A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Absolute poverty a lack of resources that is life threatening (often measured as a per capita income equivalent to less than one international dollar a day)

Achieved status a social position that someone assumes voluntarily and that reflects personal ability and effort

Acid rain precipitation that is made acidic by air pollution and destroys plant and animal life

Action perspective a micro-theory that focuses on how actors assemble social meanings

Activity theory a high level of activity enhances personal satisfaction in old age

Actors people who construct social meanings

Afrocentrism the dominance of African cultural patterns

Ageism prejudice and discrimination against the elderly

Age–sex pyramid a graphical representation of the age and sex of a population

Age stratification the unequal distribution of wealth, power and privileges among people at different stages in the life course

Agriculture the technology of large-scale farming using ploughs harnessed to animals or more powerful sources of energy

Alienation the experience of isolation resulting from powerlessness

Animism the belief that elements of the natural world are conscious life forms that affect humanity

Anomie Durkheim's designation of a condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals

Anticipatory socialisation social learning directed towards gaining a desired position

Ascribed status a social position that someone receives at birth or assumes involuntarily later in life

Assimilation the process by which minorities gradually adopt patterns of the dominant culture

Authoritarianism a political system that denies popular participation in government

Authority power that people perceive as legitimate rather than coercive

Back to the top


Behaviourism specific behaviour patterns are not instinctive but learned

Beliefs specific statements that people hold to be true

Big Science a particularly strong sense of expertise and its dominance, one that is usually strongly backed by money, supported by governments and given a lot of symbolic prestige

Bilateral descent a system tracing kinship through both men and women

Biography person's unique history of thinking, feeling and acting

Blue-collar (or manual) occupations lower-prestige work involving mostly manual labour

Body projects the process of becoming and transforming a biological entity through social action

Bureaucracy an organisational model rationally designed to perform complex tasks efficiently

Bureaucratic inertia the tendency of bureaucratic organisations to perpetuate themselves

Bureaucratic ritualism a preoccupation with rules and regulations to the point of thwarting an organisation's goals

Back to the top


Capitalism an economic system in which natural resources and the means of producing goods and services are privately owned

Capitalists people who own factories and other productive enterprises

Caste system a system of social stratification based on inherited status or ascription

Cause and effect a relationship in which change in one variable (the independent variable) causes change in another (the dependent variable)

Census is a count of everyone who lives in the country

Charisma extraordinary personal qualities that can turn an audience into followers

Charismatic authority power legitimised through extraordinary personal abilities that inspire devotion and obedience

Church a type of religious organisation well integrated into the larger society

Civil religion a quasi-religious loyalty binding individuals in a basically secular society

Class conflict antagonism between entire classes over the distribution of wealth and power in society

Class consciousness Marx's term for the recognition by workers of their unity as a social class in opposition to capitalists and to capitalism itself

Class society a capitalist society with pronounced social stratification

Class system a system of social stratification based on individual achievement

Code rule-governed system of signs

Cohabitation the sharing of a household by an unmarried couple

Cohort a category of people with a common characteristic, usually their age

Collective behaviour activity involving a large number of people, often spontaneous, and typically in violation of established norms

Collectivity a large number of people whose minimal interaction occurs in the absence of well-defined and conventional norms

Colonialism the process by which some nations enrich themselves through political and economic control of other countries

Communism an economic and political system in which all members of a society are socially equal

Concept a mental construct that represents some part of the world, inevitably in a simplified form

Conflict perspective a framework for building theory that envisages society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and change

Conglomerates giant corporations composed of many smaller corporations

Control holding constant all relevant variables except one in order to observe its effect

Conversational analysis a rigorous set of techniques to technically record and then analyse what happens in everyday speech

Conversion a personal transformation or religious rebirth

Corporation an organisation with a legal existence, including rights and liabilities, apart from those of its members

Correlation a relationship by which two (or more) variables change together

Cosmogony tale about how the world/universe was created; a theodicy, a tale about how evil and suffering is to be found in the world

Counterculture cultural patterns that strongly oppose those widely accepted within a society

Credentialism evaluating a person on the basis of educational qualifications

Crime the violation of norms a society formally enacts into criminal law

Crimes against property (property crimes) crimes that involve theft of property belonging to others

Crimes against the person (violent crimes) crimes that direct violence or the threat of violence against others

Criminal justice system a societal reaction to alleged violations of the law utilising police, courts and prison officials

Criminal recidivism subsequent offences committed by people previously convicted of crimes

