Imagining The Sociological Imagination: the biographical context of a sociological classic

John David Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)


Charles Wright Mills's arguments in The Sociological Imagination are very popular and this paper focuses on the biographical context in which his programmatic statements were occasioned. This breaks new ground by locating The Sociological Imagination and earlier programmatic statements in the professional and personal travails that motivated them. This approach is adopted in order to display the intersection between biography and sociology in Mills's life and career, a feature that he made a central part of sociology's promise. The paper utilizes this approach to reflect on the reasons why The Sociological Imagination became so popular and was able to transcend Mills's general unpopularity at the time of his death; and as part of the explanation of why the dismissal of the book on its publication contrasts with the contemporary view, enabling it to transpose successfully to a time significantly different than at its writing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-333
Number of pages17
JournalThe British Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2004


  • C. Wright Mills
  • the sociological imagination
  • biography


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