Social Sciences Basic Glossary
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- ABSOLUTE POVERTY. Poverty
as defined in terms of the minimal requirements necessary to afford minimal
standards of food, clothing, health care and shelter.
ACHIEVED STATUS. A position attained through
personal ability and effort.
ADAPTATION. Refers to the
ability of a sociocultural system to change with the demands of a changing
physical or social environment. The process by which cultural elements undergo
change in form and/or function in response to change in other parts of the
Government programs intended to assure minorities and women of equal hiring
or admission opportunities.
AGE STRUCTURE. The relative proportions
of different age categories in a population.
AGENCIES OF SOCIALIZATION. Groups
or institutions within which processes of socialization take place
ALIENATION. The sense that
we have lost control over social institutions that we have created. Often
characterized as estrangement from the self and from the society as a whole.
Marx believed that general alienation was rooted in the loss of control on
the part of workers over the nature of the labor task, and over the products
of their labor.
ANTHROPOLOGY. A social science,
closely linked to sociology, which concentrates (though not exclusively) on
the study of traditional cultures--particularly hunting and gathering and
horticultural societies--and the evolution of the human species.
ASCRIBED STATUS. A social
position that is given at birth (such as race or sex).
ASSIMILATION. A minority
group's internalization of the values and norms of the dominant culture.
AUTHORITY. Power that
is attached to a position that others perceive as legitimate.
BUREAUCRACY. A formal organization
marked by a clear hierarchy of authority, the existence of written rules of
procedure, staffed by full-time salaried officials, and striving for the efficient
attainment of organizational goals.
- CAPITALISM. An economic
system based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution
in which the goal is to produce profit.
CASTE. A closed form of stratification
in which an individual's status is determined by birth and cannot be changed.
CAUSATION. A 'cause and effect'
relationship exists wherever a change in one variable (the independent variable)
induces change in another (the dependent variable). Causal factors in sociology
include individual motivation as well as many external influences on human
behavior that often go unrecognized.
CITIZEN. A member of a state,
having both rights and duties associated with that membership.
CLAN. A broad extended kin group
found in many preindustrial societies.
CLASS. Most sociologists use the
term to refer to socioeconomic differences between groups of individuals which
create differences in their life chances and power.
CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS. An objective awareness of the
class system, including the common interests of people within your class.
COLLECTIVE ACTION. Social
action undertaken in a relatively spontaneous way by a large number of people.
COLONIALISM. The process
whereby nations establish their political and economic rule over less powerful
COMMUNITY. A group of
people who share a common sense of identity and interact with one another
on a sustained basis.
CONFLICT. A clash of interest
(sometimes escalating to active struggle) between individuals, groups or society.
CONFORMITY. Human behavior
which follows the established norms of a group or society. The bulk of human
behavior is of a conforming nature as people accept and internalize the values
of their culture or subculture
CONGLOMERATES. Large corporations
made up of separate companies producing or trading in a variety of different
products and services. Conglomerates are usually the result of mergers between
companies or take-overs of one firm by another.
CONSENSUS. Agreement on basic
social values by the members of a group or society.
CONTRADICTION. Marx's term
to refer to mutually antagonistic tendencies within institutions or the broader
society such as those between profit and competition within capitalism.
CONTRADICTORY CLASS LOCATIONS.
Positions in the class structure which share characteristics of the class
positions both above and below them--the classic position would be that of
a foreman in a factory or a department chair in academe.
CORE COUNTRIES. The advanced industrial
societies of America, Western Europe and Japan are often referred to as core
countries because of their central position on the world stage (see also PERIPHERY
COUNTRIES and SEMI-PERIPHERY COUNTRIES).
CORPORATIONS. A legally
recognized organization set up for profit--the powers and liabilities of the
organization are legally separate from the owners or the employees.
CORRELATION. The relationship
between two variables in which they vary together--say a correlation between
the income of parents and reading ability among primary school children. Statistical
correlation can vary from -1 to 1 (a 0 indicates no correlation between the
variables). A positive correlation between two variables exists where a high
score on one is associated with a high score on the other. A negative correlation
is where a high score on one variable is associated with a low score on the
CULTURAL LAG. A dysfunction
in the sociocultural system caused by change occurring in one part of the
system and the failure of another part of that system to adjust to the change.