Critical sociology all knowledge as harbouring political interests and the task of sociology is to critically unmask what is actually going on

Crowd a temporary gathering of people who share a common focus of attention and whose members influence one another

Crude birth rate the number of live births in a given year for every thousand people in a population

Crude death rate the number of deaths in a given year for every thousand people in a population

Cult a religious organisation that is substantially outside a society's cultural traditions

Cultural capital a term often used to designate the practices where people can wield power and status because of their educational credentials, general cultural awareness and aesthetic preferences

Cultural conflict political opposition, often accompanied by social hostility, rooted in different cultural values

Cultural ecology a theoretical paradigm that explores the relationship of human culture and the physical environment

Cultural hybridisation refers to the ways in which parts of one culture (language, practices, symbols) get recombined with the cultures of another

Cultural integration the close relationship among various elements of a cultural system

Cultural lag the fact that cultural elements change at different rates, which may disrupt a cultural system

Cultural relativism the practice of judging a culture by its own standards

Cultural reproduction the process by which a society transmits dominant knowledge from one generation to another

Cultural transmission the process by which one generation passes culture to the next

Cultural universals traits that are part of every known culture

Culture the beliefs, values, behaviour and material objects that constitute a people's way of life

Culture shock personal disorientation that comes from encountering an unfamiliar way of life

Cyber widely used prefix for anything connected to computers

Cyberclasses a stratification system based on the information 'haves' and 'have-nots' linked to the rise in new information technologies

Cybernetics control systems using computers

Cyborgs creatures which connect human and biological properties to technological ones

Back to the top


Davis–Moore thesis the assertion that social stratification is a universal pattern because it has beneficial consequences for the operation of a society

Decentred a process by which a centre, core or essence is destabilised and weakened

Decoding the process by which we hear or read and understand a message

Decommodification the degree to which welfare services are free from the market

Deductive logical thought reasoning that transforms general ideas into specific hypotheses suitable for scientific testing

Degenerate war a deliberate and systematic extension of war against an organised armed enemy to a war against a largely unarmed civilian population

Democide mass murders by governments

Democracy a political system in which power is exercised by the people as a whole

Democratic socialism an economic and political system that combines significant government control of the economy with free elections

Demographic transition theory a thesis linking population patterns to a society's level of technological development

Demography the study of human population

Denomination a church, independent of the state, that accepts religious pluralism

Dependency ratio the numbers of dependent children and retired persons relative to productive age groups

Dependency theory a model of economic and social development that explains global inequality in terms of the historical exploitation of poor societies by rich ones

Dependent variable a variable that is changed by another (independent) variable

Descent the system by which members of a society trace kinship over generations

Deterrence the attempt to discourage criminality through punishment

Deviance the recognised violation of cultural norms

Diaspora refers to the dispersal of a population from its 'homeland' into other areas

Direct-fee system a medical care system in which patients pay directly for the services of doctors and hospitals

Discourses bodies of ideas and language often backed up by institutions

Discrimination any action that involves treating various categories of people unequally

Disengagement theory the proposition that society enhances its orderly operation by disengaging people from positions of responsibility as they reach old age

Disneyisation the process by which the principle of the Disney theme parks is coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world

Displaced peoples are those who often find themselves homeless in their own land

Division of labour specialised economic activity

Documents of life research documents produced in the natural world by the subjects themselves, such as letters and diaries

Dramaturgical analysis Erving Goffman's term for the investigation of social interaction in terms borrowed from theatrical performance

Dyad a social group with two members

Dysfunction See social dysfunction

Back to the top


Ecclesia a church that is formally allied with the state

Ecologically sustainable culture a way of life that meets the needs of the present generation without threatening the environmental legacy of future generations

Ecology the study of the interaction of living organisms and the natural environment

Economy the social institution that organises the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services

Ecosystem the system composed of the interaction of all living organisms and their natural environment

Education the social institution guiding the transmission of knowledge, job skills, cultural norms and values

Ego Freud's designation of a person's conscious efforts to balance innate, pleasure-seeking drives and the demands of society

Electronic tagging a system of home confinement aimed at monitoring, controlling and modifying the behaviour of defendants or offenders

Emotional labour the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display

Empirical evidence information we can verify with our senses

Encoding putting a message of any kind into a language

Endogamy marriage between people of the same social category

Environmental deficit the situation in which our relationship to the environment, while yielding short-term benefits, will have profound, long-term consequences

Environmental racism the pattern by which environmental hazards are greatest in proximity to poor people, especially minorities

