Introduction to Sociology: Society, Culture, and Change Assignment

Introduction to Sociology: Society, Culture, and Change Assignment

Outline how we might apply the sociological imagination (in its historical, cross-cultural and critical dimensions) to a current social problem like poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, suicide or environmental degradation?
(1000-1250 Words)

It is an expectation that students will consult at least six scholarly sources in writing this particular assignment, which should be evident in the referencing and reference list. Please avoid quoting directly from the sociological dictionary, as this is a thinking exercise requiring research. It is also inadvisable to quote the lectures directly as these are based on a variety of extant sources and you should ask the lecturer to direct you to the relevant source for a particular study or theory referred to in the lectures if you want to use this material.
Assessment Criteria:
As a general rule, the marking of all written assignments and essays will be informed by the following criteria, which are offered as a guide to students in developing their work.
NB: Please note that the following criteria are not ranked in any order of importance:
1. Structure:
How effectively is the material presented, organised and logically ordered?
Does the presentation of material indicate evidence of careful reading in its planning, preparation and writing?
Does your essay have an introduction, body and conclusion?
2. Introduction:
How well does the introduction identify and formulate an argument or main claim for the discussion?
Does it state the aim of the essay and introduce the topic?
Does it give the reader an overview of what is to follow?
3. Argument:
Is the main claim or thesis, presented in a logically coherent manner?
Is the argument adequately supported through the use of properly referenced and appropriate evidence?
4. Content:
Does the substantive content of the discussion indicate that the analysis is detailed and critical?
Are all major issues considered?
Is there recognition of conflicting theories and explanations?
Is the material presented relevant to the topic or essay question?
5. Originality:
Does the discussion indicate originality and independence of thought?
Does the student raise their own questions and develop their own arguments?
6. Conclusion:
Have the main points been summarised?
Has a conclusion been stated?
Are the concluding statements justified on the basis of what has been presented in the body of the assignment?
Page 6
Course Outline: Introduction to Sociology: Society, Culture and Change (SCS110)
Date of original approval: 26.11.02 Date of most recent change: 14/7/2010
Date of discontinuation:
Current form version: 23 Sept 04
7. Referencing:
Is all the research material adequately referenced and documented by the use of citations, quotations and a reference list?
Has the Harvard style of referencing been used correctly?
8. Clarity of Expression and Presentation:
Is the quality of the expression clear?
Is the grammar, punctuation and spelling correct?
Is the question clearly identified?
Are the pages numbered?
Are the font size (12 point) and line spacing (double) correct?
Is the coversheet attached?



Sociology is often defined as the science of society. In this lecture it is argued that even more important than science is sociology’s use of the imagination. Indeed, it is suggested that science is not possible without the imagination. This insight, although subject to dispute, has led sociologists, starting with C.Wright Mills, to speak of the “sociological imagination.” The lecture begins by questioning what we mean by the imagination in general and the sociological imagination in particular. It highlights Mills’ concerns with the relationship between “personal troubles” and “public issues.” It then proposes four dimensions or sensibilities of the sociological imagination.


“Never does the soul think without phantasm” (imagination)


“the union of deep feeling with profound thought … to see again, those things in which … custom and the common view … had bedimmed all the lustre, had dried up the sparkle and dew drops”

(Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

“[that] whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way”

(William Wordsworth)


“being able to ‘think ourselves away’ from the familiar routines of our daily lives in order to look at them anew”

Anthony Giddens

(Sociology Second Edition,

Polity Press, Oxford. 1993:18)

“a quality of mind” … [that can] “grasp the interplay of the individual and society, of biography and history, of self and world.”

