Perhaps the most often cited work when de¿ning the concept “social problems” is that of C. Wright Mills’ “The Sociological Imagination,” originally published in 1959. In “The Sociological Imagination,” among other goals, Mills endeavored to draw a distinction between personal troubles and public issues. Some social problems authors have used Mills’ arguments and examples to make the point that social problems are not to be confused with personal troubles. Others have used Mills’ writings to emphasize the idea that personal troubles and social problems are inextricably connected. Indeed, when we look at “The Sociological Imagination,” we ¿nd evidence to support both positions. Support for the former position can be seen in the following quote:
As an example of a personal trouble, Mills identi¿es one person in a city of 100,000 being unemployed. Under these circumstances we are permitted to examine the person’s character and skills for possible explanations of their unemployment. As an example of a public issue, he identi¿es 15 million people being unemployed out of a population of 50 million. Here we are permitted to examine the political and economic institutions of society for the sources of unemployment.