C. Wright Mills? book ?The Sociological Imagination,? which is a prime example of sociological autobiography, seeks to explain personal experience in terms of larger social forces. For instance, many family stories about life during the Oklahoma Dust Bowl illustrate how widely the Great Depression affected the national farming community.
Sociological autobiography proceeds from sociological imagination, a rhetorical strategy for reconciling personal experience with social trends in wider society. Just as personal experience can illustrate community or national culture and conditions, much larger social situations can greatly influence what kinds of personal experiences people have. Mills focuses on explaining how to develop ?intellectual craftsmanship,? the mental rigors of placing oneself in one?s own cultural context.
To better understand one?s place in society, for example, Mills argues that sociologists primarily ? and thinkers in general ? must understand how social forces have shaped their own lives. By placing their autobiographies in a much larger social context, researchers learn more about their own place in history, as well as why they hold the social beliefs they do. For sociologists, who examine society and culture well outside their local communities, social imagination is key to understanding why personal experiences associated with the same social trends vary by region, country, city, etc.