Epistemic relativism knowledge is rooted in a particular time and culture

Epistemology branch of philosophy that investigates the nature of knowledge and truth

Essentialism the belief that qualities are inherent in (essential to) specific objects

Estate a system based on a rigidly interlocking hierarchy of rights and obligations

Ethnic antagonism hostilities between different ethnic groups

Ethnic cleansing See genocide

Ethnicity a shared cultural heritage

Ethnocentrism the practice of judging another culture by the standards of one's own culture

Ethnomethodology Harold Garfinkel's term for the study of the way people make sense of their everyday lives

Eurocentrism a view of the world which places Europe at the centre of its thinking

Euthanasia (mercy killing) assisting in the death of a person suffering from an incurable disease

Exogamy marriage between people of different social categories

Experiment a research method for investigating cause and effect under highly controlled conditions

Expressive leadership group leadership that emphasises collective well-being

Extended family (consanguine family) a family unit including parents and children, but also other kin

Back to the top


Fad an unconventional social pattern that people embrace briefly but enthusiastically

Faith belief anchored in conviction rather than scientific evidence

False consciousness Marx's term for explanations of social problems grounded in the shortcomings of individuals rather than the flaws of society

Family a social institution, found in all societies, that unites individuals into cooperative groups that oversee the bearing and raising of children

Family of choice people with or without legal or blood ties who feel they belong together and wish to define themselves as a family

Family unit a social group of two or more people, related by blood, marriage or adoption, who usually live together

Family violence emotional, physical or sexual abuse of one family member by another

Fashion a social pattern favoured for a time by a large number of people

Feminisation of poverty the trend by which women represent an increasing proportion of the poor

Feminism the advocacy of social equality for the sexes, in opposition to patriarchy and sexism

Fertility the incidence of child-bearing in a country's population

Flâneur a social type who wanders cities, enjoying the sights and the crowd

Folkways a society's customs for routine, casual interaction

Fordism an economic system based on mass assembly-line production, mass consumption and standardised commodities

Formal organisation a large, secondary group that is organised to achieve its goals efficiently

Fourth age an age of eventual dependence

Functional illiteracy reading and writing skills insufficient for everyday living

Functional paradigm a framework for building theory that envisages society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability

Fundamentalism a conservative religious doctrine that opposes intellectualism and worldly accommodation in favour of restoring a traditional, otherworldly and absolutist spirituality

Back to the top


Gaia hypothesis planet earth itself should be seen as a living organism

Gemeinschaft Toennies' term for a type of social organisation by which people have strong social ties and weak self-interest

Gender the social aspects of differences and hierarchies between female or male

Gender identity the subjective state in which someone comes to say 'I am a man' or 'I am a woman'

Gender order the ways in which societies shape notions of masculinity and femininity through power relations

Gender performance refers to ways of 'doing gender', the ways in which masculinities and femininities are acted out

Gender regime the gender order as it works through in smaller settings

Gender role refers to learning and performing the socially accepted characteristics for a given sex

Gender stratification a society's unequal distribution of wealth, power and privilege between the two sexes

Generalised other George Herbert Mead's label for widespread cultural norms and values that we use as references in evaluating ourselves

Genocide the systematic annihilation of one category of people by another

Genre a species or type of media programme

Gerontocracy a form of social organisation in which the elderly have the most wealth, power and prestige

Gerontology the study of ageing and the elderly

Gesellschaft Toennies' term for a type of social organisation by which people have weak social ties and considerable self-interest

Global commons resources shared by all members of the international community, such as ocean beds and the atmosphere

Global economy economic activity spanning many nations of the world with little regard for national borders

Global perspective the study of the larger world and our society's place in it

Globalisation the increasing interconnectedness of societies

Glocalisation process by which local communities respond differently to global changes

Governance the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country's affairs at all levels

Government formal organisations that direct the political life of a society

Greenhouse effect a rise in the earth's average temperature (global warming) due to increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

Gross domestic product (GDP) all the goods and services on record as produced by a country's economy in a given year

Gross national product (GNP) all a country's goods and services, as for GDP, with the addition of foreign earnings

Groupthink the tendency of group members to conform by adopting a narrow view of some issue

Back to the top


Hate crime a criminal act against a person or a person's property by an offender motivated by racial or other bias

Hawthorne effect a change in a subject's behaviour caused simply by the awareness of being studied

Health a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being

Health care any activity intended to improve health

Health maintenance organisation (HMO) an organisation that provides comprehensive medical care to subscribers for a fixed fee