C. Wright Mills

The Sociological Imagination (1959)

You can read the original at

“A useful starting point for seeing why it is worthwhile to develop a sociological imagination has for some time been C. Wright Mills (1959) observation on the differences between our everyday knowledge of our social environment and a sociological understanding… There is a strong tendency in liberal democracies towards seeing human behaviour in terms of individual characteristics, abilities, choices and preferences… What sociologists, on the other hand, are more interested in is establishing the relationship between what happens to individuals…and the larger processes of social, economic and political change which might be said to lie underneath or behind those happenings… The sociological imagination wrote Mills, ‘enables us to grasp history and biography and the relation between the two in society.”

(Van Krieken et. al. 2006: 4)

A kind of interpretive imagination which does not treat its subject matter like objects in the natural world. The sociological imagination is anthropological, historical and critical.

(Holmes et. al., 2003: 7)


1. The Analytical Sensibility (science)

What are the components of this situation and how do they relate to one another? The search for trends, correlation, causes, structures, functions and meanings that can be empirically demonstrated.

2. The Historical Sensibility

Where does this event, experience, belief or biography stand in the course of history? How does this current social phenomenon compare and contrast with past historical events, experiences and possibilities?

3. The Anthropological Sensibility

How what is is done “here” different from what is done elsewhere by “others”? Can the experience of different societies and cultures help us understand our cultural situation and ourselves better?

4. The Critical Sensibility

How could things be otherwise? Does the way that things “happen to be” at present “have to be”? Are there better alternatives for human ecology, communality and personal well being than how things currently operate?


1. Hunter-Gatherer Societies (500,000? years ago)

2. Pastoral and Agrarian Societies (c. 12,000 years ago)

3. Traditional City-states I (Empires and Slavery) (6,000


4. Traditional City-states II (“Feudal”) (800-1850 AD)

5. Modernity — (200 years of Industrial-Capitalism)

For those who want a Short History of the World, go to:

This typology is based very loosely upon the third chapter in the Third Edition (1997) of Anthony Giddens introductory textbook, Sociology (Polity Press: Cambridge) which is on reserve in the Library (at HM51 G444). For a more extended treatment of how we might differentiate various “types” of society see Bodley, J., (2000) Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States and the Global System, Third Edition. (Mayfield: Mountain View) Library Call No. GN316 .B63.



Mills, C.W. (1999) [1959] The Sociological Imagination. Oxford University Press. New York. Read Chap. 1. Online at

NB* Don’t forget the video series in the Library called “The Sociological Imagination”. It has 26 Titles on all sorts of sociological concepts and topics. (Lib Call No. HM51 S6 1991)


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS): Census of Population and Housing (2006) Results

Graetz, B and McAllister, I. (1994) Dimensions of Australian Society. McMillan Education. South Melbourne.

Harding, A. (2005) “Recent Trends in Income Inequality in Australia”. NATSEM, 31 March. (Do Statistics always give us the real picture? Compare this article with the one by Wicks below)

Mouzos, J (2002) Homicide in Australia: 2000-2001 National Homicide Monitoring Program Annual Report. Australian Institute of Criminology. Canberra.

Neame, P. (1997) Suicide and Mental Health in Australia and New Zealand. Neame. Brisbane.

Wicks, J. (2005) “The Reality of Income Inequality in Australia”. Social Policy Paper, No. 1. St. Vincent de Paul Society. May. (Compare with Harding article above).

Zeremes, M. (1995) Unemployment in Queensland: Dimensions and Trends. Queensland Parliamentary Library. Brisbane.


Allen, L. (1998) The ABC-CLIO World History Companion to Capitalism. ABC-CLIO. Santa Barbara.

Cook, M. (2003) A Brief History of the Human Race. Granta. London.

Blainey, G. (1975) Triumph of the Nomads: A History of Ancient Australia. Sun Books, South Melbourne.

Burgman, V. and Lee, J. (1988) A People’s History of Australia Since 1788. 4 Vols. Fitzroy. McPhee Gribble.

Brumberg, J. (2000) Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa. Vintage. New York.

Connell, B. and Irving, T. (1992) Class Structure in Australian History. Longman Cheshire. Melbourne.

