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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.
ACID RAIN. The increased acidity of rainfall which
is caused by emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power
plants and automobiles.
ACUTE DISEASE. A short-term disease (such
as influenza or pneumonia) from which a person either dies or recovers.
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 system.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION. Government programs
intended to assure minorities and women of equal hiring or admission opportunities.
AGE GRADES. System found in some traditional
cultures which group the population by sex and age. Age grades go
through rites of passage, hold similar rights and have similar obligations.
AGE STRUCTURE. The relative proportions of different
age categories in a population.
AGEISM. Prejudice against a person on the grounds
of age in the belief that the age category is inferior to other age categories
and that unequal treatment is therefore justified.
AGENCIES OF SOCIALIZATION. Groups or institutions
within which processes of socialization take place (see also SOCIAL
AGRARIAN SOCIETIES. Societies whose mode of production
is based on agriculture (crop-growing) primarily through the use of human
and animal energy. Also referred to as agricultural societies (see
also TRADITIONAL STATES).
AGRIBUSINESS. The mass production of agricultural
goods through mechanization, and rationalization.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency). A disease that
attacks the immune system of the body that is often passed on through sexual
AIR POLLUTION. Refers to the contamination of the
atmosphere by noxious substances (see also DEPLETION,
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.
ANDROGYNY. The blending of traditional feminine
and masculine traits.
ANOMIA. A condition of anxiety and confusion that
exists in individuals who are not given clear social guidance through social
ANOMIE. A structural condition in which social
norms are weak or conflicting.
ANOMIE THEORY. Robert K. Merton's theory
of deviance which holds that many forms of deviance are caused by a disjunction
between society's goals and the approved means to achieve these goals.
ANIMISM. A type of religion that believes that
events in the world are often caused by the activities of spirits.
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.
APARTHEID. Until recently, the system of strict
racial segregation established in South Africa.
APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY. Technology that
is designed with the needs, values, and capabilities of the user in mind.
ARMS RACE. A competition between nations in which
each side attempt to achieve or maintain military superiority.
ARMS TRADE. The international selling of armaments for profit, carried
on by governments and by private contractors around the world.
ARRANGED MARRIAGE. Marriage based on the
family ties rather than the couple's personal preferences.
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.
AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY. A set of distinctive
personality traits, including conformity, intolerance, and an inability
to accept ambiguity.
AUTHORITY. Power that is attached to a
position that others perceive as legitimate.
AUTOCRATIC RULE. Rule by a specific leader,
who concentrates power in his own hands.
AUTOMATION. The replacement of many workers
by machines, as well as the monitoring and coordination of workers by machines
with only minimal supervision from human beings.
BALANCE OF POWER. The theory that military
conflict can be avoided if both sides have roughly equivalent military
BIOETHICS. Ethical questions relating to
life and the biological well-being of the planet.
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.
BUREAUCRATIZATION. Refers to the
tendency of bureaucracies to refine their procedures to ever more efficiently
attain their goals. More generally, refers to the process of secondary
organizations taking over functions performed by primary groups (see also
CAPITALISM. An economic system based on the private
ownership of the means of production and distribution in which the goal
is to produce profit.
CAPITALISTS. Those who own companies,
or stocks and shares, using these to generate economic returns or profits.
CARRYING CAPACITY. The number of a species that
a particular ecosystem can support without suffering irreversible deterioration
(see also ECOLOGY).
CASH-CROP PRODUCTION. Production of crops for
world markets rather than for consumption by the local population.
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.
CHRONIC DISEASE. Disease of long duration,
often not detected in its early stages, and from which the patient will
not recover (such as high blood pressure or diabetes).
CHURCH. A body of people belonging to an established
CITIZEN. A member of a state, having both rights
and duties associated with that membership.
CIVIL DISORDERS. Social conflict (such as
riots) that the government becomes involved in to restore public order.
CIVIL RELIGION. Secular forms of ritual and belief similar to those
involved in religion--such as political parades or ceremonies.
CIVIL RIGHTS. Legal rights held by all citizens in a given state.
CLAN. A broad extended kin group found in many preindustrial
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.
COGNITION. Human thought processes including
perception, reasoning, and remembering.
COHABITATION. Living together in a sexual
relationship of some permanence, without being legally married.
COLLECTIVE ACTION. Social action undertaken
in a relatively spontaneous way by a large number of people.
