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In a
nutshell, C. Wright-Mills explains that both personal troubles and public issues
play key roles in why people begin to feel ‘trapped’ within society. A person’s
range of immediate relations with others as well public matters/ issues within
society play an overwhelming role in our lives which fuels our own problems and
anxieties. Ironically, I find that going to university relates to this in
association with my own personal struggles so to speak. Firstly, as a ‘personal
trouble’, I find that the decision to attend university in the first place was
one that took much more consideration than others around me. Mills describes a
personal trouble as occurring “within the character of the individual and
within the range of his immediate relations with others” Mills (2000, p8). Personally, in 2017, as a young person who is from
London, I find that there is a whole world of opportunity that doesn’t require
you to have a degree. With the ever-growing tool we have in social media, young
people are constantly shown examples of this on a day-to-day basis. Now, more
than ever, young people especially are starting up their own businesses,
becoming content creators and generally branching out from ‘the norm’ of going
to university, so they can create their own opportunities and build their own
career paths. I have always found myself to be more of a creative than an
academic, which is why the idea of creating my own opportunity resonates with
me. However, there is also a great risk attached with this. As much as I would like
for things not to be this way, it costs to live in the world we do; especially
coming from London. It has constantly been reinforced to me, both by family and
teachers, that studying for a degree is the best and most efficient way of
setting myself up to live a successful and prosperous life. Though, I find
myself constantly questioning this, which is where Mills’ ‘public issues’
theory comes into the equation. Mills describes public issues as being” matters
that transcend these local environments of the individual and the range of his
inner life” Mills (2000, p8). Within the
UK, higher skilled jobs are becoming increasingly harder to find for graduates.
In fact, in 2016, Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union
Congress explained “There are simply not enough quality jobs for young people
leaving university,” Vina (2016) and
that “Far too many graduates are being forced to take on roles which do not
make the most of their talents.” Vina
(2016). It is this public issue which leads me to ask myself whether I have
made the right decision in coming to university to pursue a degree. As time
goes on will this problem get worse? Is all the debt that I total up worth it?
These are the types of questions that I continue to ask myself. Like many other
people my age, I am still not entirely sure what career I will take on in the
future and whether what I am doing right now will be instrumental in getting me
there. It is therefore this combination of personal troubles and public issues
which cause me to be as sceptical as I am about my future at this stage in my
life.

 

Part 2:

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When
carrying out research and investigation, sociologists must first select whether
to take on a positivist or interpretivist approach, which moulds the outcome of
their research. On the one hand, positivism takes on an objective approach with
the collection of quantitative data and is associated with a much more ‘scientific
method’. This quantitative analysis allows for investigators to gain more
objective and unbiased data. On the other hand, the interpretivist approach focuses
on the ways in which different people interpret the world and specific
situations. This methodology involves collecting qualitative data, meaning that
opinions, rather than facts are the focal point of research. Both approaches have
pro’s and con’s which is what I will be analysing in my essay.

Firstly,
the article by Tracy Shildrick and Robert MacDonald, ‘Poverty talk: how people
experiencing poverty deny their poverty and why they blame the poor’, takes on
a qualitative research method to find out “how people who are living in poverty
talk about poverty” (Shildrick & MacDonald, p.285, 2013). For this investigation, data was collected through
interviewing 60 men and women in Middlesbrough, aged between 30 and 60. Each
participant was given a “£20 ‘thank you’ to cover expenses and their time” (Shildrick & MacDonald, p.287, 2013). There
were two main aims of this research. The first was “to give some visibility to
the accounts of a particularly overlooked group” – being those who have
insecure jobs and who are never far away from poverty. The second was “to seek
to understand the paradoxical ways in which these people talked about poverty
and ‘the poor'” (Shildrick & MacDonald, p.286, 2013). When exploring these
aims, the theoretical approach of epistemology is present. Epistemology is the
theory of knowledge, that is, theory about what is true and how we come to
believe that knowledge is true (Gilbert, p.507,
2008). According to epistemology, there are different types of knowledge.
The interviewees in this investigation seem to encompass a specific type of
knowledge when referring to what their standard of living is. This is
non-empirical knowledge, which is based on reasoning. For example, non-empirical
reasoning is seen in this instance as several participants found it difficult
to agree that poverty existed in Britain because of the extent to which there
is poverty in developing countries. For most participants, images of absolute
poverty in Africa and Asia came to mind when asked about their views on poverty,
causing them to reject the term in relation to their own lives. This is a key
finding in understanding why the poor in Britain reject this title. Because of
this general attitude, it was found that one of the main reasons for why people
living in poverty deny their poverty was because “socially and geographically
close points of comparison diminish a sense of relative poverty and deprivation”
(Shildrick & MacDonald, p.301, 2013).
When assessing the effectiveness of the interpretivist approach, there are
various factors that play a role in how reliable findings are. For example, “qualitative
analysis depends on an intimate relationship between the researcher and the
data” (Pole and Lampard, p.206, 2002). In
this investigation, participants were truthful and straightforward in
expressing their opinions, suggesting that a high level of trust was established
between interviewers and interviewees. This evidently can be seen to make the data
collected more reliable. However, a possible flaw in data collection is the fact
that participants were paid to give their opinions for the investigation. If
the primary motivation for being interviewed was financial gain, rather than
the want to provide useful information, then the data collected becomes less
reliable.

Next,
the article by Colin Lindsay and Ronald W. McQuaid, ‘Avoiding “McJobs”:
Unemployed Job Seekers and Attitudes to Service Work’, takes on a positivist
approach to find out “whether there is a reluctance amongst job seekers to
pursue service work, and whether it differs between job seeker groups” (Lindsay and McQuaid, p.297, 2004). Here,
quantitative data for the study was collected between March and May 2001, In West
Lothian, Scotland. This was an area where “estimated claimant unemployment
remained below the Scottish average at the time of the study” (Lindsay and McQuaid, p.303, 2004). Various
data was collected to show how many people would rule out or consider
entry-level work in different sectors such as the retail and hospitality sectors.
It was often found that unemployed males over 40 were the most common
demographic to rule out entry-level positions for example.  Because of this research, conclusions could be
made in two key areas. Firstly, evidence suggested that job seekers who continuously
reject entry-level positions increase the chance that they will experience long-term
unemployment as well as decrease the chance that they will climb the employment
ladder. Secondly, evidence suggested that service employers will continue to
face problems unless they can convince people a career ladder can be offered.
In terms of the research approach,  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 When undertaking this kind of research –
finding out what people think about their own social situation, it is near
impossible to do effectively from the positivist approach

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