An example would be married women engaged in outside employment and the continuance
of the domestic division of labor.
CULTURAL MATERIALISM. A macro-social theory that
attempts to account for the similarities and differences between sociocultural
systems by focusing on the environmental constraints to which human action
CULTURAL PLURALISM. The
more or less peaceful coexistence of multiple subcultures within a given
CULTURAL TRANSMISSION. The socialization process
whereby the norms and values of the group are internalized by individuals.
CULTURAL UNIVERSALS. Values or practices shared by
all human cultures.
CULTURE. The values, norms and
material goods shared by a given group. Your instructor prefers to restrict
the term to refer to symbolic aspects (values and norms).
CULTURE OF POVERTY. The view that the poor have a different
value system that contribute to their poverty.
DEMOCRACY. A form of government
that recognizes the citizen as having the right to participate in political
decision-making, or to elect representatives to government bodies.
DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSITION. A
stabilization of population level in industrial society once a certain level
of economic prosperity has been reached. Population is thought to stabilize
because of economic incentives on families to limit the number of children.
DEMOGRAPHY. The scientific
study of human population--including size, growth, movement, density, and
DEVIANCE. Behaviors which do
not conform to significant norms held by most of the members of a group or
society. What is regarded as 'deviant' is highly variable across societies.
DEVIANT SUBCULTURE. A subculture
which has values and norms which differ substantially from those of the majority
in a society.
DIALECTICAL. An interpretation
of change emphasizing the clash of opposing interests and the resulting struggle
as the engine of social transformation.
development of increasing complexity and division of labor within sociocultural
DIFFUSION. The spread
of cultural traits from one sociocultural system to another.
DISCRIMINATION. The denial
of equal access to social resources to people on the basis of their group
DIVISION OF LABOR. The specialization
of work tasks or occupations. All societies have some division of labor based
on age and sex. But with the development of industrialism the division of
labor becomes far more complex which affects many parts of the sociocultural
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Violent behavior
directed by one member of a household against another.
- ECONOMY. The organization of
production and distribution of goods and services within a sociocultural system.
ECONOMIC INTERDEPENDENCE. Comte
and Durkheim both refer to the fact that in societies with a high division
of labor individuals depend more on others to produce most of the goods they
need to sustain their lives.
EDUCATION. The transmission
of knowledge to members of society. The knowledge passed on is in the form
of technical and cultural knowledge, technical and social skills, as well
as the norms and values of the society.
EDUCATION SYSTEM. The system
of formalized transmission of knowledge and values operating within a given
Family arrangement in which power is shared more-or-less equally by both the
wife and the husband.
EMIGRATION. The movement
of people out of their native land to other countries.
ENDOGAMY. A system in which
an individual may only marry within the same social category or group.
ENTREPRENEUR. A person who
organizes and manages a business firm.
ENTROPY. The entropy law
or the second law of thermodynamics--energy can only be transformed in one
direction, from ordered to disordered. Entropy is also another name
ENVIRONMENT. The physical,
biological and chemical restraints to which action is subject.
ETHNICITY. An ethnic group
is one of a common cultural identity, separating them from other groups around
ETHNOCENTRISM. The tendency
to judge other cultures by the standards one's own culture.
EXOGAMY. A system in which an
individual may only marry outside their social category or group.
EXPERIMENT. A research
method in which variables can be analyzed under carefully controlled conditions--usually
within an artificial situation constructed by the researcher.
EXTENDED FAMILY. A family group
consisting of more than two generations of the same kinship line living either
within the same household or, more usually in the west, very close to one
- FAMILY. A group of individuals
related to one another by blood ties, marriage or adoption. Members of families
form an economic unit, the adult members of which are responsible for the
upbringing of children. All societies involve some form of family, although
the form the family takes is widely variable. In modern industrial societies
the main family form is the nuclear family, although a variety of extended
family relationships are also found.
