Term Definition Module
Academic Discipline Specific ways of studying the world. 1
Adaptation The set of structures that serve to extract from the environment the things that the organism or society needs to survive (in animals: the digestive system; in society: the economy) 4
Agents of Socialization Those parts of society that are charged with training people how to act, think, and feel. 3
Altruistic Suicide Tends to occur with very high levels of social solidarity. 2
Anomic Suicide Tends to occur with very rapid social changes (the group cannot produce new norms fast enough). 2
Anomie Occurs when norms are weak or absent. 2
Anti-miscegenation laws Laws that prohibit interracial marriage and sometimes interracial sex. 6
Ascribed vs. Achieved Status Ascribed status is seen as one that an individual holds as a result of birth (like race); achieved status is believed to be one that an individual earns (like graduating from college). 6
Authority The belief in the right of someone to exercise power. The belief in the right to rule, generally seen as different kinds of authorities or beliefs. 4
Back Stage The place apart from the audience where preparations are made to present a self. 3
Beliefs Ideas or statements about something we know or experience subjectively. (example: I believe in Democracy.) 3
Black Feminist Theory Theoretical framework which asserts that there are cultural differences that women across the globe experience and seeks to get more women of color involved in writing about their experiences with gender inequality. 8
Bridewealth Goods and services provided by men in exchange for the sole right to a woman’s sexual services and offspring. 8
Bureaucracy Formal organization based on rationality (not personal emotions), efficiency (defined in terms of means and ends), written documentation, and a hierarchy of offices/roles. 4
Capitalism An economic system whose means of production are privately owned. 4
Charismatic Authority The belief in the natural or supernatural gifts of an individual. 4
Class/Class Position One’s position on the economic hierarchy that is determined by wealth and income. 6
Classism Prejudice and discrimination based on social class; the idea that certain classes of people are superior. 6
Coercive Organization A formal organization that uses force to create a strict environment of rules and regulations. Once you enter a coercive organization, you are not allowed to leave unless under special circumstances. Membership is usually involuntary. 4
Collective Consciousness The language, feeling rules, morals, values, beliefs, and scripts of a group or society. 2
Commodity Fetishism Occurs when a material object, or commodity, is treated with an almost religious devotion or as if it has special powers; Marxist concept referring to social relations in complex capitalist societies. 2
Communism An economic form based on communal values and common ownership. 4
Conflict Theory Sees the unequal distribution of scarce resources as the most important social fact. 1
Conformity According to Merton’s structural strain theory, the conformist accepts both the goals and the means of society’s definition of success. 5
Core Nations Wealthy nations that have dominant capitalist economies and which control and exploit poorer nations. 6
Counterculture Countercultures differ from subcultures in that their meaning systems are antagonistic toward the dominate/general culture; countercultures stand in opposition to the general culture. 2
Cult of Domesticity True manhood depended on how well a male provided for family; true womanhood depended on how well a woman performed duties of wife, mother, and homemaker. 8
Cultural Universals Cultural practices found in every society, which meet the same human needs. 2
Culture Symbolic meaning systems that are passed down from generation to generation; culture forms the basis of all human interaction and action. 2
Culture of Consumption A way of life characterized by mass consumption; values, beliefs, norms revolve around consumption patterns where individuals are defined by what they own. 2
Dependency Theory The idea that global poverty is caused by the global dominance of wealthy nations who, through colonization and neocolonialism, have caused poor nations to be underdeveloped. 6
Deviance Behavior that is defined by society as outside of what is generally expected. 5
Discrimination The actual practice of treating people differently based on their group membership or social category. 7
Division of Labor Specialization in work; the breakdown of jobs or tasks into specialized roles for workers; the number of specialized tasks increases with industrialization and modernization. 2
Dramaturgical Analysis A method of examining social interaction as if the participants are actors performing on a stage. 3
Dyads Groups of two. 4
Dysfunction Consequences that are seen to interfere with the needs and values of society, so we could say that some of the dysfunctions of prostitution are the spread of venereal disease and infidelity. 4
Efficiency An idea that values the shortest distance between means and ends; the least cost for the most benefit generally understood in economic terms. 4
Egalitarian System System of stratification where resources are distributed the most equally; usually, Hunter/Gatherer society is referred to as egalitarian. 6
Egotistic Suicide Tends to occur with very low levels of social solidarity. 2
Empirical Perspectives Ways of looking at only the facts (data). 1
