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The present paper uses the concept of sociological imagination to discuss the association between alcoholism and its broader impact on the alcoholic in particular and society in general. The concept has facilitated the dissection of the problem in terms of individual characteristics (personal troubles) as well as historical and social characteristics (public issues). The paper has also demonstrated how the individual characteristics of an alcoholic are reinforced by historical and social contexts to worsen the social problem of alcoholism.
Available literature has underscored the importance of the social environment and interactions in assisting us to not only appreciate the dynamics of our social existence, but also to understand how the wider social factors shape our lives as individuals, groups, communities, and societies (Markwell & Johnson, 2012). This predisposition, which is often referred to as sociological imagination, helps us to develop a more truthful depiction of the social landscape of the society in which we live by providing explicit and exciting ways of understanding ourselves, other people, as well as the social world (Ossewaarde, 2014). The present paper uses the concept of sociological imagination to discuss the connection between alcoholism and its broader impact on the alcoholic in particular and society in general.
Alcoholism and its Broader Impact on the Individual and Society
The concept of sociological imagination was coined by Wright Mills in 1959 to help us “grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society” (Henslin, 2014, p. 9). In the context of the alcoholism social problem, it is possible to use the concept of sociological imagination to unify individual characteristics of the alcoholic and historical contexts of the problem to illuminate the dynamics of the social structure or environment in encouraging or perpetuating the social problem.
An analysis of individual characteristics using the sociological imagination concept reveals that the person turns into an alcoholic due to factors such as low self-esteem, anxiety or fear, perfectionism, feelings of guilt, shame, impulsivity, self-pity, frustration, underachievement, low-tolerance, and dependence (Levin, Jones, & Braithwaite, 2003).
Mills refers to these characteristics as “personal troubles” by virtue of the fact that an individual bears some responsibility for their actualization and control, meaning that an alcoholic can decide to take concerted efforts aimed at addressing these factors at a personal level (Markwell & Johnson, 2012). These individual characteristics affect the wellbeing of society in terms of cost burdens for the alcoholic, mental health issues, family breakdowns, poor parenting, and other social evils.
However, some of the characteristics that underlie the problem of alcoholism cannot be remedied at a personal level due to their historical, social, and structural connotations (Randolph, Archleta, Smith, & Teasley, 2013). Mills is of the opinion that these characteristics “represent public issues that can be changed only by large-scale economic developments or social reform” (Henslin, 2014, p. 9). For example, one can turn into an alcoholic due to social factors such as family problems, lack of employment, social inequality, social exclusion, and weak interpersonal relationships with neighbors and community members (Randolph et al., 2013; Zaigraev, 2010).
Most of these characteristics are embedded in how an individual becomes socialized into society and are also deeply rooted in culture. It is important to note that these characteristics have the capacity to ignite, perpetuate, or influence the discussed individual characteristics, hence the importance of evaluating how our individual biographies interweave with historical and social contexts. These individuals, social and historical correlations to the problem of alcoholism provide the basis for the concept of sociological imagination to be used as a tool that could help us to identify viable solutions and understand how individuals interrelate with others.
This paper has used the concept of sociological imagination to discuss the relationship between alcoholism and its broader impact on the alcoholic in particular and society in general. Overall, the discussion demonstrates that people have to go beyond their personal experiences, assumptions, and common sense if they are to understand the social problem of alcoholism and formulate effective strategies to address the challenge.
Henslin, J.M. (2014). Sociology: A down-to-earth approach (11th ed.). London, UK: Pearson.
Levin, B.M., Jones, A., & Braithwaite, K. (2003). Principal factors of the spread of alcoholism in society in a time of social changes. Russian Social Science Review, 39(6), 38-50.
Markwell, D., & Johnson, O. (2012). Introduction to sociology. Schaumburg, IL: Words of Wisdom, LLC.
Ossewaarde, M. (2014). Sociological imagination for the aged society. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 39(2), 159-180.
Randolph, K.A., Archleta, A., Smith, T., & Teasley, M. (2013). Beliefs about alcohol use among youths during early adolescence. Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, 22(4), 295-320.
Zaigraev, G.G. (2010). Alcoholism and drunkenness in Russia. Sociological Research, 49(6), 3-18.