The Sociological Imagination

The Sociological Imagination Metaphors and Similes

Translation (Metaphor)

In Chapter 2, “Grand Theory,” Mills constantly “translates” the work of Talcott Parsons. This is a metaphor because Parsons’s work is already in English, and translation literally means moving words from one language to another. By claiming to be "translating" Parsons, then, Mills points out that reading Parsons is like reading a foreign language. This is because Parsons writes in language that is overly dense and vague. It is difficult to understand. Mills calls on social scientists to write clearly and precisely, so that their true ideas can be understood and debated.

“Frozen” and “Fluid” Departments (Metaphor)

Mills turns to water metaphors in his chapter on the “Uses of History.” He wants to argue for the importance of the social sciences being “fluid” instead of “frozen.” By this, he means that knowledge should flow from one discipline to another instead of being stuck and isolated. For instance, economists and political scientists should read each other and talk to each other so that they can learn from each other. Economists learn that the economy is also impacted by political decisions. Political scientists learn that the government is also impacted by economic matters. This kind of fluidity is essential to the holistic social science for which Mills advocates.