COLLECTIVE VIOLENCE. Large numbers of people engaging in violent
COLONIALISM. The process whereby nations establish
their political and economic rule over less powerful nations.
COMMODITY RIOTS. Riots in which the focus
of violence is the destruction of property.
COMMUNAL RIOTS. Riots in which the focus
of violence is other groups (usually other race or ethnic groups).
COMMUNICATION. The transmission of information
from one individual or group to another.
COMMUNISM. A set of egalitarian political and
economic ideas associated with Karl Marx in which the means of production
and distribution system would be owned by the community. "Communism" as
developed by Lenin and institutionalized throughout Eastern Europe (until
1990) and China bears little resemblance to Marx's vision.
COMMUNITY. A group of people who share
a common sense of identity and interact with one another on a sustained
COMPARABLE WORTH. The evaluation of jobs
dominated by women and those traditionally dominated by men on the basis
of training, skills, and experience in attempts to equalize wages.
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.
CONTINGENCY WORK. Temporary, part-time,or
"contracted" employment for the duration of the project. Contingency
work is one of the fastest growing employment sectors in America as it
enables employers to expand and contract their workforce with the vagaries
of the market and allows them to avoid costly fringe benefits and other
commitments of long-term employment.
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 other.
COUP D'ETAT. An armed takeover of government by a
small group of conspirators--often military officers( See also REBELLION
and REVOLUTION) .
CREATED ENVIRONMENT. Human constructions
such as buildings, roads, factories, and private homes.
CRIME. Any action that violates criminal laws established
by political authority.
CRISIS MEDICINE. Medical treatment that focuses
on curing illness (as opposed to preventing the occurrence of disease).
CRUDE BIRTH-RATE. A statistical measure representing
the number of births per thousand population within a given year.
CRUDE DEATH-RATE. A statistical measure representing the number of deaths
per thousand population that occur annually in a given population.
CULT. A fragmentary religious group which lacks permanent
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 is subject. Your
instructor uses a variant of this theory constantly (see also SOCIOCULTURAL
CULTURAL PLURALISM. The more or less peaceful
coexistence of multiple subcultures within a given society.
CULTURAL SUPERSTRUCTURE. Sociocultural materialism term used to
refer to the shared symbolic universe within sociocultural systems.
It includes such components as the art, music, dance, rituals, sports,
hobbies and the accumulated knowledge base of the system (see also
SUPERSTRUCTURE, and SUPERSTRUCTURE ).
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.
CURATIVE MEDICINE. Another term for Crisis
Medicine--the focus on curing disease rather than its prevention.
CUSTODIAL CARE. Occurs when the focus
of health care is on the needs of the institution (convenience, efficiency)
rather than on the needs of the patient.
DEFENSIVE MEDICINE. The use of widespread
medical tests on the part of physicians in order to avoid possible malpractice
DEFORESTATION. The removal of
all trees from an area (see also DEPLETION, ENVIRONMENT
DEINSTITUTIONALIZATION. The movement
of mental patients out of hospitals and into the "community."
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 composition.
DENSITY. A measure of human crowding usually
expressed as the number of people per square mile.
DEPENDENCY THEORY. The thesis that many Third
World countries cannot control major aspects of their economic life because
of the dominance of industrialized societies.
DEPLETION. One of the primary constraints
of the environment on sociocultural systems. Refers to the limited
supplies of natural resources (although the limits are unknowable, that
there are limits can be inferred). These limits can often be stretched
through the use of technology (see also POLLUTION,
DESERTIFICATION. A fertile region
that has been made barren by the activities of human societies (see also
DETERRENCE THEORY. The prevention of military
conflict through the build up of armaments. The basis of deterrence theory
is in ensuring that a potential aggressor would suffer too many losses
to make the initiation of hostilities worthwhile --M.A.D. or mutually assured
destruction was based on this theory.
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.
DIFFERENTIAL ASSOCIATION. Theory of
crime and delinquency that holds that deviance is learned as a result of
long-term interaction with others.
DIFFERENTIATION. The development of increasing
complexity and division of labor within sociocultural systems.
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 membership.
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.
DOUBLE STANDARD. A code of behavior that
is more restrictive on women than on men.
