Do 4th year sociology students and recent sociology graduates have the sociological imagination? An empirical inquiry.
The sociological imagination is a fundamental element in the teaching of sociology, with students of sociology in a unique position of obtaining the tools to scrutinise their own and others’ views as well as the origins or motives behind these views. Rather than assume sociology students or graduates have developed a critical awareness, this study sought to ask whether participants had the ability to think sociologically about their experience. Using qualitative interviews with eight sociology students and graduates, plus insight from a sociology tutor, this research revealed the sociological imagination was evident only at an existential level. Of those who experienced deep absorption or transformation the consequences were mixed. Whilst the sociological imagination broke down certain illusions, it also forced a process of re-construction or re-evaluation of external issues and personal values, assumptions and troubles. When ‘self’ became the object of scrutiny, the sociological lens became opaque.