In anutshell, C. Wright-Mills explains that both personal troubles and public issuesplay key roles in why people begin to feel ‘trapped’ within society. A person’srange of immediate relations with others as well public matters/ issues withinsociety play an overwhelming role in our lives which fuels our own problems andanxieties. Ironically, I find that going to university relates to this inassociation with my own personal struggles so to speak.
Firstly, as a ‘personaltrouble’, I find that the decision to attend university in the first place wasone that took much more consideration than others around me. Mills describes apersonal trouble as occurring “within the character of the individual andwithin the range of his immediate relations with others” Mills (2000, p8). Personally, in 2017, as a young person who is fromLondon, I find that there is a whole world of opportunity that doesn’t requireyou to have a degree. With the ever-growing tool we have in social media, youngpeople are constantly shown examples of this on a day-to-day basis. Now, morethan ever, young people especially are starting up their own businesses,becoming content creators and generally branching out from ‘the norm’ of goingto university, so they can create their own opportunities and build their owncareer paths. I have always found myself to be more of a creative than anacademic, which is why the idea of creating my own opportunity resonates withme.
However, there is also a great risk attached with this. As much as I would likefor things not to be this way, it costs to live in the world we do; especiallycoming from London. It has constantly been reinforced to me, both by family andteachers, that studying for a degree is the best and most efficient way ofsetting myself up to live a successful and prosperous life. Though, I findmyself constantly questioning this, which is where Mills’ ‘public issues’theory comes into the equation.
Mills describes public issues as being” mattersthat transcend these local environments of the individual and the range of hisinner life” Mills (2000, p8). Within theUK, higher skilled jobs are becoming increasingly harder to find for graduates.In fact, in 2016, Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades UnionCongress explained “There are simply not enough quality jobs for young peopleleaving university,” Vina (2016) andthat “Far too many graduates are being forced to take on roles which do notmake the most of their talents.” Vina(2016). It is this public issue which leads me to ask myself whether I havemade the right decision in coming to university to pursue a degree. As timegoes on will this problem get worse? Is all the debt that I total up worth it?These are the types of questions that I continue to ask myself. Like many otherpeople my age, I am still not entirely sure what career I will take on in thefuture and whether what I am doing right now will be instrumental in getting methere. It is therefore this combination of personal troubles and public issueswhich cause me to be as sceptical as I am about my future at this stage in mylife.
Part 2:Whencarrying out research and investigation, sociologists must first select whetherto take on a positivist or interpretivist approach, which moulds the outcome oftheir research. On the one hand, positivism takes on an objective approach withthe collection of quantitative data and is associated with a much more ‘scientificmethod’. This quantitative analysis allows for investigators to gain moreobjective and unbiased data. On the other hand, the interpretivist approach focuseson the ways in which different people interpret the world and specificsituations. This methodology involves collecting qualitative data, meaning thatopinions, rather than facts are the focal point of research.
Both approaches havepro’s and con’s which is what I will be analysing in my essay. Firstly,the article by Tracy Shildrick and Robert MacDonald, ‘Poverty talk: how peopleexperiencing poverty deny their poverty and why they blame the poor’, takes ona qualitative research method to find out “how people who are living in povertytalk about poverty” (Shildrick & MacDonald, p.285, 2013). For this investigation, data was collected throughinterviewing 60 men and women in Middlesbrough, aged between 30 and 60.
Eachparticipant was given a “£20 ‘thank you’ to cover expenses and their time” (Shildrick & MacDonald, p.287, 2013). Therewere two main aims of this research. The first was “to give some visibility tothe accounts of a particularly overlooked group” – being those who haveinsecure jobs and who are never far away from poverty. The second was “to seekto understand the paradoxical ways in which these people talked about povertyand ‘the poor'” (Shildrick & MacDonald, p.286, 2013).
When exploring theseaims, the theoretical approach of epistemology is present. Epistemology is thetheory of knowledge, that is, theory about what is true and how we come tobelieve that knowledge is true (Gilbert, p.507,2008). According to epistemology, there are different types of knowledge.
The interviewees in this investigation seem to encompass a specific type ofknowledge when referring to what their standard of living is. This isnon-empirical knowledge, which is based on reasoning. For example, non-empiricalreasoning is seen in this instance as several participants found it difficultto agree that poverty existed in Britain because of the extent to which thereis poverty in developing countries. For most participants, images of absolutepoverty in Africa and Asia came to mind when asked about their views on poverty,causing them to reject the term in relation to their own lives. This is a keyfinding in understanding why the poor in Britain reject this title. Because ofthis general attitude, it was found that one of the main reasons for why peopleliving in poverty deny their poverty was because “socially and geographicallyclose points of comparison diminish a sense of relative poverty and deprivation”(Shildrick & MacDonald, p.
301, 2013).When assessing the effectiveness of the interpretivist approach, there arevarious factors that play a role in how reliable findings are. For example, “qualitativeanalysis depends on an intimate relationship between the researcher and thedata” (Pole and Lampard, p.206, 2002). Inthis investigation, participants were truthful and straightforward inexpressing their opinions, suggesting that a high level of trust was establishedbetween interviewers and interviewees. This evidently can be seen to make the datacollected more reliable. However, a possible flaw in data collection is the factthat participants were paid to give their opinions for the investigation.
Ifthe primary motivation for being interviewed was financial gain, rather thanthe want to provide useful information, then the data collected becomes lessreliable. Next,the article by Colin Lindsay and Ronald W. McQuaid, ‘Avoiding “McJobs”:Unemployed Job Seekers and Attitudes to Service Work’, takes on a positivistapproach to find out “whether there is a reluctance amongst job seekers topursue service work, and whether it differs between job seeker groups” (Lindsay and McQuaid, p.297, 2004).
Here,quantitative data for the study was collected between March and May 2001, In WestLothian, Scotland. This was an area where “estimated claimant unemploymentremained below the Scottish average at the time of the study” (Lindsay and McQuaid, p.303, 2004).
Variousdata was collected to show how many people would rule out or considerentry-level work in different sectors such as the retail and hospitality sectors.It was often found that unemployed males over 40 were the most commondemographic to rule out entry-level positions for example. Because of this research, conclusions could bemade in two key areas. Firstly, evidence suggested that job seekers who continuouslyreject entry-level positions increase the chance that they will experience long-termunemployment as well as decrease the chance that they will climb the employmentladder.
Secondly, evidence suggested that service employers will continue toface problems unless they can convince people a career ladder can be offered.In terms of the research approach, When undertaking this kind of research –finding out what people think about their own social situation, it is nearimpossible to do effectively from the positivist approach