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15.3 A Final Word

In addition to presenting the sociological perspective and showing you how our social backgrounds affect our attitudes, behavior, and life chances in so many ways, this book also discussed the many consequences of extensive social inequality in the United States and around the globe. We hoped to stimulate your sociological imagination to recognize the social forces affecting us all and to suggest what needs to be done to have a society where all people have equal opportunity to achieve their dreams. This is a society that, as Americans have heard since childhood, should be filled “with liberty and justice for all.” With your newfound sociological imagination, perhaps you will be better able to help achieve such a society.

C. Wright Mills (1959, p. 5)Mills, C. W. (1959). The sociological imagination. London, England: Oxford University Press. wrote that the awareness accompanying the sociological imagination is “in many ways…a terrible lesson; in many ways a magnificent one.” It is terrible because it makes us realize that many powerful social forces affect our fate and underlie public issues. Yet it is also magnificent because it gives us the knowledge we need to begin to change these forces so that we can have a better society.

This book has shown you both the terrible and the magnificent. It has emphasized social inequality and other social forces that affect us in so many ways, but it has also emphasized how knowledge of these forces points to effective strategies for changing society for the better. With such knowledge, we are better able to heed the urging of Horace Mann, 19th-century education reformer and the first president of Antioch College, who told his students, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity” (Mann, 1868, p. 575).Mann, M. T. P. (Ed.). (1868). Life and works of Horace Mann (Vol. 1). Boston, MA: Walker, Fuller, and Company. Whatever your life’s pursuits, I hope that your new sociological imagination will help you win some victories for humanity in the years ahead.