo. The norm suggests that we present finished arguments, that we present the product of private thinking. What these two critical theorists are suggesting is that thinking should be, at least as much as possible/necessary, a social/public process. There’s the quote attributed to Aristotle as well. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Again, a distinction needs to be made about thought as deliberation and action. Even then, concerning action, we need not take our mistakes so seriously that we can’t learn from them.

Mills gives focus to the sociologist’s work, in this case the blogger’s work. We are to ask: What are the problems I’m interested in working out? Property, family, religion and order are places to start, or maybe the philosophical/ideological foundations of these pillars of Western civilization. What is needed is a concrete personal problem fixed in place by these pillars.

What I’m getting at is practical criticism, or critical practice and it’s relationship to critical theory. Mills has no time for abstract theory. He calls for work on concrete and particular problems, social problems and their extension into the personal sphere, and back again. What I take away is a call to work as a kind of mechanic of personal/social relations. This right now is calling up all sorts of ethical dilemmas, some I’m interested in working out in time. But for now, the personal sphere as a critical workshop, is a touchy subject.

But again, thinking is radical, and radical is a frightening place to be. The sociologist who studies an object, vs. the writer who is the object of study, is the difference between information and wisdom; connected and disconnected; open and anonymous. I have an idea that being creative, radical, critical, connected and open, is necessary for personal and community development as well as the development of democracy, which develops community and the people in it. But I also understand that in our current social situation, being creative, critical and open is confrontational and dangerous. Development is change, and in a society dependent on order, change is bad. Being connected and open may be where we can find security in confronting the social machine.

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2 Responses to “Social Work”

  1. Derek K. Miller Says:

    I assume you meant this book, The Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills?

  2. rodgerlevesque Says:

    That is the book I meant.

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