Wright Mills and the “Sociological Imagination

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Do you have an idea of what might constitute your “ideal” family? If so, describe.
Note: You might want to come back to your description of your ideal family as the class progresses, especially if you have comments on what problems you’re likely to face given this family form, if you have new ideas on how to address these problems, and/or if you undergo any changes in your notion of the ideal family.

Wright Mills and the “Sociological Imagination”
C. Wright Mills makes the distinction between “personal problems” and “public issues.” He argues that we often overlook the public issues embedded in personal problems. For example, high divorce rates might better be understood as a public issue linked to the gender ideologies of the 1950s. Can you think of another family issue that might be more deeply understood if framed as part of a larger public issue?
“Historical Perspectives on American Families”

After reading this article by Coontz, what new ideas do you have on the history of American families?
Gender Ideologies of the 1950s


  • Did you have any special reaction or thoughts about Parsons’ and Bales’ description of family life and gender norms in the 1950s?
  • Do you think you would have enjoyed growing up in a 1950s-style family?
  • What do you think it would have been like to be a man or a woman in the 1950s?
  • Which gender would you have preferred to be back then? Why?
  • How are our understandings of masculinity and femininity different now?
  • Do you think gender ideologies from the 1950s still influence some of our notions of masculinity and femininity?
  • Why might it still be useful to read some of Parsons’ and Bales’ work on the family?

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