DOUBLING TIME. The time it takes for a particular
level of population to double in size. A fairly accurate doubling
time estimate can be computed by taking the annual growth rate and dividing
it by 70. At 2% annual growth world population (5.5 billion in 1996)
will double in size (to 11 billion) in about 35 years (2031) assuming the
annual growth stays constant (see also EXPONENTIAL
DUAL CAREER FAMILY. Families in which both spouses
are in the outside labor force.
DUAL WELFARE SYSTEM. Refers to disguised forms of welfare that
go to the middle class and the rich (also called Wealthfare).
DYSFUNCTION. Refers to an institution's
negative impact (or harmful effect) on the sociocultural system.
ECOLOGY. The study of the system of relationships
between organisms and their environment.
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.
ECOSYSTEM. A self-sustaining community
of plants and animals within a natural environment.
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 society.
EGALITARIAN FAMILY. Family arrangement
in which power is shared more-or-less equally by both the wife and the
ELDERLY ABUSE. Acts of violence (or neglect) directed
at the elderly (often by family members).
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 for pollution.
ENVIRONMENT. The physical, biological
and chemical restraints to which action is subject.
ENVIRONMENTALISM. Refers to a concern
with preserving the physical environment in the face of the impact of industrialism.
ESTATE. A form of stratification established by
ETHNICITY. An ethnic group is one of a common
cultural identity, separating them from other groups around them.
ETHNOCENTRISM. The tendency to judge other
cultures by the standards one's own culture.
EUTROPHICATION. Oxygen depletion of water
due to overfertilization.
EVOLUTION. The change of biological organisms
by means of the adaptation to the demands of the physical environment.
Organisms that successfully adapt pass on their genes to future generations
thereby changing the species itself.
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.
EXPONENTIAL GROWTH. A geometric rate of progression
which has the potential of producing a very fast rise (or an "explosion")
in the numbers of a population experiencing such growth (see also DOUBLING
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 another.
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 marriage.
FECUNDITY. The number of children which is biologically
possible for a woman to produce.
FEEDBACK LOOP. Sociocultural materialism
term referring to the dynamic relationships between the different components
of sociocultural systems. While the theory begins with an examination
of infrastructural determinism, it recognizes that structure and superstructure
can play an independent role in determining the character of the system
(see also INFRASTRUCTURAL DETERMINISM).
FEE-FOR-SERVICE MEDICINE. The provision of medical
services in return for a monetary fee.
FEMININITY. The characteristic behaviors expected
of women in a given culture.
FEMINISM. Advocacy of the social equality of
FERTILITY. The average number of liveborn children
produced by women of childbearing age in a particular society.
FETISHISM. Obsessive attachment or sexual
desire directed toward an object.
FIRST WORLD. A term now rarely used that refers
to the group of nation-states that possess advanced industrial economies
(see also SECOND WORLD and THIRD
FLEXTIME. An arrangement that allows employees
to set their own schedules (starting and quitting time) whenever possible.
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
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.
FUTURISTS. Those who attempt to forecast
the broad parameters of social life usually from the study of present day
GANG. An informal group of individuals that engage in
common activities, many of these activities may be outside the law.
GEMEINSCHAFT According 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.
GENETIC ENGINEERING. The genetic manipulation
of organisms in an effort to produce desirable characteristics.
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 original
GESELLSCHAFT. According to Toennies,
social organization based on loose personal ties, self interest, rationalization,
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.
GREENHOUSE EFFECT. The accumulation of
gasses in the atmosphere that act like the glass roof of a greenhouse,
letting sunlight in but trapping the radiant heat.
GREEN REVOLUTION. The tremendous increase
in farming productivity that occurred beginning in the 1950s with the application
of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and the development of
plant varieties especially bred to respond to these chemical inputs.
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 historical
GUERRILLA MOVEMENT. A non-government military
organization that engages in fighting or harassment.
HEALTH MAINTENANCE ORGANIZATIONS (HMOs). An organization
that provides health care to patients in return for a fixed annual fee.
HMOs therefore have an interest in limiting the cost of treatment per patient
(see also MANAGED CARE).
HETEROSEXUALITY. An orientation in
sexual activity towards people of the opposite sex.
HIDDEN CURRICULUM. Behavior or attitudes that are
learned at school but which are not a part of the formal curriculum. For
example, aspects of classism can often be "unintentionally" conveyed in
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.
