Charles Wright Mills (1916-1962) is commonly regarded as one of the most influential radical social theorists and critics in twentieth century America. Mills is thought to hold the thesis that sociologists should be publicly engaged in order to focus on the true problems of society and their historical developments in order to explore the connections between individual biology and social structure. The normative implications of this thesis claim the importance of understanding the connection between the private life of the individual and the public issues in society. .
In The Sociological Imagination, Mills discusses this connection in attempt to shed light on the relation between the life of the individual and the history of a society. Mills does not believe that it is possible to accurately assess the private life of the individual and the public issues of society without understanding their connection with each other. Mills states, "Neither life of the individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both" (Mills, 3). In other words, it is impossible to understand one's own life without understanding the society and history in which one is situated. However, it is rare for the individual to define their struggles in terms of history of their society. Mills begins by stating that people nowadays view their lives as revolving exclusively around their own personal experiences; the common man is unaware of how the public issues present in society bear on the individual's biography. Mills states that the life of the individual is affected by the particular time period and history in which that individual exists. However he believes that most people are not aware of the forces present in greater society, history, and the world, that affect their personal spheres. What these people are lacking is the understanding of the relation between an individual's present state and the precedent events that shaped it.