Sociology connects the personal and the historical by recasting personal problems as historical ones and historical problems as personal ones. Personally, an individual feels trapped; sociology asks, what is going on in history that produces this feeling? Or, historically, the world is in a Cold war; sociology asks, how does this global situation get played out in how people feel and think in their private lives?In sociology. Exaggerating one of these tendencies leads to the distortions he will proceed to describe. The first is a historical tendency, characteristic of studies that describe stages of the development of man, from primitive to civilize.
The second is a human nature tendency, which does away with history in order to describe man in universal terms: his desires or weaknesses across time. The third is an empirical tendency, which measures more and more facts, for instance by counting populations. Mills worries that people in second tendency tend to over-generalize, producing “grand theories”, as he will explain in chapter 2, that do not explain any actual social behavior. In contrast, people in the third tendency, which he discusses in chapter 3, tend to over-specialize, collecting a lot of data about one thing without really describing the larger society as a whole. In the following chapters, mills will aim to diagnose and correct these problems in order to give a better program to realize the promise of the sociological imagination analysis.