HOMOPHOBIA. Fear, hatred or loathing of homosexuals.
HOMOSEXUALITY. Having sexual preference
for persons of the same sex.
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.
HUNTING AND GATHERING SOCIETIES. Societies whose
subsistence is based primarily on hunting animals and gathering edible
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.
IATROGENIC. Disease caused by the physician in
the course of treating the patient.
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
IDEOLOGY. Shared ideas or beliefs which serve
to justify and support the interests of a particular group or organizations.
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
INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY. Democratic participation
in the workplace.
INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION. Economic production carried on through the use
of machinery driven by inanimate sources of power.
INDUSTRIALIZATION The continual
expanding application of sophisticated technology designed to efficiently
draw energy and raw materials out of the environment and fashion them for
INDUSTRIALIZATION OF WAR. The application of industrial production and
bureaucratic organization to warfare.
INFANT MORTALITY RATE. The number of infants who
die during the first year of life, per thousand live births. Infant mortality
rates have declined dramatically in industrial societies.
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 procedures.
INFRASTRUCTURAL DETERMINISM. The
major principle of sociocultural materialism (borrowed and modified from
Harris' cultural materialism). "The mode of production and reproduction
(probabalistically) determines primary and secondary group structure, which
in turn determines the cultural and mental superstructure" (see also
MODE OF PRODUCTION, MODE OF REPRODUCTION,
GROUP, SECONDARY GROUP,
and FEEDBACK LOOP).
INFRASTRUCTURE. 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 (see also MODE
OF PRODUCTION, and MODE OF REPRODUCTION).
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.
INSTINCT. A genetically fixed pattern of complex
behavior (that is, beyond reflex) which appears in all normal animals within
a given species. The behavior of humans is not instinctual.
INSTITUTIONAL CAPITALISM. 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 another.
INTENSIFICATION. The application of ever
greater amounts of technology and labor techniques to increase productivity.
Refers to the growth in the complexity of the mode of production (greater
energy expenditures as well as energy produced/consumed), and population
over the course of social evolution (see also BUREAUCRATIZATION,
INTELLIGENCE. Level of intellectual ability
in an individual. Also refers to the gathering of information (defensive,
offensive, and industrial capabilities) about one nation by another.
INTERNAL COLONIALISM. 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.
INTERPERSONAL VIOLENCE. The use of force
between individuals to kill, injure, or abuse.
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
INTERNATIONAL DIVISION OF LABOR. The interdependence
of countries which trade on global markets.
INTERGENERATIONAL MOBILITY. Movement
up or down the social hierarchy from one generation to another.
IQ (INTELLIGENCE QUOTIENT). A score attained on tests
of symbolic or reasoning abilities. Most social scientists (excluding psychologists)
do not put much stock in the validity of IQ tests.
KINSHIP. The network of social relationships which
link individuals through common ancestry, marriage, or adoption.
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 reaction"
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.
LESBIANISM. Sexual activities and emotional
attachments between women.
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 live.
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.
LIMITED WAR. Warfare fought principally by a relatively
small number of soldiers to reach specific and politically limited objectives
(see also TOTAL WAR).
LITERACY. The ability of individuals to read
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge of a local community
possessed by individuals who spend long periods of their lives in them.
LONGEVITY. A long duration of life.
Or, a long tenure in an organization.
LOW-TRUST SYSTEMS. Work settings in which individuals
have little autonomy and control.
LUDDITES. A term used to brand those who are
against "all" modern technology. The term originally referred to
British workmen (about 1811) who rioted and destroyed textile machinery
in the belief that these machines were contributing to unemployment.
MACROSOCIOLOGY. The study of large-scale organizations,
sociocultural systems, or the world system of societies.
MAGIC. Rituals which attempt to influence supernatural
beings to help achieve human ends.
MALE INEXPRESSIVENESS. The difficulties men have
in talking about their feelings to others.
MALTHUSIANISM. Thomas Malthus' theory of
population dynamics, according to which population increase inevitably
comes up against the 'natural limits' of food supply. Population grows
geometrically (1, 2, 4, 8, 16,. . .) while food supply grows arithmetically
(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, . . .). The debate rages on, there are neo-malthusians
and anti-malthusians among us today!
MANAGED CARE. The reorganization of the health
care delivery along corporate lines (see also HEALTH
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 FUNCTION).