FAMILY OF ORIENTATION. The family into which an individual is born.
FAMILY OF PROCREATION. The family we create through
FEMINISM. Advocacy of the social
equality of the sexes.
FERTILITY. The average number
of liveborn children produced by women of childbearing age in a particular
attachment or sexual desire directed toward an object.
FORCES OF PRODUCTION. Marx's term
to refer to the technology used to produce economic goods in a society.
FORDISM. The assembly line system
of production pioneered by Henry Ford. It should be pointed out that
not all industrial processes are based on the assembly line.
FUNCTIONS. The ways in
which a sociocultural trait contributes toward the maintenance or adaptation
of the entire sociocultural system.
FUNCTIONALISM. A theoretical
perspective that focuses on the way various parts of the social system contribute
to the continuity of society as well as the affect the various parts have
on one another.
FUNDAMENTALISM. A commitment
to, and a belief in, the literal meanings of scriptural texts.
- GANG. An informal group of individuals
that engage in common activities, many of these activities may be outside
to Toennies, social organization based on close and personal ties
and traditional norms and values.
GENDER. Socially defined behavior
regarded as appropriate for the members of each sex.
GENOCIDE. The systematic, planned
annihilation of an ethnic, racial or political group.
GENTRIFICATION. The renovation
of poor and working class urban neighborhoods and the displacement of the
to Toennies, social organization based on loose personal ties, self interest,
rationalization, and impersonality.
GHETTO. A section of a city
occupied predominantly by members of a single racial or ethnic group, usually
because of social or economic pressure.
GLOBALIZATION. The development
of extensive worldwide patterns of economic relationships between nations.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT (GDP). The
total value of all goods and services produced within the boundaries of a
particular country in any given year. In America, for example, this measure
includes the value of the production of Japanese firms within the U.S. but
not goods produced by U.S. firms on Japanese soil. GDP is now the preferred
measure of the wealth of nations.
GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT (GNP). The total value of all
goods and services produced by nationals of a particular country in any given
year. In America, for example, this measure did not include the value of the
production of Japanese firms within the U.S. but did include the value of
goods and services produced by U.S. firms on Japanese soil. GDP is now
the preferred measure of the wealth of nations, though GNP is often used in
GUERRILLA MOVEMENT. A non-government
military organization that engages in fighting or harassment.
HIGHER EDUCATION. Usually refers
to education beyond high school level, often in colleges or universities.
HIGH-TRUST SYSTEMS. Work settings
in which individuals have a great deal of autonomy and control.
HISTORICAL MATERIALISM. Marx's
interpretation that processes of social change are determined primarily (but
not exclusively) by economic factors.
HOUSEWORK (DOMESTIC LABOR).
Unpaid work carried on in and around the home such as cooking, cleaning and
shopping. Studies show that the bulk of this labor is carried out by women
despite the predominance of dual-income families.
HYPOTHESIS. A tentative statement
about a given state of affairs that predicts a relationship between the variables,
usually put forward as a basis for empirical testing.
IDEAL TYPE. Weber's construct of a 'pure type', constructed
by emphasizing logical or consistent traits of a given social item.
The traits are defining ones, not necessarily desirable ones. Ideal types
do not exist anywhere in reality, rather they are "measures" that we can use
in comparing social phenomena. One example is Weber's ideal type of bureaucratic
organization (which are anything but desirable). More widely used (and understood)
examples would include "ideal democracy" and "ideal capitalism."
IDEOLOGY. Shared ideas or beliefs
which serve to justify and support the interests of a particular group or
IMMIGRATION The settlement
of people into a country in which they were not born.
IMPERIALISM. The establishing
of colonial empires in which domination is both political and economic.
INCOME. Payment of wages usually
earned from work or investments.
The continual expanding application of sophisticated technology designed to
efficiently draw energy and raw materials out of the environment and fashion
them for human use.