Empiricism The belief that all that exists can be observed through one or more of our five senses. 1
Equilibrium Theory The idea that when change occurs in one part of society, it causes other social institutions to adapt and change as well. 4
Ethnicity A group or category of people who have a shared cultural heritage. 7
Ethnocentric The belief that one’s cultural system is the truest and best; it can be manifested in blindness to cultural differences or negative judgments about other cultures. 2
Ethnomethodology An analysis of the everyday norms often taken for granted by individuals; involves breaking everyday norms in order to understand their significance. 3
Expressive Roles Roles that involve taking care of personal relationships; usually taught to women; nurturing, emotionally attentive, passive, etc. 3
Face Parts of different identities that we get attached to and feel that we must defend. 3
Family/Kinship The organization of marriage and blood ties that function to regularize sex and mating, providing for biological and social support, socialization of the young, and initial placement of young in social structures. 3
Fatalistic Suicide Tends to occur when the group overregulates the behaviors of individuals. 2
Female Infanticide The systematic killing of female infants at or around birth. 8
Feminism The belief that men and women should be equal. 8
Feminization of Poverty The increasing number of women and children falling below the poverty line. 6
Formal Organizations Groups with written rules and objectives. 4
Front Our entire face that we present to others; the method through which we cue others to the self and identity that we claim. 3
Front Stage The place where the performance of self takes place. 3
Function Consequences that are seen to meet the needs and values of society, so we could say that some of the functions of education are socialization and preserving/ creating culture. 1, 4
Functionalism A way of looking at society as if it were an organism. 1
Functions of Law The legal system negotiates relationships between social actors; it integrates different social actors. 4
Functions of Polity/Government Establish goals and social control. 4
Functions of the Economy The extract raw resources from the environment, convert them into usable goods, and transport those goods and services to the society. 4
Gender The social identity that is socially constructed around biological sex. The social/cultural roles that are prescribed according to one’s sex category. 8
Genderlect A linguistic style that reflects the differences between how men and women communicate. 3
Generalized Other All of the roles in society that are not represented by our significant others but play an important role in socialization and the internalization of society. 3
Genital Mutilation Surgical procedure that involves removing the clitoris and labia in order to control a woman’s sexuality. 8
Glass Ceiling The social structure that prevents women from advancing past a certain level in corporations and government; an effect of institutionalized sexism. 7
Global Stratification The unequal distribution of resources between nations. 6
Goal Attainment The set of structures that function to explicitly direct the activities of the system (in animals, the mind; in society, government [also called polity]). 4
Groupthink Condition that occurs when poor decisions are made on behalf of an organization despite opposition. 4
Hate Crime Any offense committed against a person, property, or society motivated by a bias against race/ethnicity, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. 7
Homophobia Fear and hatred of homosexuals. 8
I/Me The two parts to the self, which talk to each other; the “I” is the impulsive side of the self and the “Me” is the socialized side. 3
Identity Social positions and roles that we claim as part of our self. 3
Ideology Beliefs, values, and attitudes that tend to support the status quo or social movements designed to change it. 6
Imitation Stage According to Mead’s theory of socialization, this is when children learn to mimic the behaviors of those around them. 3
Impression Management The idea that people control the impression they give to others. 3
Income The amount of money one makes, generally measured on a yearly basis. 6
Innovation According to Merton’s structural strain theory, the innovator accepts the goals of social success but rejects the means (and thus innovates new means). 5
Institutionalized Discrimination Differential treatment that is so embedded in the everyday workings of social life that it is not easily recognized as discrimination and does not require conscious prejudice or overt discrimination (example: height requirements for firefighters in the US 7
Instrumental Roles Roles that involve performance tasks; usually are taught to boys; goal oriented, leadership, decision making, disciplinarian, unemotional, etc. 3
Interaction Ritual A form of interaction where individuals perform acts to show reverence to one another which involves a mutually shared meaning. 3
Iron Cage The argument that once a bureaucracy is in place it is impossible to remove; the irrationalities of bureaucracy: dehumanization and increasing inefficiency. 4
Jim Crow Laws Laws that required separate but “equal” facilities for African Americans in the American South. 6
Labeling Theory Argues that the deviant labels given to people are a major cause of deviant behavior and identity. 5