MARRIAGE. A socially approved sexual and economic
relationship between two or more individuals.
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
MASTER STATUS. A position that is so central
to the identity of the individual that it overshadows all other statuses.
MATERIALISM. The view that 'material conditions'
(usually economic and technological factors) have the central role in determining
MATRIARCHY. Social organization in which
females dominate males.
MATRILINEAL DESCENT. The tracing of kinship
through only the female line (see also PATRILINEAL
MATRILOCALITY. A family residential pattern
in which the husband is expected to live near to the wife's parents (see
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 technology).
MECHANIZATION. 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).
MEDICAID. Government program (federal and
state) to provide medical care to the poor.
MEDICAL MODEL. The application of the medical
perspective in explaining and treating troublesome human behavior.
MEDICARE. Government health insurance for those
MEGALOPOLIS. A vast unbroken urban region
consisting of two or more central cities connected by their surrounding
MENTAL DISORDER. The inability to psychologically
cope effectively with the demands of day-to-day life. Psychiatrists recognize
two general types of mental disorder, neurosis (milder forms of illness,
such as anxiety states) and psychosis (more serious forms of disturbance,
in which individuals lose touch with reality). The organic and sociocultural
basis of various mental disorders are disputed matters.
MENTAL SUPERSTRUCTURE. Sociocultural materialism term used to
refer to conscious and unconscious motives for human behavior. Borrowed
from Max Weber, there are four basic motivations for human behavior:
wertrational (or value oriented rationality), affective action (action
motivated by emotions), traditional action (action motivated by what Weber
calls the "eternal yesterday"), and zweckrational (goal oriented rational
action). (See also SUPERSTRUCTURE,
and CULTURAL SUPERSTRUCTURE).
MICROSOCIOLOGY. The study of small scale
patterns of human interaction and behavior within specific settings.
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-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. A reciprocal relationship
(such as the interchange of personnel) between select business firms and
the armed forces of a society, based on common interests in weapons production.
MILITARY RULE. Government by military leaders.
MILLENARIANISM. Beliefs held by the members
of some religious movements that cataclysmic changes will occur in the
near future (often centered around the year 2000 and the second coming
of Christ) heralding the arrival of a new epoch in human affairs.
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. The value that appears most often in a given
set of data. This can sometimes be a helpful way of portraying central
tendency (see also MEDIAN, and MEAN).
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 (see also MODE OF REPRODUCTION,
MODE OF REPRODUCTION. The technology
and practices employed for expanding, limiting, and maintaining population
size. Examples of variables included are demography, mating patterns,
fertility, natality, mortality, nurturance of infants, contraception, abortion
and infanticide (see also MODE OF PRODUCTION, and INFRASTRUCTURE).
MODERNIZATION. The process of general
social change brought about by the transition from an agrarian to an industrial
mode of production.
MONOGAMY. A form of marriage that joins one male
and one female at any given time.
MONOPOLY. A situation in which a single producer
dominates in a given industry or market (see also OLIGOPOLY).
MONOTHEISM. Belief in a single devine power.
MORES. Norms that have strong moral significance,
violation of which cause strong social reaction (murder, sexual molestation
MORTALITY RATE. The number of deaths
that occur in a particular population in a specified period of time (usually
MULTILINEAR EVOLUTION. An interpretation of
social evolution that not all societies pass through predetermined stages
of evolutionary development--there are varying paths of evolutionary change
followed by different societies.
MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES. A business corporation
that operates in two or more countries--also sometimes referred to as a
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)..
NEO-LOCALITY. A family residential pattern in which the married
couple lives apart from the place of residence of both the bride's and
the husband's parents (see also MATRILOCALITY).
NON-STATE ACTORS. International agencies, such as
the U.N. or the World Health Organization, which play a part in the world
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 of research.
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 MONOPOLY)
OPEN LINEAGE FAMILY. A family system found in preindustrial
Europe in which family relationships are closely intertwined with the local
ORGANIZED CRIME. Criminal activities carried
out by organizations established as businesses.
OZONE DEPLETION. Theory that societies production
of chloroflourocarbons and other gasses is depleting the ozone layer that
protects plant and animal life from harmful ultra-violet radiation (see
also POLLUTION, and ENVIRONMENT).
PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY. A system of democracy
in which all members of a group or community participate collectively in
major decisions. Most nation states today are to large and complex for
participatory democracy to be a feasible form of government.