INFORMAL RELATIONS. Relations
in organizations developed on the basis of personal connections. These ties
are often used to pursue organizational goals instead of the formally recognized
The interface between a sociocultural system and its environment. In
sociocultural materialism it contains the principle mechanism by which society
regulates the amount and type of energy from the environment.
IN-GROUP. A social group an
individual belongs to and identifies with.
INNER CITY. The areas composing
the central neighborhoods of industrial cities which are subject to dilapidation
and decay, the more affluent residents having moved to outlying areas.
A condition that exists when large institutions such as pension plans, banks,
and insurance companies hold large shares of capitalistic enterprises.
INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION. Accepted social
arrangements that place minority groups at a disadvantage.
INSTITUTIONAL RACISM. Accepted social arrangements
that exclude on the basis of race.
INSURRECTION An organized
revolt against civil authority in an attempt to replace that authority with
The economic exploitation of a group within a society whereby their labor
is sold cheap and they are made to pay dear for products and services.
INTEREST GROUPS. Groups organized
to pursue specific interests in the political arena. The interests of these
groups is often economic, but many are organized around moral concerns. The
major activity of interest groups is lobbying the members of legislative bodies
(Congress as well as state legislators), contributing vast sums to political
campaigns, and increasingly running their own propaganda campaigns to affect
the legislative process.
OF LABOR. The interdependence of countries which trade on global markets.
Movement up or down the social hierarchy from one generation to another.
- KINSHIP. The network of social
relationships which link individuals through common ancestry, marriage, or
- LABELING THEORY. A social
theory that holds that society's reaction to certain behaviors is a major
factor in defining the self as deviant. People become `deviant' because
certain labels (thief, prostitute, homosexual) are attached to their behavior
by criminal justice authorities and others. The resulting treatment of the
individual pushes them into performing the deviant role. Also called "societal
LAISSEZ-FAIRE. One of the main doctrines of capitalism
that asserts that government should not interfere with commerce.
LATENT FUNCTIONS. The unintended
consequences of one part of a sociocultural system. For example, the reform
of big city political machines had a lot of unintended consequences on the
governability of American cities (see also MANIFEST FUNCTION).
LAW. A written rule established by
a political authority and backed by government.
LEGITIMACY. The generally
held belief that a particular social institution is just and valid.
LEGITIMATION CRISIS. The
lack of sufficient commitment on the part of members to a particular social
institution for that organization to function effectively. Governments that
lack legitimation often rely on repression to continue their rule (which is
very inefficient). Legitimation crisis in other institutions produce
parallel responses on the part of administration.
LIBERAL DEMOCRACY. Refers to
those societies based on some form of democracy coupled with capitalism.
LIFE EXPECTANCY. The number of years
a newborn in a particular society can expect to live. Also refers to the number
of further years which people at any given age can, on average, expect to
LIFESTYLE CHANGES. Often
called for when treating chronic disease. Rather than curing the disease,
the patient makes changes in lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, smoking sessation,
weight reduction, alleviating stress) that help to control the disease process.
LIFE-SPAN. The maximum length of life that is biologically
possible for a member of a given species.
LITERACY. The ability of individuals
to read and write.
- MACROSOCIOLOGY. The
study of large-scale organizations, sociocultural systems, or the world system
MANAGERIAL CAPITALISM. A
change in the control of capitalist enterprises from owners (which predominated
in Marx's day) to control by (very well) salaried managers.
MANIFEST FUNCTION. The intended
and known consequences of one part of a sociocultural system. For example,
the reform of big city political machines had the intended consequence of
limiting (relatively) corruption by city officials (see also LATENT
MARXISM. Contemporary social
theory deriving its main elements from Marx's ideas. Marxist theory strongly
emphasizes class struggle and material causation.
MASCULINITY. The characteristic
forms of behavior expected of men in any given culture.
MASS MEDIA. Forms of communication
designed to reach a vast audience without any personal contact between the
senders and receivers. Examples would include newspapers, magazines, video
recordings, radio and television
MATERIALISM. The view that
'material conditions' (usually economic and technological factors) have
the central role in determining social change.
organization in which females dominate males.
