Professor Derek McGhee: “The Sociological Imagination” and its Relevance Today

Professor of Sociology

The American sociologist C.Wright Mills published his book “The Sociological Imagination” in 1959. I first read this book as an undergraduate student in the early 1990s. “The Sociological Imagination” is a deceptively simple, yet complex little book. I can trace back the influence of this book throughout all of my research. The aspects of the book that I consider to be the most influential, and hence enduring, is Mills’ insistence that in order to understand the relationship between what he calls ‘personal troubles’ and ‘public issues’, sociologists must examine the interplay between: biography, history and society. Mills describes the late 1950s in America as ‘a time of uneasiness and indifference’ and that the foremost political and intellectual task of sociologists (and what he calls other ‘cultural workmen’ including natural scientists, artists and the members of the ‘intellectual community’ in general) is to make clear and understandable the elements of contemporary uneasiness and indifference. Mills describes the social scientists as becoming the common denominator of his ‘cultural period’ and the Sociological Imagination as their ‘most needed quality of mind’. In this lecture, I will explore the relevance of “The Sociological Imagination” on my research and also explore its relevance beyond sociology and social sciences in our contemporary multidisciplinary research milieu.


Image of Professor Derek McGhee Derek McGhee is Professor of Sociology, Dean of Research for Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Director of the Keele Institute for Social Inclusion. Previous to starting at Keele in early 2018, Prof McGhee was Professor of Sociology and Head of Social Sciences at the University of Southampton. He was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts in 2015 and a Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2016 in recognition of his contribution to the disciplines of Social Policy and Sociology. He is the author of four single-authored books and has co-authored two books. Prof McGhee is also the author of many refereed journal articles and has been involved in and led a number of high profile ESRC research projects through the ESRC Centre for Population Change most recently focusing on European migration to the UK, in particular Polish migrants’ settlement practices in the UK.


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Westminster Theatre, Chancellor's Building
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01782 734036

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