Latent Pattern Maintenance The set of structures that serve to replicate patterns in a system with the least possible effort (in the body, the central nervous system; in society, religion and education). 4
Legitimation Stories that provide a moral basis for human behavior (stories that make it okay to do what we do). 4
Liberal Feminism Theoretical framework that says that the cause of gender inequality is gender socialization and seeks to bring about equality through legal reform. 8
Life Chances A measurement of one’s overall health and life expectancy; one way to understand class—life chances increase with class. 6
Looking Glass Self Seeing our self through the evaluations of others; we experience pride or shame as a result of the evaluations of others; the way our self esteem is formed. 3
Maquiladoras Factories located along the Mexican-U.S. border that are in free trade zones and employ mostly young women to work for low wages; used as an example of offshoring. 6
Marx’s Idea of Culture Marx argues that culture works as ideology to blind the worker to the oppression of capitalism; Marx also argues that culture isn’t as important as the economic structure. 4
Master Status The social position through which an individual sees their entire life; it rules their interpretation of everything that happens to them. 3, 4
Master-Slave System A system of stratification where the majority of economic activities rely on the system of slavery. 6
Material Culture Physical objects created by humans. 2
McDonaldization Suggests that modern societies are increasingly standardized, predictable, uniform, and bland. 4
Mechanical Solidarity A society that has a weak collective consciousness but strong interdependency among the social units. 2
Medicalization of Deviant Behavior Defining behavior as the result of a medical condition allowing for medical intervention and treatment; a means of social control (as when homosexuality was defined as an illness). 5
Menstrual Taboos Subordinate women by segregating them from the rest of society when they have their cycle. Menstruation is considered “unclean.” 8
Meritocracy A system that awards scarce resources based on an individual’s merit. 6
Modernity An historical era in which urbanization and industrialization play key roles. 1, 2
Neocolonialism Where nations are controlled economically rather than politically or militarily. 6
Normative Organization Formal organization that individuals join in order to promote an important social cause. Most voluntary organizations are considered normative. 4
Norms Prescribed ways of behaving that have sanctions attached to them (example: as a student, one of your roles is to study; if you don’t, your teachers will sanction you by giving you a bad grade). 2
Occupational Segregation The segregation of men and women in the workplace. 8
One-drop Rule Originated in the American South and was eventually adopted by the entire nation. It stated that if a person had even one drop of African blood in their ancestry, they were African American. 7
Oppositional Culture Culture or way of life where norms, values, and beliefs are in opposition to mainstream culture; in many oppositional cultures, acts of deviance are rewarded. 5
Organic Solidarity A society that has a weak collective consciousness but strong interdependency among the social units. 2
Organismic Analogy Thinking about society as if it worked just like an organism 4
Patriarchy A system of stratification where men are given more power and prestige than women. 8
Peripheral Nations Low income nations that are dependent on wealthier nations for foreign aid and investment. 6
Personal Troubles Problems that are specific to individuals. 1
Personality Consistent patterns of behavior that a person or individual exhibits. 3
Play Stage According to Mead’s theory of socialization, this is the second stage in self formation; during this stage the child must concretely play out the role of the significant other in order to see their own self from that position. 3
Polity Another word for government. 4
Polygyny Marriage of one man to many wives. 8
Post Modernity An historical period in which mass media and advertising play key roles. 1, 2
Power The ability of one actor to influence the behavior of another in a social organization. 4
Power Elite Groups of ruling people who tend to have power in different kinds of institutional spheres. 4, 6
Predictability Emphasis in scientific management that reduced the amount of worker innovation and pressed workers to perform the same steps in the same way. 1
Prejudice Positive or negative cultural attitude that is directed toward members of a group or social category; combines beliefs and value judgments with positive or negative emotions. 7
Preparatory Stage The first stage in self formation; language acquisition. 3
Prestige Honor that is given; another word for social status. 6
Primary and Secondary Socialization Primary socialization occurs when people are young and is most strongly influenced by family; it forms the basis of people’s sense of reality and morality; secondary socialization occurs throughout the individual’s lifespan and it has to generally agree w 3
Primary Deviance In labeling theory, deviant behavior that is not noticed and labeled as deviant; most of us exhibit primary deviance. 5
Primary Groups Groups that tend to be small in number, last long periods of time, be non-goal directed, and tend to create intimate (self-revealing) social relations. 4
Primogeniture Inheritance ritual where property of the estate is passed down to the oldest male in the family. 8