MEAN. A statistical measure of
'central tendency' or average based on dividing a total by the number of
individual cases involved. The mean is very sensitive to extreme scores.
For example, the average life expectancy for people in a society with high
infant mortality would be a misleading measure (see also MEDIAN).
MEANS OF PRODUCTION. Marx's
term referring to the means whereby the production of material goods is
carried on in a society. Marx included in this concept both technology and
the social relations among the producers (based on the ownership of that
The use of machinery to replace human labor.
MEDIAN. The number that falls
halfway in a range of numbers--the score below which are half the scores
and above which are the other half. The median is a way of calculating
'central tendency' which is sometimes more useful than calculating a mean
(particularly when many extreme scores are in the distribution).
MEGALOPOLIS. A vast unbroken
urban region consisting of two or more central cities connected by their
study of small scale patterns of human interaction and behavior within specific
MIDDLE CLASS. A social class
broadly defined occupationally as those working in white-collar and lower
managerial occupations; is sometimes defined by reference to income levels
or subjective identification of the participants in the study.
MIGRATION. The movement
of people from one country or region to another in order to settle permanently.
MILITARY RULE. Government
by military leaders.
MINORITY GROUP (OR ETHNIC
MINORITY). A group of people who are defined on the basis of their ethnicity
or race. Because of their distinct physical or cultural characteristics,
they are singled out for unequal treatment within a society.
MIXED ECONOMY. Economies
which have major elements of both capitalism and socialism (such as many
economies of Europe).
MODE OF PRODUCTION. The technology and the
practices employed for expanding or limiting basic subsistence production,
especially the production of food and other forms of energy. Examples
would include the technology of subsistence, technological/environmental
relationships, and work patterns.
The process of general social change brought about by the transition from
an agrarian to an industrial mode of production.
MONOPOLY. A situation in which
a single producer dominates in a given industry or market (see also OLIGOPOLY).
MORES. Norms that have
strong moral significance, violation of which cause strong social reaction
(murder, sexual molestation of children).
A business corporation that operates in two or more countries--also sometimes
referred to as a "transnational."
- NATIONALISM. An individual's
internalization of the set of beliefs and values expressing love, pride and
identification with a given nation state. Ritual and symbols are important
tools in fostering nationalism among the citizenry.
NATION-STATE. The modern state in which a government
has sovereign power within a defined territorial area, and the mass of the
population are citizens.
NEO-COLONIALISM. The informal dominance
of some nations over others by means of unequal conditions of economic exchange
(as between industrial and Third World countries)..
NORMS. Rules and expectations of
conduct which either prescribes a given type of behavior, or forbids it.
NUCLEAR FAMILY. A basic family
group consisting of married female and male parents and dependent children,
living away from other relatives.
- OBJECTIVITY. Objectivity
means striving as far as possible to reduce or eliminate bias in the conduct
ORGANIZATION. A large group of individuals that
is formally organized for the purpose of attaining a goal.
OLIGARCHY. Rule by a few within
an organization or in the society as a whole.
OLIGOPOLY. A situation in which
a small number of firms dominate a given industry or market. When four or
fewer firms supply fifty percent or more of a given market the effects of
oligopoly become apparent. These effects are reputed to be a rise in price
and a lowering of quality because of the decline of competition (see also
PATRIARCHY. Social organization
that structures the dominance of men over women.
PEASANTS. People in agrarian
societies who produce food from the land, using traditional farming methods
of plow and animal power. Farm workers in agrarian societies.
PEER GROUP. A friendship group with
common interests and position composed of individuals of similar age.
PERIPHERY COUNTRIES. The term
refers to countries which have a marginal role in the world economy and are
dependent on 'core' countries in their trading relationships (see also CORE
COUNTRIES and SEMI-PERIPHERY COUNTRIES).
PLURALIST THEORY. An analysis
of politics emphasizing the role of diverse and competing interest groups
in preventing too much power being accumulated in the hands of political and
POLITICS. Attempts to influence
POLITICAL PARTY. An organization
of people with similar interests and attitudes established with the aim of
achieving legitimate control of government and using that power to pursue
a specific program.
