This note is a part of my Zettelkasten. What is below might not be complete or accurate. It is also likely to change often.
The sociological Imagination is the quality of mind that allows the observer to absorb information and understand what is going on in society at large and within the inner life of individuals. This oberver might be the individual in question or it might be others - journalists, artists, scholars and writers.
This imagination is the capacity to shift from one perspective to another - from examining the political forces to the psychological; examining a single family or the largest beaurocracy. It's the capacity to range from the most impersonal to the more intimate features of the human self - and to see .
Armed with this sociological imagination, the individual is able to pinpoint personal uneasiness of individuals to their fundamental explicit troubles and is able to transform the indifference of public into involvement with public issues.
The individual can understand their past experience and future possibilities only by locating themselves within their context and by becoming aware of others in their situation. Every individual is made by society and by its historic push and pull. Every individual also contributes to the shaping of this narrative and the context/society they inhabit, just by living.
The sociological imagination enables the observer to distinguish between the "personal troubles of milieu (environment or social setting)" and the "public issue of social structure". Without understanding both society and the individual, we cannot undersand either nor distinguish between the two.
Troubles occur for the individual within their awareness of their environment and within the range of their immediate relations with others. The statement and resolution of troubles too, lie within their reach. A trouble is a private matter - when something (values?) cherished by the individual is percieved as being threatened.
Issues have to do with matters that transcend these local environments of the individual and the range of their inner life. They have to do with the structure of society itself - which is organized of many milieux into
An individual unable to find a job when a vast majority of people are employed is facing a personal trouble. An individual unable to find a job during a political upheaval or recession is facing a societal problem. Individuals are often unable to grasp the interplay between society and the individual - or cannot cope with their personal troubles in such a way as to be able to control the societal, structural transformations that lie behind them.