Conference Theme

The future of the sociological imagination

C. Wright Mills’ idea about the Sociological imagination has inspired and agitated many sociologists for decades, but has received much criticism as well. Today, the accelerating social change has created a new need to upgrade the meaning of the Sociological imagination. What are the new themes that must be taken into account when we consider the links between individual experiences and actions, wider social structures and processes? At the annual Westermarck societys’ conference on sociology, Sociological imagination is perceived as the ability and sensitivity to find and identify new types of linkages between social change in new human eras and in the human life practices within them.

Methodological nationalism, for example, is an inadequate starting point for the contemporary sociological imagination, because the problems and challenges individuals face are more and more linked to processes that are no longer contained within national borders. Furthermore, globalization and in connection to it, financial crises, various fundamentalist movements and environmental problems have created new challenges for sociological imagination and expanded its boundaries. A second challenge for contemporary Sociological imagination comes from the question of how individual human action, the internet and, more generally, life history of individuals are connected to one other. How does the internet edit individuals, their identities and the ways of thinking in their habitual behavior? Third challenge arises from the way society has constructed a sense of uncertainty since the mid-1900s. How has this sense of uncertainty been constructed and what ramifications does it have to individual freedom and responsibility?  To overcome these challenges, contemporary sociological imagination needs integrative research approaches at the local, national, regional and global levels.

Sociology is also continuously assessing its own character and the conditions of the knowledge it produces. Again, sociological imagination has the potential to open up for new perspectives. Can we find features or trends in our time that may threaten or narrow the sociological imagination in the spaces at universities or in the public opinion? Can current fast-paced learning offer a basis for the development of sociological imagination and what kinds of pedagogical solutions would contribute to the development of sociological imagination in students? What are the historical-structural issues that affect the career opportunities of social scientists and their occupational well-being? How does the funding of sciences and, in relation to it, the external interests of others affect and shape contemporary sociological imagination? What are the conditions that must be met before sociological imagination and creativity is allowed to expand?

Through these challenges and questions the University of Jyväskylä and the Westermarck society welcomes you to reshape the way we see and understand sociological imagination!

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