PASTORAL SOCIETIES. Societies whose subsistence
is based on domesticated animals (see also TRADITIONAL
PATIENT DUMPING. The practice of only treating
patients that can pay leaving the poor to government or charitable organizations.
PATRIARCHY. Social organization that structures
the dominance of men over women.
PATRILINEAL DESCENT. The practice of tracing
kinship only through the male line (see also MATRILINEAL
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).
PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT. A new occupation
that handles many routine medical problems, thereby allowing the physician
to specialize in the more difficult cases.
PLEA BARGAINING. A deal between the prosecution
and the accused offender where the accused will plead guilty in return
for a reduced charge.
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 economic elites.
POLITICS. Attempts to influence governmental
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.
POLLUTION. One of the principal constraints
of the environment. Refers to the contamination of soil, water, or
air by noxious substances (see also DEPLETION,
POLYANDRY. A form of marriage in which a woman
may have more than one husband.
POLYGAMY. A form of marriage in which a person
may have more than one spouse.
POLYGYNY. A form of marriage in which a man may
have more than one wife.
POLYTHEISM. A form of belief in which a person
has two or more gods.
POSITIVISM. A philosophical position according
to which there are close ties between the social and natural sciences,
which share a common logical framework.
POSTINDUSTRIAL SOCIETY. 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 DEVIANCE. The deviant act itself,
the violation of a norm.
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 SECONDARY
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 networks
(see also STRUCTURE, and SECONDARY
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
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.
PRIVATE HEALTH CARE. Fee-for-service health care
available only to those who pay the full cost of them.
PROFANE. Elements which belong to the ordinary
everyday world rather than the supernatural (see also SACRED).
PROFESSIONS. Occupations requiring extensive
educational qualifications, with high social prestige, subject to codes
of conduct laid down by central bodies (or professional associations).
PROSTITUTION. Having sex for economic gain.
PSYCHOPATH. A personality type that denotes
a lack of moral sense and concern for others.
PSYCHOSIS. A serious mental disorder that involves
a failure to distinguish between internal and external reality, the affected
person cannot function effectively in social life.
PUBLIC HEALTH CARE. Government funded health-care
services available to all members of the population.
RACE. A socially 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 on race.
RAPE. The use of force to compel one individual to
engage in a sexual act with another.
RATIONALIZATION. Weber's 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 (see also BUREAUCRATIZATION).
REBELLION. Rebellions are aimed at removing
particular rulers or regimes rather than bringing about significant structural
changes in a society (See also COUP D'ETAT and REVOLUTION).
RECIDIVISM RATE. The percentage of ex-convicts
who are convicted of new offenses after being released from prison.
RECIPROCITY. A system of the exchange
of goods based on social ties.
REFORM MOVEMENT. A social movement concerned to
implement a limited program of social change, say changing the health care
system to provide universal access to care.
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.
REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY. 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.
RESOCIALIZATION. The relearning of cultural
norms and values by mature individuals usually in the context of a total
institution (see also TOTAL INSTITUTION).
RETIREMENT CENTER. A city or town to which
many people move when they retire.
REVOLUTION. A process of change involving the
mobilizing of a mass social movement in order to radically transform the
society (see also COUP D'ETAT and REBELLION).
RIOTS. An outbreak of collective violence directed
against persons, property or both.
RITES OF PASSAGE. Communal rituals that mark the
transition from one status to another (such as a confirmation or a wedding
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
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 of behavior.
SAPIR-WHORF HYPOTHESIS. The conjecture that
people perceive their world through the framework of language.
SCAPEGOATING. Blaming, punishing, or stigmatizing
a relatively powerless individual or group for wrongs that were not of
SCHIZOPHRENIA. A serious mental disturbance
in which an individual typically has delusions or hallucinations and a
distorted sense of reality.
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 DEVIANCE. The deviant role behavior that a person adopts
as a result of being labeled as deviant.
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
SERIAL MONOGAMY. The process of contracting several
marriages in succession-- marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
SEX. The biological categories of females and males.
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
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.
SICK ROLE. Patterns of behavior expected of
one who is sick--this role often exempts the person from their normal role
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.
SOCIALISM. An economic system in which the means
of production and distribution of goods and services are publically owned.
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.