Hegemonic masculinity the dominant or main ways of being a man in a society

Hegemony the means by which a ruling/dominant group wins over a subordinate group through ideas

Hermaphrodite a human being with some combination of female and male internal and external genitalia

Hidden curriculum subtle presentations of political or cultural ideas in the classroom

High culture cultural patterns that distinguish a society's elite

High-income countries industrial nations in which most people enjoy material abundance

Holistic medicine an approach to health care that emphasises prevention of illness and takes account of a person's entire physical and social environment

Homogamy marriage between people with the same social characteristics

Homophobia the dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals

Horticulture technology based on using hand tools to cultivate plants

Humanising bureaucracy fostering a more democratic organisational atmosphere that recognises and encourages the contributions of everyone

Humanism stance that takes the human subjects seriously and is concerned with their meanings

Hunting and gathering simple technology for hunting animals and gathering vegetation

Hybridisation ways in which forms of social life become diversified as they separate from old practices and recombine into new ones: a 'global mélange'

Hypothesis an unverified statement of a relationship between variables

Back to the top


Id Freud's designation of the human being's basic drives

Ideal culture (as opposed to real culture) social patterns mandated by cultural values and norms

Ideal type Weber's term for an abstract statement of the essential characteristics of any social phenomenon

Ideal types an abstract statement of the essential, though often exaggerated, characteristic of any social phenomenon

Identity See social identity

Ideological state apparatuses social institutions which reproduce the dominant ideology, independent of the state

Ideology cultural beliefs that serve to legitimate key interests and hence justify social stratification

Incest taboo a cultural norm forbidding sexual relations or marriage between certain kin

Income occupational wages or salaries and earnings from investments

Independent variable a variable that causes change in another (dependent) variable

Indigenous peoples peoples with ties to the land, water and wildlife of their ancestral domain

Inductive logical thought reasoning that transforms specific observations into general theory

Industrialism technology that powers sophisticated machinery with advanced sources of energy

Industrial reserve army a disadvantaged section of labour that can be supplied cheaply when there is a sudden extra demand

Infant mortality rate the number of deaths among infants under one year of age for each thousand live births in a given year

Ingroup a social group commanding a member's esteem and loyalty

In-migration rate, calculated as the number of people entering an area for every thousand people in the population

Institutional prejudice or discrimination bias in attitudes or action inherent in the operation of society's institutions

Instrumental leadership group leadership that emphasises the completion of tasks

Interaction order what we do in the immediate presence of others

Intergenerational social mobility upward or downward social mobility of children in relation to their parents

Interview a series of questions a researcher administers personally to respondents

Intragenerational social mobility a change in social position occurring during a person's lifetime

'Islamophobia' a hatred of all things Muslim

Back to the top


Juvenile delinquency the violation of legal standards by the young

Back to the top


Kinship a social bond, based on blood, marriage or adoption, that joins individuals into families

Back to the top


Labelling theory deviance and conformity result not so much from what people do as from how others respond to those actions; it highlights social responses to crime and deviance

Labour unions organisations of workers seeking to improve wages and working conditions through various strategies, including negotiations and strikes

Language a system of symbols that allows members of a society to communicate with one another

Latent functions consequences of any social pattern that are unrecognised and unintended

Liberation theology a fusion of Christian principles with political activism, often Marxist in character

Life expectancy the average age to which people in a given society are likely to live

Linguistic determinism language shapes the way we think

Linguistic relativism distinctions found in one language are not found in another

Looking-glass self Cooley's term for the image people have of themselves based on how they believe others perceive them

Low-income countries nations with little industrialisation in which severe poverty is the rule

Back to the top


Macro-level orientation a focus on broad social structures that characterise society as a whole

Macro-sociology the study of large-scale society

Mainstreaming integrating special students into the overall educational programme

Manifest functions the recognised and intended consequences of any social pattern

Marginalisation people live on the edge of society and outside the mainstream with little stake in society overall

Marketisation an economic system based on the principles of the market, including supply, demand, choice and competition

Marriage a legally sanctioned relationship, involving economic cooperation as well as normative sexual activity and child-bearing, that people expect to be enduring

Mass media any social or technological devices used for the selection, transmission or reception of information

Mass society a society in which industry and expanding bureaucracy have eroded traditional social ties

Master status a status that has exceptional importance for social identity, often shaping a person's entire life

Material culture the tangible things created by members of a society

Matriarchy a form of social organisation in which females dominate males

Matrilineal descent a system tracing kinship through women

Matrilocality a residential pattern in which a married couple lives with or near the wife's family

McDonaldisation of society a process by which the principles of the fast-food industry come to be applied to more and more features of social life

Mean the arithmetic average of a series of numbers

Measurement the process of determining the value of a variable in a specific case

Mechanical solidarity Durkheim's designation of social bonds, based on shared morality, that unite members of pre-industrial societies

Media texts all media products, such as television programmes, films, CDs, books, newspapers, website pages, etc.

