"Whatever the specific problems
of the classic social analysts, however limited or however broad the features
of social reality they have examined, those who have been imaginatively
aware of the promise of their work have consistently asked three sorts
(1) What is the structure of
this particular society as a whole? What are its essential components,
and how are they related to one another? How does it differ from
other varieties of social order? Within it, what is the meaning of
any particular feature for its continuance and for its change?
(2) Where does this society
stand in human history? What are the mechanics by which it is changing?
What is its place within and its meaning for the development of humanity
as a whole? How does any particular feature we are examining affect,
and how is it affected by, the historical period in which it moves?
And this period--what are its essential features? How does it differ
from other periods? What are its characteristic ways of history making?
(3) What varieties of
men and women now prevail in this society and in this period? And
what varieties are coming to prevail? In what ways are they selected
and formed, liberated and repressed, made sensitive and blunted?
What kinds of 'human nature' are revealed in the conduct and character
we observe in this society in this period? And what is the meaning
for 'human nature' of each and every feature of the society we are examining"
(The Sociological Imagination, 1959, pp. 6-7).