Social Imagination Theory on Unemployment

Social Imagination Theory on Unemployment

Social Imagination Theory on Unemployment




Social Imagination Theory on Unemployment

Sociological imagination is a theory that is able to explain why human get to behave in certain ways by studying of their social life as well as the society at large. It encompasses studying an individual. One of the individuals that is accredited for development of the sociological theory is C. Wright Mills around 1950s, he explained this in his book The Sociological Imagination. In this book he defined sociological imagination as the “vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and the wider society” (Mills, 2015). With sociological imagination one is able to identify these forces and also understand the effect it has on them. Unemployment is one occurrence in the society that affects us and we can examine it through the lens of sociological theory

Unemployment can be classified as a social thus viewed through the social imagination theory as sociological imagination translates to the one’s point of view on how things interact and influence each other socially. These social problems may result in an individual pulling away from the situation and think from an alternative point of view. A number of literatures have been conducted to address unemployment as a social problem with a focus on theories that give insight into the discipline.

Unemployment is elaborated by Mills as the clear awareness of the relationship between the society as well as experience in that, an individual would want to pull away with the normal routine of everyday life if they lack a source of income. The journal by McDermott describes and tends to analyze how unemployment is socially constructed addressing the youth unemployment and how the government responds to this type of crisis (Soric et al,2019). Unemployment is considered as a social crisis that needs to be addressed with the development of labor market interventions that needs restructuring to accommodate most of the unemployed. The social imagination theory on unemployment has gone through a number of changes historically with factors such as war, natural disasters and depressions affecting individuals view of employment altering the social structure related to employment (Pickvance,2019). The theory by Mills was developed to help understand the relationship between individual and society. Unemployment in sociological imagination has been able to shift from an individual problem to a public issue which is an intricate relationship between the society and an individual. The activities of an individual as explained by the theory is not of their personal choice and preference. (Soric et al,2019).

There has not been a single definition to elaborate on unemployment especially in youths, however, its persistence of the years has been recognized as one of the worst perils in the economy that threats individuals and stability of societies across the globe (Borus, 2002). The concept of education in most cases has been defined and regarded as important in securing employment in many states. The recording of high cases of dropouts from school is a large contributor to the high rates of unemployment. There are developed arguments that school participation does not affect the status of individuals such as unemployment. The history of unemployment is traced back to the age of industrialization with low rates of employment levels due to the slow economic growth rate. However, with time the unemployment rate reduced as the economy began to boom (Borus, 2002).

This paper identified works of literature that provided solutions for this public issue to be reactive hence difficult for individuals to adapt to the changes needs for this market skills. Unemployment as a social phenomenon needs to be understood from the roots as some of the courses for unemployment are documented as the need for a good career choice in that a number of students tend not to pay attention to career paths that end up resulting in a high saturation in some labor fields in the market as other fields lack the skills and experience(Schmitt,2012).

The recent changes in the environment particularly in the employment sector has been characterized by the development of technology that over time has been used to reduce the efforts and work needed. Computerization of machines that led to the loss of jobs as machines would work more efficiently and faster with less capital as compared to the use of humans. This change led to an increase in the rates of unemployment over the years. the structure of government and labor market has also seen a lot of changes as many economic models have shifted due to the immense access of the internet over time. The government policies have often not been clear on how to address the issue of unemployment. This is due to the incapacity of governments to provide necessary requirements services for the unemployed in the society especially the youths (Riesman,2007).

Mills looks into the issue of unemployment as a micro and macro situation. He states that “In a city of 100,000, only one is unemployed, that is his personal trouble…in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million people are unemployed, that is an issue” (Mills, 2015) From this statement, Mills believes that if one person or a few people are unemployed while the larger percentage are employed then the unemployment issue is personal, however, in a case where majority of the population are unemployed then it is a societal issue. As compared to the adults in any society, the children and young people are less engaged in work or rather they are involved in small scale work. Understanding unemployment involves the path analysis of the transition from school to finding a job which is the stage in which most people are unemployed. In the world today, more than any other times in history there have been concerns on the issue of unemployment as there are lower rates of employment especially for the youths (Damstrup, 1987).

Functionalist who propose functionalism theory believe that every social issue serves a function in a society and needs to be understood. Every single person has a specific role in the society that they have to fill so that they can have a purpose. The theory’s perspective exposes unemployment as to serve its part in society for the better part of the society. The socialists from this perspective view the society as an organic entity in that people have roles to play to establish balance, cohesion and stability. The theory views that if social roles are not fulfilled. Then social problems could arise. The functionalists use education and employment as they go hand in hand to explain the roots of unemployment (Schmitt,2012).

The Functionalism by Emile Durkheim is among the theories that try to explain unemployment and poverty in the society. Durkheim theory of social function portrayed that a society was structured and that each individual in a society must have functional specialization (Durkheim, 2013). He believed that people who were paid higher in a particular field was because they had rare skills that not everybody possessed in a society. For example, a neuro-surgeon ought to be paid more than a shoe shiner because for one to become a neuro surgeon then they ought to undergo training. Emile Durkheim argued that both inequality and poverty played a great role in the Society’s social structure. The class system cemented cohesion and did not lead to any conflict. According to Durkheim, those who were employed and filled important position in the society were considered important. This means those who were unemployed were less important. In a society, even those with employment, there are people who tend to value their employment more than others. For example, a surgeon is likely to be seen more important than a janitor. Because of these views at times you find people rejecting certain jobs. You will find someone who probably has a degree in Medical Biochemistry will refuse to work because with his skill set he can get himself a better job.