Median the value that occurs midway in a series of numbers arranged in order of magnitude or, simply, the middle case

Medicalisation the process by which events and experiences are given medical meaning and turned into medical problems

Medicalisation of deviance the transformation of moral and legal issues into medical matters

Medicine a social institution concerned with combating disease and improving health

Mega-city a city with a population exceeding 8 million

Megalopolis a vast urban region containing a number of cities and their surrounding suburbs

Meritocracy a system of social stratification based on personal merit

Metropolis a large city that socially and economically dominates an urban area

Micro-sociology the study of everyday life in social interactions

Middle-class slide a trend towards declining living standards and economic security at the centre of industrial societies

Middle-income countries nations characterised by limited industrialisation and moderate personal income

Migration the movement of people into and out of a particular territory

Military–industrial complex the close association among the national government, the military, and defence industries

Minority a category of people, distinguished by physical or cultural traits, who are socially disadvantaged

Miscegenation biological reproduction by partners of different racial categories

Mob a highly emotional crowd that pursues some violent or destructive goal

Mode the value that occurs most often in a series of numbers

Mode of production the way a society is organised to produce goods and services

Modernisation the process of social change initiated by industrialisation

Modernisation theory a model of economic and social development that explains global inequality in terms of differing levels of technological development among societies

Modernity social patterns linked to industrialisation

Monarchy a political system in which a single family rules from generation to generation

Monogamy a form of marriage joining two partners

Monopoly domination of a market by a single producer

Monotheism belief in a single divine power

Moral panic a condition, episode, person or group defined as a threat to social values which is presented in a stylised and stereotypical fashion by the mass media

Mores a society's standards of proper moral conduct

Mortality the incidence of death in a country's population

Multiculturalism an educational programme recognising past and present cultural diversity in society and promoting the equality of all cultural traditions

Multiple perspectives takes on many perspectives for looking at social life rather than just one

Multinational corporation a large corporation that operates in many different countries

Back to the top


Nation state a political apparatus over a specific territory with its own citizens backed up by military force and a nationalistic, sovereign creed

Natural environment the earth's surface and atmosphere, including all living organisms as well as the air, water, soil and other resources necessary to sustain life

Neo-colonialism a new form of global power relationship that involves not direct political control but economic exploitation by multinational corporations

Neo-locality a residential pattern in which a married couple lives apart from the parents of both spouses

Net migration rate the number of people who enter a territory (in-migration) minus the number of people who leave (out-migration) in a given year

Network a web of social ties that links people who identify and interact little with one another

New racism racism based upon cultural, rather than biological, values

Newly industrialising countries (NICs) lower-income countries that are fast becoming higher-income countries

Non-material culture the intangible world of ideas created by members of a society

Non-verbal communication communication using body movements, gestures and facial expressions rather than speech

Norms rules and expectations by which a society guides the behaviour of its members

Nuclear family (conjugal family) a family unit composed of one or two parents and their children

Nuclear proliferation the acquisition of nuclear weapons technology by more and more nations

Back to the top


Objectivity a state of personal neutrality in conducting research

Occupational gender segregation works to concentrate men and women in different types of job

Occupational prestige the value that people in a society associate with various occupations

Oligarchy the rule of the many by the few

Oligopoly domination of a market by a few producers

Operationalising a variable specifying exactly what one intends to measure in assigning a value to a variable

Oral culture tradition transmission of culture through speech

Organic solidarity Durkheim's designation of social bonds, based on specialisation, that unite members of industrial societies

Organisational environment a range of factors external to an organisation that affects its operation

Other-directedness a receptiveness to the latest trends and fashions, often expressed in the practice of imitating others

Outgroup a social group towards which one feels competition or opposition

Out-migration rate the number leaving for every thousand people

Back to the top


Paradigm general ways of seeing the world which suggest what can be seen, done and theorised about in science

Parentocracy a system where a child's education is increasingly dependent upon the wealth and wishes of parents, rather than the ability and efforts of pupils

Participant observation a research method in which researchers systematically observe people while joining in their routine activities

Pastoralism technology based on the domestication of animals

Patriarchy a form of social organisation in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women

