Can we learn from the past?

1.   What is the sociological imagination and what is the two-part distinction the author makes about its function?

First of all the sociological imagination is defined by Mills, as is a state of mind that allows us to link historical experience/knowledge to what are actions are today.  It is an abstract idea that brings a historical context to a situation that usually allows the individual to understand the current situation better.  The two-part distinction that Mills makes about the sociological imagination is between “The personal troubles of milieu” and “the public issues of social structure”.  The “troubles” mentioned have to do with someone’s personal issues.  These are usually issues that take place immediately between the individual and question and another associated individual.  Thus, it is within this person’s direct control to fix any issues that arise in this area.  Also because the individual has the ability to address such issues, these issues also usually are of some immediate consequence to both themselves and those directly connected to them.  “Issues”, on the other hand, focus on the individual’s relationship with organizations and institutions that also directly effect this person’s life.  Therefore these problems are more of a concern to everyone in the community, not just one or a few individuals.


2. What was Adam Smith’s stance on business ethics and how do the authors feel about his opinion?

Smith believed that in order to have a fulfilling life that one needed more than wealth and material goods.  He believed that it was only through the intangible things (such as relationships and experiences) that could really provide a man with wealth.  Therefore Smith believed that businesses should abide by a code of business ethics to ensure the general well being of all people in society.  Both authors agree with Smith’s assertion and feel that as a society we should be working harder to try to recognize individuals for doing the right thing, instead of only recognizing them once they’ve been caught for doing the wrong thing.  Therefore the author’s believe that there are two ways that we can encourage this in the work place.  The first is by giving managers the “tools” they need to manage inappropriate behavior, and the second is by recognizing people for doing the right thing (either through rewards, etc.).  Overall, business ethics are integral to the success of the business.  If the business acts unethically it will eventually catch up to them in a negative way.


3.    How can you link the main ideas in the two readings?

While each reading contains describes different ideas, both can be related to one another.  In the reading on business ethics the authors use the 2008 financial downturn and all of the unethical behavior observed by the key players involved to prove the point that there is a need for business ethics in the workforce.  The Sociological Imagination reading on the other hand describes the abstract concept of the sociological imagination, which is the idea that individuals learn from the past in order to be successful in the future.   In the pursuit of a better, more ethical, business world it is important to link these two ideas.  Just look at what happened in 2008 because of all of those executives unethical behavior.  We therefore should look at this experience as an example of what can happen if one tries to manipulate the system for their own personal gain and use it to help encourage proper ethical behavior in the future.  After all shouldn’t we learn from our mistakes?


3 thoughts on “Can we learn from the past?

  1. I found it interesting how you brought up Adam Smith. We are supposed to be learning from the classics such as the father of economics but why do you think it’s so hard for businesses to make ethical decisions? If all they need to do is monitor inappropriate behavior and reward the good behavior then why are so many businesses still making unethical decisions? Can it be true that some people in the 21st century believe their “wealth” actually comes from the money they make and therefore they don’t find enough benefit in making ethical decisions when profits will suffer?

  2. Wealth (Noun) – An abundance of valuable possessions or money.
    The state of being rich; material prosperity.
    That is the first definition of wealth that I was able to find on Google. Wealth van be measured in the monetary sense, for it is the true definition. I think that since we are lucky enough to live in a first wold country, we are able to change the meaning of the word. Although I don’t agree that this is how people should measure their happiness, money is a driving factor in causing flawed decisions.

  3. “He believed that it was only through the intangible things (such as relationships and experiences) that could really provide a man with wealth.”

    i found this sentence you wrote incredibly interesting, and I think it is relevant to society today. I know as a college senior who has been through job searching, people constantly tell you, “It’s all about who you know.” I think this statement is true and thought it was interesting in reference to what you wrote in your blog; Adam Smith originally mentioned how it was the intangibles that make the most difference. It looks like Smith might have been on the right track very early on.


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