Elder, B. (1998) Blood on the Wattle: Massacres and Maltreatment of Aboriginal Australians Since 1788. Frenches Forest. New Holland.

Fagan, B. (1995) People of the Earth: An Introduction to World Prehistory. Harper-Collins. New York.

Hawkes, G. (2004) Sex and Pleasure in Western Culture. Polity Press. Cambridge.

Hepworth, J. (1999) The Social Construction of Anorexia Nervosa. Sage. London.

Hilton, R. (1985) Class Conflict and the Crisis of Feudalism. Hambledon Press. London.

Keen, I. (2003) Aboriginal Economy and Society: Australia at the Threshold of Colonisation. Oxford University Press. South Melbourne.

Maisels, C. (1999) Early Civilizations of the Old World. The Formative Histories of Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, India and China. Routledge. London.

Nicholas, S. (1988) Convict Workers: Re-interpreting Australia’s Past. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Oxley, D. (1996) Convict Maids: The Forced Migration of Women to Australia. Cambridge University Press. Melbourne.

Perelman, M. (2000) The Invention of Capitalism. Duke University Press. Durham.

Sahlins, M. (2004) Stone-Age Economics. Routledge. New York.

Slack, P. (1999) Environments and Historical Change. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Svensen, S (1995) Industrial War: The Great Strikes 1890-1894. Ram Press. Wollongong.

Tannahill, R. (1982) Sex in History. Ingram. Chelsea.

Thorpe, B. (1996) Colonial Queensland: Reflections on a Frontier Society. University of Queensland Press. St Lucia.

Turley, D. (2000) Slavery (New Perspectives on the Past). Blackwell. Oxford.

Redman, C.L. (1999) Human Impact on Ancient Environments. University of Arizona Press. Tucson.

Rudgely, R. (1993) Essential Substances: A Cultural History of Intoxicants in Society. Kodansha. New York.


Albert, M. (1993) Capitalism Against Capitalism. Whur. London.

Brettell, C. and Sargent, C. (2001) Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Prentice-Hall. New Jersey.

Caldicott, J. and Nelson, M. (2003) American Indian Environmental Ethics: An Ojibwa Case Study. Prentice-Hall. New York.

Devine, F. and Waters, M. (2004) Social Inequalities in Comparative Perspective. Blackwell. Oxford.

Druckerman, P. (2007) Lust in Translation: Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee. Viking. Camberwell.

Eller, J. (2005) Violence and Culture: A Cross-Cultural and Interdisciplinary Approach. Wadsworth. Belmont.

Esping-Anderson, G. (1990) The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Polity Press. Cambridge.

Farebrow, N. (1975) Suicide in Different Cultures. University Park Press. Baltimore.

Francoeur, T. (1997) International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Continuum. New York.

Frankel, J. (1997) Families of Employed Mothers: An International Perspective. Garland Publications. New York.

Fossedal, G. (2001) Direct Democracy in Switzerland. Transaction Press. Somerset.

Gowdy, J. (1998) Limited Wants, Unlimited Means: A Reader on Hunter-Gatherer Economics and the Environment. Island Press. Washington.

Henrich, J. (2004) Foundations of Human Sociality: Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence from 15 Small-Scale Societies. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Hampden-Turner, C and Trompenaars, A. (1995) The Seven Cultures of Capitalism. Judy Piatkus Publishers.

Kelly, R. C. (2000) Warless Societies and the Origins of War. University of Michigan Press. Ann Arbor. [N.B.* Could easily be included under “Historical Dimension” above as well]

Levinson, D. (1989) Family Violence in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Sage Publications. Newbury Park.

Markowitz, F. and Ashkenazi, M. (1999) Sex, Sexuality and the Anthropologist.

University of Illinois Press. Illinois

Middleton, D. (2002) Exotics and Erotics: Human Cultural and Sexual Diversity. Waveland Press: Prospect Heights.

Miller and Browning, (2000) With This Ring: Divorce, Intimacy and Cohabitation from a multi-cultural perspective. JAI Press. Stamford.