Patrilineal descent a system tracing kinship through men

Patrilocality a residential pattern in which a married couple lives with or near the husband's family

Peace a state of international relations devoid of violence

Peer group a social group whose members have interests, social position and age in common

Personal space the surrounding area to which an individual makes some claim to privacy

Personality a person's fairly consistent patterns of thinking, feeling and acting

Plea bargaining a legal negotiation in which the state reduces the charge against a defendant in exchange for a guilty plea

Pluralism a state in which racial and ethnic minorities are distinct but have social parity

Pluralist model an analysis of politics that views power as dispersed among many competing interest groups

Political action committee (PAC) an organisation formed by a special-interest group, independent of political parties, to pursue political aims by raising and spending money

Political revolution the overthrow of one political system in order to establish another

Politics the social institution that distributes power, sets a society's agenda and makes decisions

Polyandry a form of marriage joining one female with two or more males

Polygamy a form of marriage uniting three or more people

Polygyny a form of marriage joining one male with two or more females

Polysemic open to many interpretations

Polytheism belief in many gods

Popular culture cultural patterns that are widespread among a society's population

Population the people who are the focus of research

Positivism a means to understand the world based on science

Post-colonialism recognises how many cultures have been made through oppressor–subject relationships and seeks to unpack these, showing how cultures are made

Post-colonial theory refers to the wide critiques of (usually 'white') Western cultures that are made from people who have been colonised in the past

Post-Fordism an economic system emerging mainly since the 1970s and based on flexibility (rather than standardisation), specialisation and tailor-made goods

Post-industrial economy a productive system based on service work and high technology

Post-industrialism computer-linked technology that supports an information-based economy

Postmodernism ways of thinking which stress a plurality of perspectives as opposed to a unified, single core

Postmodernity social patterns characteristic of post-industrial societies

Power the ability to achieve desired ends despite resistance from others

Power elite model an analysis of politics that views power as concentrated among the rich

Practices the practical logics by which we both act and think in a myriad of little encounters of daily life

Prediction that is, researchers using what they do know to predict what they don't know

Prejudice a rigid and irrational generalisation about an entire category of people

Pre-operational stage Piaget's term for the level of human development at which individuals first use language and other symbols

Presentation of self an individual's effort to create specific impressions in the minds of others

Prestige the value people in a society associate with various occupations

Primary group a small social group whose members share personal and enduring relationships

Primary labour market occupations that provide extensive benefits to workers

Primary sector the part of the economy that generates raw materials directly from the natural environment

Primary sex characteristics the genitals, used to reproduce the human species

Profane that which is an ordinary element of everyday life

Profession a prestigious, white-collar occupation that requires extensive formal education

Programmes films, CDs, books, newspapers, website pages, etc.

Proletariat people who provide labour necessary to operate factories and other productive enterprises

Propaganda information presented with the intention of shaping public opinion

Back to the top


Qualitative research investigation by which a researcher gathers impressionistic, not numerical, data

Quantitative research investigation by which a researcher collects numerical data

Queer theory the view that most sociological theory has a bias towards 'heterosexuality' and that non-heterosexual voices need to be heard

Questionnaire a series of written questions a researcher supplies to subjects, requesting their responses

Back to the top


Race a category composed of people who share biologically transmitted traits that members of a society deem socially significant

Racialisation process of ranking people on the basis of their presumed race

Racism the belief that one racial category is innately superior or inferior to another

Rain forests regions of dense forestation, most of which circle the globe close to the equator

Rationalisation of society Weber's term for the historical change from tradition to rationality as the dominant mode of human thought

Rationality deliberate, matter-of-fact calculation of the most efficient means to accomplish a particular goal

Rational–legal authority (bureaucratic authority) power legitimised by legally enacted rules and regulations

Real culture (as opposed to ideal culture) actual social patterns that only approximate cultural expectations

Realism scientific method that theorises a 'problematic' in order to see what is really going on

Reference group a social group that serves as a point of reference in making evaluations or decisions

Refugees people who flee their own country for political or economic reasons, or to avoid war and oppression

Rehabilitation a programme for reforming an offender to preclude subsequent offences

Relative deprivation a perceived disadvantage arising from a specific comparison

Relative poverty the deprivation of some people in relation to those who have more

Reliability the quality of consistent measurement

Religion a social institution involving beliefs and practices based upon a conception of the sacred

Religiosity the importance of religion in a person's life

Replication repetition of research by others

Research method a systematic plan for conducting research

Research tool a systematic technique for conducting research

Resocialisation radically altering an inmate's personality through deliberate manipulation of the environment