POSITIVISM. A philosophical
position according to which there are close ties between the social and natural
sciences, which share a common logical framework.
A society based on the production of services and information rather than
material goods. A notion advocated by those who believe that the industrial
order is passing.
POWER. The ability to achieve aims
or further the interests you hold even when opposed by others.
POWER ELITE. According to C. Wright
Mills the power elite are men in the highest positions of government, corporations
and the military who hold enormous power in modern industrial societies.
PREJUDICE. The holding of unfounded
ideas about a group, ideas that are resistant to change.
PRESTIGE. Social respect accorded
to an individual or group because of the status of their position.
PRIMARY GROUP. A typically small
group of individuals standing in an enduring personal relationship to one
another--examples would include parents, spouse, or close friends (see also
PRIMARY GROUP STRUCTURE. A term used in sociocultural
materialism to refer to structural groups in which members tend to interact
on an intimate basis. They perform many functions such as regulating production,
reproduction, socialization, education, and enforcing social discipline.
Examples include family, community, voluntary organizations, and friendship
PRIMARY LABOR MARKET. The
term refers to the economic position of individuals engaged in occupations
that provide secure jobs, and good benefits and working conditions (see also
SECONDARY LABOR MARKET).
PRIMARY SECTOR. That part of a modern economy based
on the extraction of natural resources directly from the natural environment--includes
such areas as mining and agricultural production.
PROFANE. Elements which belong
to the ordinary everyday world rather than the supernatural (see also SACRED).
requiring extensive educational qualifications, with high social prestige,
subject to codes of conduct laid down by central bodies (or professional associations).
PUBLIC HEALTH CARE. Government
funded health-care services available to all members of the population.
- RACE. A socio-culurally defined
category of people who share genetically transmitted physical characteristics.
RACISM. The attributing of characteristics of inferiority
to a particular racial category. Racism is a specific form of prejudice focused
concept to refer to the process by which modes of precise calculation based
on observation and reason increasingly dominate the social world. Rationalization
is a habit of thought that replaces tradition, emotion, and values as motivators
of human conduct. Bureaucracy is a particular case of rationalization applied
to human social organization
RECIPROCITY. A system
of the exchange of goods based on social ties.
RELATIVE DEPRIVATION. A perceived
disadvantage in social or economic standing based on a comparison to others
in a society.
RELATIVE POVERTY. Poverty defined by reference to the
living standards of the majority in any given society.
RELIGION. A set of beliefs involving
symbols regarded as sacred, together with ritual practices in which members
of the community engage.
Based on the existence of two or more political parties, in which voters democratically
elect politicians to represent their interests.
RESEARCH METHODS. The diverse
strategies used to gather empirical (factual) material in a systematic way.
relearning of cultural norms and values by mature individuals usually in the
context of a total institution.
REVOLUTION. A process of change
involving the mobilizing of a mass social movement in order to radically transform
RITES OF PASSAGE. Communal rituals
that mark the transition from one status to another (such as a confirmation
or a wedding ceremony).
RITUAL. Formalized ceremonial
behavior in which the members of a group or community regularly engage.
- SACRED. Something set apart
from the everyday world which inspires attitudes of awe or reverence among
believers (see also PROFANE).
SAMPLING. Taking a small representative part of a population
for purposes of drawing inferences from the analysis of the sample characteristics
to the population as a whole.
SANCTION. A reward for conformity
or a punishment for nonconformity that reinforces socially approved forms
SCIENCE. The application of systematic
methods of observation and careful logical analysis; the term also refers
to the body of knowledge produced by the use of the scientific method.
SECOND WORLD. Formerly communist
industrial societies of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union (see also FIRST
WORLD and THIRD WORLD).
SECONDARY GROUP. A group of
individuals who do not know each other on a personal level interacting in
pursuit of a goal (see also PRIMARY GROUP).