Milner, A. and Quilty, M. (1996) Comparing Cultures. (Australia in Asia): Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Milner, H. (1990) Sweden-Social Democracy in Practice. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Parker, P. (1997) Ethnic Cultures of the World: A Statistical Refrence. Greenwood Press. London.

Payer, L (1996) Medicine and Culture: Varieties of Treatment in the United States, England, West Germany and France. Henry Holt and Company. New York.

Serena, N. (1999) Gender Diversity: Cross-cultural Variations. Waveland

Press. Long Grove.

Tiffen, R. and Gittins, R. (2004) How Australia Compares. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Weiner, A. B. (1988) The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. Thomson Wadsworth. Belmont.

Wilson, R. (1997) Human Rights, Culture and Context: Anthropological Perspectives. Pluto Press. London.

Wilson, T. (2005) Drinking Cultures: Alcohol and Identity. Berg. New York.

Vinken, H., Soeters, J. and Ester, P. (2004) Comparing Cultures: Dimensions of Culture in a Comparative Perspective. Brill. Leiden.

Cross-Cultural Research: (official Journal of the Society for Cross-Cultural Research), sponsored by the Human Relations Area Files Inc.


Bird, D., White, T. and Were, W. (2003) Future Imaginings: Sexualities and Genders in the New Millennium. UWA Press. Crawley.

Cooper, R. N. and Layard, R. (2002) What the Future Holds: Insights from Social Science. MIT Press. M.A.

Disney, J. (1995) The Social Development Summit: Progress and Prospects. Australian National University. Canberra.

Frankel, B. (2004) Zombies, Lilliputians and Sadists: The Power of the Living Dead and the Future of Australia. Freemantle Arts Centre Press. Freemantle.

Giddens, A. (2000) The Third Way and its Critics. Polity Press. Cambridge.

Gray, I. and Lawrence, G. (2001) A Future for Regional Australia: Escaping Global Misfortune. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Hawkins, P., Lovins, A. and Lovins, H. (1999) Natural Capitalism: The Next Industrial Revolution. Earthscan. London.

Hahnel, R. (2005) Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation. Routledge. New York.

Hudson, W. (2004) Restructuring Australia: Regionalism, Republicanism and Reform of the Nation-State. Federation Press. Annandale.

Leigh, A., Madden, D., McGregor, D., and Tynan, P. (2004) Imagining Australia: Ideas for Our Future. Allen and Unwin. Crows Nest.

Low, N. et. al. (2005) The Green City: Sustainable Homes, Sustainable Suburbs. University of New South Wales. Sydney.

Mason, C. (2003) The 2030 Spike: Countdown to Global Catastrophe. Earthscan Publications. London.

Marsh, I. and Yencken, D. (2004) Into the Future: The Neglect of the Long Term in Australian Politics. Australian Collaboration. Melbourne.

McDonald. P. (1995) Places for Everyone: Social Equity in Australian Cities and Regions. Australian Urban and Regional Development Review. Canberra.

McEwan, S. (2004) Ecologic: Creating a Sustainable Future. Powerhouse Publishing. Haymarket.

Melman, S. (2001) After Capitalism: From Managerialism to Workplace Democracy. Random House. New York.

Metcalfe, B. (1995) From Utopian Dreaming to Communal Reality: Cooperative Lifestyles in Australia. UNSW Press. Sydney.

Perper, T., Martha, C., and Francoeur R. (1999) Sex, Love and Marriage in the 21st Century: The next Sexual Revolution. iUniverse.

Read, S., Rosemann, J. and Eldijk, J. (2005) Future City. Routledge. London.

Roussopolous, D. (2004) Participatory Democracy: Prospects for Democratizing Democracy. Black Rose Books. Montreal.

Rowse, T. (2002) Indigenous Futures: Choice and Development for Aboriginal and Islander Australia. UNSW Press. Sydney.

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