Retribution moral vengeance by which society inflicts suffering on an offender comparable to that caused by the offence

Retrospective labelling the interpretation of someone's past consistent with present deviance

Risk society society where risks are of a different magnitude because of technology and globalisation

Ritual formal, ceremonial behaviour

Role behaviour expected of someone who holds a particular status

Role conflict incompatibility among the roles corresponding to two or more statuses

Role set a number of roles attached to a single status

Role strain incompatibility among roles corresponding to a single status

Routinisation of charisma the transformation of charismatic authority into some combination of traditional and bureaucratic authority

Back to the top


Sacred that which is extraordinary, inspiring a sense of awe, reverence, and even fear

Sample a part of a population researchers select to represent the whole

Sapir–Whorf hypothesis the hypothesis that people perceive the world through the cultural lens of language

Scapegoat a person or category of people, typically with little power, whom people unfairly blame for their own troubles

Schooling formal instruction under the direction of specially trained teachers

Science a logical system that bases knowledge on direct, systematic observation

Secondary analysis a research method in which a researcher utilises data collected by others

Secondary group a large and impersonal social group whose members pursue a specific interest or activity

Secondary labour market jobs that provide minimal benefits to workers

Secondary sector the part of the economy that transforms raw materials into manufactured goods

Secondary sex characteristics bodily development, apart from the genitals, that distinguishes biologically mature females and males

Sect a type of religious organisation that stands apart from the larger society

Secularisation the historical decline in the importance of the supernatural and the sacred

Segregation the physical and social separation of categories of people

Self George Herbert Mead's term for the human capacity to be reflexive and take the role of others

Self-employment earning a living without working for a large organisation

Self-fulfilling prophecy children defined as low achievers at school learn to become low achievers

Semiotics study of symbols and signs

Sensorimotor stage Piaget's designation for the level of human development at which individuals experience the world only through sensory contact

Sex the biological distinction between females and males

Sex ratio the number of males for every hundred females in a given population

Sexism the belief that one sex is innately superior to the other

Sexual harassment comments, gestures or physical contact of a sexual nature that are deliberate, repeated and unwelcome

Sexual orientation an individual's preference in terms of sexual partners: same sex, other sex, either sex, neither sex

Sexuality aspects of the body and desire that are linked to the erotic

Sexual scripts that help define the who, what, where, when and even why we have sex

Sick role patterns of behaviour defined as appropriate for people who are ill

Simulacrum a world of media-generated signs and images

Slavery a form of stratification in which people are owned by others as property

Social change the transformation of culture and social institutions over time

Social character personality patterns common to members of a particular society

Social class social stratification resulting from the unequal distribution of wealth, power and prestige

Social conflict struggle between segments of society over valued resources

Social-conflict paradigm a framework for building theory that envisages society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and change

Social construction of reality the process by which people creatively shape reality through social interaction

Social control system planned and programmed responses to expected deviance

Social democratic a mix of capitalist and socialist/welfare economies and politics

Social divisions differences that are rendered socially significant (e.g. class, gender, ethnicity)

Social dysfunction the undesirable consequences of any social pattern for the operation of society

Social epidemiology the study of how health and disease are distributed throughout a society's population

Social function the consequences of any social pattern for the operation of society

Social group two or more people who identify and interact with one another

Social identity our understanding of who we are and who other people are, and, reciprocally, other people's understanding of themselves and others

Social institution a major sphere of social life, or societal subsystem, organised to meet a basic human need

Social interaction the process by which people act and react in relation to others

Social mobility change in people's position in a social hierarchy

Social movement organised activity that encourages or discourages social change

Social network a web of social ties that links people who identify with one another

Social practices See practices

Social reproduction the maintenance of power and privilege between social classes from one generation to the next

Social stratification a system by which society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy

Social structure relatively stable patterns of social behaviour

Socialisation a lifelong process by which individuals construct their personal biography

Socialised medicine a health-care system in which the government owns and operates most medical facilities and employs most doctors

Socialism an economic system in which natural resources and the means of producing goods and services are collectively owned

Societal protection a means by which society renders an offender incapable of further offences temporarily through incarceration or permanently by execution

Society people who interact in a defined territory and share culture

Sociobiology a theoretical paradigm that explores ways in which our biology affects how humans create culture

Sociocultural evolution the Lenskis' term for the process of change that results from a society's gaining new information, particularly technology

