Apr 062013

C. Wright Mills explains that sociological imagination is the ability to see and understand the impact of social factors and changes on individuals’ private and public lives. Sociological imagination plays a vital role in the life of a sociologist as, only when we have the ability to look beyond our lives and view the world with a different perspective, do we have the power to escape or destroy our traps.

In the olden days, living alone was seen as a very unusual thing to do. It wasn’t considered a norm of the society and people who lived alone were often looked down upon or looked at as somebody with some kind of a mental or habitual problem. Klinenberg’s essay “Going Solo” on the other hand, goes to explain how “Going Solo” is actually a choice made by people with normal lives and is not actually forced upon people due to their irrational habits. He argues that some people might think that due to the fact that a person drinks a lot, nobody lives with him/her or that s/he is forced to live alone, but many fail to realize the fact that maybe the person chose to live alone and that’s why s/he feels that he is at liberty to drink since he isn’t answerable to anyone else.

Going Solo

Many a times, people feel like the decision of living alone is a private matter, but since the past few decades, the “Going Solo” phenomenon has swept across nations and now living alone is not a private matter as there are millions of people who are willingly living alone and so this makes it a public matter. This is where Mill’s approach of a sociological imagination comes into play where the fact that maybe when one or two people chose to live alone, it might be because of a habitual or psychological issue, but when millions freely chose to do so, then it may not be the case that everybody has a psychological issue and when a person with a sociological imagine sees it from his/her perspective, s/he may see at as the current norm of the times that we are living in.

Becker’s essay “Whose side are we on?” highlights the aspect of the “Hierarchy of Credibility” which means that we assume those near the top have access to the best and most correct information and that their ideas are therefore most likely to be correct and to be taken seriously. When you apply this to the issue of “going solo” people at the higher end of the pyramid of credibility would say that living alone is not a norm and that ‘everybody knows’ that people living alone have some sort of a problem. This may contradict Klinenberg’s idea of ‘going solo’ as being a norm, since people with higher credibility like the president or some celebrity may portray that living with a partner or family is what is usually accepted. This would also mean that most people who accept these facts on their face value due to the fact that they come from people who are considered to have higher credibility have very little or no sociological imagination.

Although at times ‘Going Solo’ may have a negative effect on the person living alone, at most times, it gives the person a sense of freedom that cannot be achieved when living with someone. It gives the person the liberty to try out more things, have new experiences and most important of all, be independent and be free from dependency. Once a person goes solo, s/he has virtually no one to take permission from or to constantly have to save-face of the person living with them and this gives them a sense of freedom that living together with someone does not. S/he has the liberty to pursue their own interest and this is when society flourishes as the person expresses individualism and contributes new ideas to the society.

So whether you decide to live alone or with someone, just remember it is your decision based on your interest, not based on the question of ‘what would the people think?’


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