Poverty and unemployment are intertwined when using the functionalism theory. When one is unemployed then they are likely to be poor. According to functionalism, poverty serves both the upper and middle class they have vested interest. This is because programs that help the poor provide jobs for people employed by the program. Unemployment also provides job as well as money as welfare agencies will be set up, the discount shops will also work and center. The poor also tend to purchase things such as used clothing or even day-old bread which other people in the society may not have any use for them thus extending economic values of the goods. Unemployment thus serves a function and eliminating it in the society may not be in the best interest of some people.

The conflict theory is documented and among the existing research that shows how the poor are exploited by the elites in the society creating the social phenomena of unemployment (Schmitt,2012). The conflict theory helps to understand the origin of unemployment that are clearly defined by social inequity in society. In contemporary society, education and training are considered as fundamental for obtaining skills necessary for unemployment (Schmitt,2012). Karl Marx who is the founder of Marxism supports the conflict theory in that scarcity of resources and inequality due to classes in the society contributes to unemployment.

There is a conflict of interest that exists between people and each person ill have different goals and purpose. Those in the upper class have the means and resources to get higher services for example education. With money parents can take their children to best schools and universities. There are universities where most people are directly absorbed into the job market. A graduate from Oxford or Harvard is likely to get employed. When there is a change in the employment environment whereby rapid advancement and technology plays a big role in the disruption of the employment sector, those have the money may advance their education or get better knowledge on the technology thus are likely to remain employed. Emerging technology among other challenges hinders individuals from coping with the needed skills for employment.

Symbolic interactionism theory is based on Max Weber’s ideas. The theory emphasizes more on the viewpoint of an individual and it also looks at how an individual looks at a society. Symbolic interaction theory on unemployment is applied to as a context that should be discussed in details with a focus on the unemployed individual in the society (Peterie et al,2019). The symbolic interaction theory often analyses the existing relationship between unemployment and an individual’s self-conception.

Symbolic interaction theory according to research shows a negative perception of the unemployed as the situation results in negative associations from family, friends, colleagues and others who interact with the unemployed. In line with the theory of symbolic interaction, the path analysis is applied to intervene in the perception of people and how they evaluate others based on their employment status (Peterie et al,2019). Self-conception in most of the unemployed people is often evaluated based on gender in that there are often different self-concepts for the unemployed male as compared to the same status on women. There is also a different employment concept for people with shorter unemployed status as compared to people with long-term unemployed status (Sheeran & Abraham, 2004).

Weber seemed to agree with Karl Marx that social inequality was as result of scarcity of resources in the society. This theory can be argued by looking at a head of a trade union fighting for the rights of workers. This individual will consider themselves as staunchly working class yet they held positions that command so much power and influence. Weber believed that the society could be competitive by society being able to fight for political owner and for them to gain economic status. He also pointed out than an individual class may at times be complicated because one may be worker yet may own some capital such as saving accounts pension or even inherited fortune.

Weber also went ahead to classify the society into seven groups, the upper class at the top while the bottom class was way down. He believed that it may also be hard to define a person’s class at times some are unfaithful about their wealth and that there were varying degrees of power at different times. Weber recognized that social networking played a great role in helping individuals gain particular lifestyle, he pointed out that Mason offered people from different professions such as doctors and plumbers to get together and support each other. In getting employment, networking has often been key and the best way one can network is while they are employed. Employed meet every day and attend seminars which gives them an upper hand that they can be able to apply for other jobs or positions that unemployed people are likely to learn.

In his theory, Weber pointed out that those who were poor lacked the economic and political advantages that were enjoyed by particular individuals of certain class. According to weber, class was not just about ownership or non-ownership but rather involved sort of market situation, and class was the market situation. He pointed out that at times person may have a market advantage by engaging in social processes that limit competition. A good example is that education credential is used to reduce competition for jobs. As poor people cannot often get aces to quality education most do not have a shot at these competitive slots. This explains high number of poor people remain unemployed and because they cannot afford better education for their children these children may also end up being unemployed because of the social class that crates competitiveness in the society.

In conclusion, sociological imagination is quite a useful tool and 50 years later since it was developed it is still applicable. The theory helps people to greatly feel as part of the society as they are able to identify they are not alone facing these problems. They are also able to come up with ways they can deal with the problems they have. As an individual who strongly believes in social and political activism, sociological imagination brings fourth change from the passive political attitudes we used to. If we all get to vote, then we will have opinions on controversial issues such as healthcare, contraception, education and unemployment. Mils argument along with my research portrays that unemployment is a public issue that may individuals and families are faced with. Through the functional, conflict and symbolic interaction theories we understand that at times it the system in place that is contributing to the high poverty levels and unemployment such as government not initiating policies to reduce unemployment. We also get to understand that for there to be a balance in nature, then the various social classes will often exist. The arguments by these sociologists despite being in the 19th and 20th century is quite prominent even in today’s society.


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