SECONDARY GROUP STRUCTURE. A term used in sociocultural
materialism to refer to structural groups in which members tend to interact
without any emotional commitment to one another. These organizations
are coordinated through bureaucracies. They perform many functions such
as regulating production, reproduction, socialization, education, and enforcing
social discipline. Examples include governments, parties, military,
corporations, educational institutions, media, service and welfare organizations,
and professional and labor organizations (see also STRUCTURE,
and PRIMARY GROUP STRUCTURE).
SECONDARY LABOR MARKET. Refers to the economic position
of individuals engaged in occupations that provide insecure jobs, poor benefits
and conditions of work (see also PRIMARY LABOR MARKET).
SECULARIZATION. A process
of decline in the social influence of religion (see also RATIONALIZATION).
SELF (or SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS). The
individual's awareness of being a distinct social identity, a person separate
from others. Human beings are not born with self-consciousness, but acquire
an awareness of self as a result of early socialization.
SEMI-PERIPHERY COUNTRIES. Countries
that are in the initial stages of industrialism which provide labor and raw
materials to the core countries (see also CORE COUNTRIES,
and PERIPHERY COUNTRIES).
SEX ROLE. The gender specific
role behavior that a person learns as a member of a particular society.
SEX STRATIFICATION. The ranking and differential reward
system of the sexes.
SEXISM. Beliefs which hold one
sex superior to the other thereby justifying sexual inequalities.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT. The making
of persistent unwanted sexual advances by one individual towards another.
SOCIAL CHANGE. Alteration in social
structures or culture over time.
SOCIAL DARWINISM. An early and now largely discredited
view of social evolution emphasizing the importance of "survival of the fittest"
or struggle between individuals, groups, or societies as the motor of development.
Social Darwinism became widely popular and was often used to justify existing
SOCIAL DISORGANIZATION. A structural condition
of society caused by rapid change in social institutions, norms, and values.
SOCIAL EVOLUTION. Theories of social change which generally
hold that human societies move from simple to complex forms of organization.
SOCIAL FORCES. The term refers
to the fact that society and social organizations exert an influence on individual
SOCIAL GROUPS. Two or more individuals who interact
in systematic ways with one another and share a high degree of common identity.
Groups may range in size from dyads to large-scale societies.
SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS. Major structural entitities
in sociocultural systems that address a basic need of the system. Institutions
involve fixed modes of behavior backed by strong norms and sanctions that
tend to be followed by most members of a society.
SOCIAL MOBILITY. Movement
between different social positions within a stratification system
SOCIAL MOVEMENT. A large grouping of people who are
organized to bring about, or to block, a a change in the sociocultural system.
SOCIAL REPRODUCTION. The processes which perpetuate
characteristics of social structure over periods of time (see also AGENCIES
SOCIAL ROLE. The expected patterned behavior of an
individual occupying a particular status position.
SOCIALIZATION. The lifelong
processes through which humans develop an awareness of social norms and values,
and achieve a distinct sense of self.
SOCIETY. A society is a group
of people who live in a particular territory, are subject to a common system
of political authority, and share a common culture.
A term used by C. Wright Mills that refers to the application of imaginative
thought to the asking and answering of sociological questions.
SOCIOLOGY. The study of human
behavior and societies, giving particular emphasis to the industrialized world.
STATE. Government institutions
ruling over a given territory, whose authority is backed by law and the ability
to use force.
STATE SOCIETY. A society which
possesses a formal apparatus of government.
STATELESS SOCIETY. A society
which lacks formal institutions of government.
STATUS. A social position within
a society. The term can also refer to the social honor or prestige which
a particular individual or group is accorded by other members of a society.
STEREOTYPE. A rigid and
inflexible image of the characteristics a group. Stereotypes attribute
these characteristics to all individuals belonging to that group .
STIGMA. A symbol (or a negative
social label) of disgrace that affects a person's social identity.
STRATIFICATION. The existence
of structured inequalities in life chances between groups in society.
STRUCTURAL UNEMPLOYMENT. Unemployed
workers whose skills and training have become "obsolete" and who have little
chance of ever finding employment at comparable paying jobs.
term to refer to all human institutions, groups and organizations.