Socio-economic status (SES) a composite ranking based on various dimensions of social inequality

Sociology the systematic study of human society

Sociology of knowledge that branch of sociology which sees an association between forms of knowledge and society

Special-interest group a political alliance of people interested in some economic or social issue

Spurious correlation an apparent, although false, relationship between two (or more) variables caused by some other variable

Standpoint epistemologies all knowledge is grounded in standpoints and standpoint theory enables groups to analyse their situation (problems and oppressions) from within the context of their own experiences

State See nation state

State capitalism an economic and political system in which companies are privately owned but cooperate closely with the government

State terrorism the use of violence, generally without the support of law, against individuals or groups by a government or its agents

Status a recognised social position that an individual occupies

Status frustration the process by which people feel thwarted when they aspire to a certain status

Status set all the statuses a person holds at a given time

Stereotype a prejudicial, exaggerated description applied to every person in a category of people

Stigma a powerfully negative social label that radically changes a person's self-concept and social identity

Streaming the assignment of students to different types of educational programme

Structural–functional paradigm a framework for building theory that envisages society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability

Structural social mobility a shift in the social position of large numbers of people due more to changes in society itself than to individual efforts

Structuration focuses on both action and structure simultaneously. A process whereby action and structure are always two side of the same coin

Structured dependency the process by which some people in society receive an unequal share in the results of social production

Subculture cultural patterns that set apart some segment of a society's population

Suburbs urban areas beyond the political boundaries of a city

Superego Freud's designation of the operation of culture within the individual in the form of internalised values and norms

Surveillance society society dependent on communication and information technologies for administrative and control processes and which result in the close monitoring of everyday life

Survey a research method in which subjects respond to a series of items in a questionnaire or an interview

Symbol anything that carries a particular meaning recognised by people who share culture

Symbolic interaction a theoretical framework that envisages society as the product of the everyday interactions of people doing things together

Back to the top


Technology knowledge that a society applies to the task of living in a physical environment

Terrorism violence or the threat of violence employed by an individual or group as a political strategy

Tertiary sector the part of the economy that generates services rather than goods

Thatcherism a system of political beliefs based on free markets and economic individualism

The ethical life how people should behave

Theoretical paradigm a basic image of society that guides sociological thinking and research

Theoretical perspective can be seen as a basic image that guides thinking and research

Theory a statement of how and why specific facts are related

Third age a period of life often free from parenting and paid work when a more active, independent life is achieved

Third Way a framework that adapts politics to a changed world, transcending old-style democracy and neo-liberalism

Thomas theorem W. I. Thomas's assertion that situations we define as real become real in their consequences

Total institution a setting in which people are isolated from the rest of society and manipulated by an administrative staff

Total period fertility rate the average number of children each woman would have in her lifetime if the average number of children born to all women of child-bearing age in any given year remained constant during that woman's child-bearing years

Totalitarianism a political system that extensively regulates people's lives

Totem an object in the natural world collectively defined as sacred

Tracking the assignment of students to different types of educational programmes

Trade unions organisations of workers collectively seeking to improve wages and working conditions through various strategies, including negotiations and strikes

Tradition sentiments and beliefs passed from generation to generation

Traditional authority power legitimised through respect for long-established cultural patterns

Tradition-directedness rigid conformity to time-honoured ways of living

Transnational corporation a firm which has the power to coordinate and control operations in more than one country, even if it does not own them

Transsexuals people who feel they are one sex though biologically they are the other

Triad a social group with three members

Back to the top


Unconscious experiences which become too difficult to confront and so become hidden from the surface workings of life

Underclass a group 'under the class structure' which is economically, politically and socially marginalised and excluded

Underground economy economic activity generating income that is unreported to the government as required by law

Urban ecology the study of the link between the physical and social dimensions of cities

Urbanisation the concentration of humanity into cities

Back to the top


Validity the quality of measuring precisely what one intends to measure

Values culturally defined standards by which people assess desirability, goodness and beauty, and which serve as broad guidelines for social living

Variable a concept whose value changes from case to case

Victimless crimes violations of law in which there are no readily apparent victims

Back to the top


War armed conflict among the people of various societies, directed by their governments

Wealth the total value of money and other assets, minus outstanding debts

White-collar crime crimes committed by persons of high social position in the course of their occupations

White-collar occupations higher-prestige work involving mostly mental activity

Back to the top


Back to the top


Back to the top


Zero population growth the level of reproduction, migration and death that maintains population at a steady state

Back to the top

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Copyright © 1995-2005 by Pearson Education