How History and Social Structure Shaped My Life

How History and Social Structure Shaped My Life


The paper provides an outline that depicts the role of sociology in understanding the relationship between social/historical context and the life experiences of an individual. First, the paper starts by providing a detailed explanation of the concept of social imagination. Second, we shall use a timeline to construct the social and historical context of my life. My social/historical context and personal life experience would cover the previous 50 years. In addition to aging, human development and biography, the social context theory has emerged as an analytical construct. Regarding the examining of life course sociology, we would specify contexts based on time and place. Third, the paper will provide an analysis of the timeline. We shall examine the historical periods and social life as mechanisms that regulate life course.

Sociological Imagination

According to Mills (2000), one can only understand the life of an individual and the history of the society by understanding both concepts. Therefore, sociological imagination refers to the ability of a person to connect between personal troubles and public issues. Precisely, it entails thinking away from daily routine and look at the situation from a new viewpoint. To have such skills, an individual must be willing to free himself from one context and look at situations from an alternative perspective(Scott & Nilsen, 2013). Other scholars defined social imagination as the ability to understand that social actions, context, and actors have a significant role in shaping the social outcome. Mills further explained that the possible way to identify troubles of an individual is by examining his character and relationship with other people.

On the other hand, regarding the public issues, they are beyond an individual’s power to change. Moreover, such problems exist in institutions, impersonal structure, and processes of society. While it is possible to deal with troubles within the social environment of an individual, you may address social problems through engaging in collective actions. Precisely, the resolution of widespread troubles is done through organized political responses. According to Mills, social imagination allows us to determine the relationship between personal troubles and public issues(Scott & Nilsen, 2013). You can examine how the connection of troubles experienced by a person privately with the public issues situated in the society’s structure. Moreover, through sociological imagination, a person can understand history and biography, and their relationship in the society.

For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (n.d.), indicates that the black unemployment rate is twice the rates for whites. In addition, with the same education level, the income gap between blacks and white is widening. Since race is not a biological reality, it is hard to use racial differences to explain this scenario. When we use the context of a racialized social structure and history of segregation, split labor market, and slavery, to examine the situation of black unemployment, we can conclude that such personal troubles and structural problems resulted from the social problem of racism. According to Bingham (2008), with sociological imagination, one can avoid blaming the victim. For instance, blaming the victims occur when disadvantaged people are held accountable for the suffering they experienced even if they did not have control over the social forces. Therefore, sociological imagination helps us to avoid the false perception such that we blame minority groups for racial discrimination and poor people for poverty.

Constructing the Time-Line


(The Canadian Press, 2014)

,(Belton, n.d.)


(The Canadian Press, 2014)


The World War II event had a great impact on my family. It was the period when my family experienced great changes. Due to the financial instability in our family, my grandfather had to search for a second job in the military service. He was employed as an ammunition worker whereby he used to make weapons and ammunitions such as guns, bombs, hand grenades and bullets that were required by the armed forces. Working in the ammunition department was one of the dangerous jobs at that time. Similarly, the job required workers to stay for long hours so that they could produce enough ammunitions. The situation and requirements of the new job forced my grandfather to move from Toronto to Quebec. By living in Quebec, it was easy for my grandfather to commute to a job. When my grandfather moved to Quebec, he left behind the extended family since they were happy with the situation in Toronto.

Unfortunately, my grandmother did not have a job; therefore, she used to do household chores and small-scale farming. During the period when my grandparents were in Quebec, my grandmother suffered from an infectious disease, and she passed on. It was a sad situation for my grandfather; however, he had to marry a second wife to take care of the family when he was at the job. Similarly, the second wife did not have a job; therefore, she depended on my grandfather for everything. Due to the risk, the job portrayed, my grandfather got a serious injury that forced him to take a break so that he could recover. He came home, and after recovering, he was unable to go back since the war was over and the military service was downsizing employees to pave the way for young and energetic people. Since my grandfather did not have any other skills, it was hard for him to find a new job and this resulted in a divorce. It was possible that they could blame themselves for the decision they made, but the divorce scenario was due to economic and societal issues.

I will relate the same theory for my parents when they divorced in 1991, the period most provinces in Canada initiated huge spending cuts to finance the budget deficit since the economy was in a crisis. Previously, in the Canadian currency depreciated by recording the lowest value of 70.2 U.S. cents. Therefore, the situation in the country was worse. In addition, there was high unemployment rate in the country due to competition for the limited jobs, especially after the government had introduced Foreign Domestic Workers Program in the year 1981. The program allowed women to work as domestic employees in privileged families and industries. The introduction of the program meant that most companies had to hire people on a contract basis and this affected my mother’s job security. Moreover, due to the high number of people in the workforce and the economic situation of the country, most companies retrenched their employees thus affecting my parents.

The lack of job had a great impact on our family. My parents had no other means to survive, and they had to sell everything that we had bought or build to survive during the worst times of our life. My father sold his car, land, and building and all that resulted in the adverse effect on his relationship with my mother. The outcome of the unstable relationship was a divorce. In Canada, the divorce rate is high in situations when there are economic crisis and societal problems. It is vivid that there is a similarity between my grandparent’s divorce and that of my parents. They all blamed themselves for what happened although it was because of the economic and social situation in the country.

What I experienced in my life has made me perceive the world in a different perspective. When people inquire from me as to why I decided to further my education, I used to provide an awkward reason. However, I came to realize that the answers I gave out had little relevance. I did not enroll in the university to pass the time or due to peer pressure; I enrolled because of the following reasons. The world social forum, the adoption of the multicultural policy, Civil Rights movements and workers strikes, in Canada, have shaped my ambition to gain financial stability, enjoy diversity in language, religion and customs and right to equality, political and social freedom. Regarding the relationship between my personal life and events in the society, I feel that they are shocking. During my childhood, the economic crisis in the country affected me. The Civil Rights movements and World Social Forum gave me the confidence to pursue life.



Belton, J. R. (n.d.). Important moments in Canadian history. Retrieved from

Bingham, S. C. (2008). Thoreau and the sociological imagination: The wilds of society. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Mills, C. W. (2000). The sociological imagination. Oxford University Press.

Scott, J., & Nilsen, A. (Eds.). (2013). C. Wright Mills and the sociological imagination: Contemporary perspectives. Edward Elgar Publishing.

The Canadian Press. (June 27, 2014). Timeline: Notable dates in Canada’s history. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (n.d.).Retrieved from



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