SUBCULTURE. A group
within the broader society that has values, norms and lifestyle distinct from
those of the majority.
A general term used in sociocultural materialism to refer to the symbolic
universe--the shared meanings, ideas, beliefs, values, and ideologies that
people give to the physical and social world. The superstructure, of course,
can be divided into cultural and mental components.
SURPLUS VALUE. Marx's concept
for the value of an individual's labor power (calculated by the amount of
value the labor contributes to the product minus the amount of money paid
to the worker by the capitalist). The conventional name for this difference
is profit--thus the whole capitalist system is based on "expropriating" surplus
value (or stealing labor) from workers.
SURVEY. A questionnaire or interview.
SYMBOL. One item used to meaningfully
represent another--as in the case of a flag which symbolizes a nation.
SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM. A theoretical
approach in sociology which focuses on social reality as constructed through
the daily interaction of individuals and places strong emphasis on the role
of symbols (gestures, signs, and language) as core elements of this interaction.
- TABOO. A sociocultural
prohibition on some act, person, place, animal, or plant.
TAYLORISM. Also referred to as 'scientific management,'
a set of ideas developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor involving simplifying
and coordinating the actions of workers to produce maximum efficiency.
TECHNOLOGY. The application
of logic, reason and knowledge to the problems of exploiting raw materials
from the environment. Social technologies employ the same thought processes
in addressing problems of human organization. Technology involves the creation
of material instruments (such as machines) used in human interaction with
nature as well as social instruments (such as bureaucracy) used in human
organization (see also RATIONALIZATION)
TERTIARY SECTOR. That part of
an economy that provides services (nursing homes, psychological counseling,
and so forth)--engaged in by both private and government entitities.
THEORY. Summary statements of
general principles which explain regularly observed events.
THIRD WORLD. Societies in which
industrial production is only developed to a limited degree. Many of these
societies were former colonies of industrial states. The majority of the world's
population (over 70 percent) live in Third World countries (see also FIRST
WORLD and SECOND WORLD).
TRANSITIONAL CLASSES. Marx's
term to refer to social classes based on previous relations of production
which linger on in the beginning stages a new one--such as peasants or landowners
of a feudal system which has become capitalist.
- UNCONSCIOUS. Freudian concept
refering to motives and ideas unavailable to the conscious mind of the individual.
UNDERCLASS. A class of individuals in mature industrial
societies situated at the bottom of the class system who have been systematically
excluded from participation in economic life. The underclass is normally
composed of people from ethnic or minority groups.
UNION. A social organization set
up to represent the worker's interests in both the workplace and in the broader
society as well.
UPPER CLASS. A social class roughly
composed of the more affluent members of society, especially those who have
great wealth, control over businesses or hold large numbers of stocks and
URBAN ECOLOGY. An analysis of urban
life that examines the relationship between the city and its physical surroundings--based
on an analogy with the adjustment of plants and organisms to the physical
increasing concentration of the human population into cities.
- VALUES. Culturally defined standards
held by human individuals or groups about what is desirable, proper, beautiful,
good or bad that serve as broad guidelines for social life.
VARIABLE. A characteristic that varies in value or
magnitude along which an object, individual or group may be categorized, such
as income or age.
VERTICAL MOBILITY. Movement
up or down a social stratification system (see also STRATIFICATION).
- WELFARE. Government aid (in
the form of services and money) to the poor.
WEALTH. Accumulated money and material possessions controlled
by an individual, group or organization.
WELFARE STATE. A government system
which provides a range of human services for its citizens.
WHITE-COLLAR CRIME. Criminal activities
carried out by white-collar or professional workers in the course of their
WORKING CLASS. A social class
of industrial societies broadly composed of people involved in manual occupation.
The bulk of these jobs are unskilled, poorly paid and provide few benefits
or job security.
WORLD SYSTEM THEORY. Immanuel Wallerstein's
theoretical approach which analyzes societies in terms of their position within
- ZERO POPULATION GROWTH (ZPG).
Population stability achieved when each woman has no more than two children.