SOCIOBIOLOGY. An approach which attempts
to explain the social behavior of humans in terms of biological principles.
SOCIOCULTURAL MATERIALISM. An ecological-evolutionary
world view. A variant of cultural materialism, it is the world view
developed and taught by your instructor, F. Elwell (see also CULTURAL
SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION. 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.
SOLID WASTE. Refers to the accumulation of noxious
substances (see also DEPLETION, ENVIRONMENT,
SPLIT LABOR MARKET. A situation in which one
group of laborers (usually defined by race, sex, or ethnicity) is routinely
paid less than other groups.
STANDING ARMY. A full-time professional army.
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.
STATUS OFFENCES. Acts that are illegal for juveniles but not for
adults (such as running away from home or engaging in sexual activities).
STEP-FAMILIES (BLENDED FAMILIES). Families in which
at least one partner has children from a previous marriage living in the
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.
STRATEGIC DEFENSE INITIATIVE (STAR WARS).
A program that aims to protect the U.S. from nuclear attack by developing
the capabilities to shoot down enemy missiles.
STRATIFICATION. The existence of structured
inequalities in life chances between groups in society.
STRIKE. A temporary work stoppage by a group of
STRUCTURAL UNEMPLOYMENT. Unemployed workers
whose skills and training have become "obsolete" and who have little chance
of ever finding employment at comparable paying jobs.
STRUCTURE. Sociological 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
SUBURBANIZATION. The development of areas
of housing outside the political boundaries of cities.
SUPERSTRUCTURE. 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 (see also CULTURAL
SUPERSTRUCTURE, and MENTAL SUPERSTRUCTURE).
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.
SURVEILLANCE. Monitoring the activities of
others in order to ensure compliant behavior. Modern techniques of surveillance
include not only video cameras and microphones but also a whole range of
computer surveillance as well.
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
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
TERRORISM. The use of violence to achieve political
ends. Many would restrict the definition to include only those acts
committed by non-government groups, but state terrorism is also a major
factor in the social world.
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).
TOTAL INSTITUTION. An organization in which individuals
are isolated for long periods of time as their lives are controlled and
regulated by the administration of the organization--such as a prison,
mental hospital, or army boot camps (see also RESOCIALIZATION)..
TOTAL WAR. Warfare in which all the resources of the modern state are
committed including a large proportion of the population (both directly
and indirectly), all of the armed forces, and a large proportion of the
industrial sector of the society.
TOTALITARIANISM. Authoritarian government
that attempts to regulate every aspect of sociocultural life.
TOTEMISM. A system of religious belief studied
by Durkheim which attributes sacred qualities to a particular type of animal
TOTEMS. Symbol associated with a descent
group as an identifying insignia.
TRADING NETWORKS. Patterns of economic exchange
between companies or countries.
TRADITIONAL STATES. Societies in which the
production base is agriculture or pastoralism (see also AGRARIAN
SOCIETIES and PASTORAL SOCIETIES)
TRANSFORMATIVE MOVEMENT. A social movement
to produce major social change in a society.
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.
TRANSNATIONAL COMPANIES. See MULTINATIONAL
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.
UNILINEAR EVOLUTION. A largely discredited view
of social evolution according to which all societies pass through the same
stages of development.
UNION. A social organization set up to represent
the worker's interests in both the workplace and in the broader society
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 shares.
URBAN RENEWAL. Governmental programs of encouraging
the renovation of deteriorating city neighborhoods through the renovation
or destruction of old buildings and the construction of new ones.
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
URBANIZATION. The 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).
VESTED INTEREST. An expectation of private
gain that often underlies the expressed interest in a public issue.
VICTIMLESS CRIME. Violation of law in which
there is no other person (aside from the offender) victimized, such as
drug-taking or illegal gambling.
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.
WEALTHFARE. Government aid to the upper and
middle classes. Often times this aid is disguised in the form of
tax breaks (a deduction for interest on home mortgages) or subsidised services
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 jobs.
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 global
ZERO POPULATION GROWTH (ZPG). Population stability achieved
when each woman has no more than two children.
ZWECKRATIONAL. Rational action
in relation to a goal. From Max Weber (the greatest sociologist who
ever lived) and used extensively in his theory of social action (see also
and MENTAL SUPERSTRUCTURE)
Last updated January 1998, ©Frank Elwell
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