Privilege The benefits and opportunities that come with status positions. 6
Protestant Work Ethic An ideology that justifies wealth and poverty. According to early Protestants, the belief that hard work and self-denial lead to salvation. 6
Public Issues Problems people experience that are caused by social factors. 1
Purdah The practice of keeping men from seeing women. Either women must cover their bodies (burqa and veil), walk behind men to show deference, eat only after men, and only speak when spoken to. Found mostly in Hindu and Muslim societies. 8
Race A category or group of people having hereditary traits that set them apart. 7
Racism Prejudice and discrimination based on race; any action or characteristic of a social system that supports race privilege. 7
Radical Feminism Theoretical framework which argues that gender inequality is rooted in the system of patriarchy itself and seeks to overthrow patriarchy and gender role in order to bring about gender equality. 8
Rational-Legal Authority Based on rules (laws) and regulations. Found in modern societies. (Bureaucracies, U.S. Government, Constitution). 4
Rationality Organizational emphasis on efficiency, predictability, calculability, and nonhuman technologies that control people. 4
Rebellion According to Merton’s structural strain theory, the rebel rejects both the goals and means of social success and actively proposes new ones. 5
Requisite Needs The things that any system needs to function. 4
Residential Segregation This occurs when people live in areas where there is a higher concentration of a certain race or ethnic group. 7
Retreatism According to Merton’s structural strain theory, the retreatist rejects both the goals and means of social success and withdraws from society. 5
Risky Shift A condition where individuals in groups make decisions that tend to be more risky than they would if they were taking action on their own. 4
Rites of Passage Rituals or ceremonies that mark a person’s transition from one stage of life to another. 2
Ritual A set of actions or behaviors performed ceremoniously and have symbolic meaning. 2
Ritualism According to Merton’s structural strain theory, the ritualist rejects the goals but accepts the means (thus performing duties ritually rather than hoping to reach the goals). 2
Role Conflict Role conflict occurs when the demands of one role clash with the demands of another. 3
Role-taking Placing your self in the role of another in order to see yourself from that perspective. 3
Roles Like in a movie, roles are scripts for behavior, but unlike a movie, social roles are ambiguous and negotiable; roles are generally attached to status positions. 2, 3, 4
Sanctions Reactions to behaviors that are designed to encourage (positive sanctions) or discourage (negative sanctions) the behavior; social sanctions are a necessary part of social control. 5
Scapegoat Theory Those who are less fortunate in society take out their frustration on others who are disadvantaged as well and blame them as the cause of the social problems. 7
Scapegoats Occurs when certain racial or ethnic groups are blamed as the cause of social problems such as joblessness and high crime. 7
Science Knowledge system based on beliefs in the empirical world and laboratory research. 1
Second Shift The work that gets done at home after working outside of the home in a full-time job. 8
Secondary Deviance In labeling theory, deviant behavior that is labeled as deviant, results in the person identifying his/herself as deviant, and produces further deviant behaviors. 5
Secondary Groups Groups that tend to last shorter periods of time, tend to be goal directed, and tend toward superficial relationships. 4
Self The ability to take one’s own actions as objects of consideration; the internal conversation between the I and the Me; the story we hold about who we are (self concept). 3
Self-fulfilling Prophecies Where individuals believe, either consciously or subconsciously, in the labels that are ascribed to them. 7
Semi-peripheral Nations Middle-income nations that are undergoing the process of modernization and who often exploit the poorer nations as well. 6
Sex Socially agreed-upon biological criteria; in the US, the criteria is generally seen as only allowing two possibilities (male, female), but biologically it is more true that there are at least five (male, female, true hermaphrodites, male pseudohermaphrodi 8
Sexism The belief that women are inferior to men. 8
Significant Others People with whom we associate for extended periods of time in authentic/intimate ways; have a great deal of power in primary socialization. 3
Social Construction of Reality The process where individuals define what is real through their repeated interactions and negotiations. (Example: race and gender are social constructions that have changed over time.) 2
Social Controls Those parts of society that work to conform people’s behavior to the general expectations. 5
Social Facts Social moral structures that are external to and coercive of the individual; they have a fact-like basis in that they are difficult to resist. 1
Social Group A collection of individuals who interact with one another and have feelings of unity or belonging. 4
Social Inequality The patterned unequal distribution of scarce resources (class, status, power) by group membership. 6
Social Institutions “Superstructures” in society which are highly patterned behaviors organized to meet basic human needs. 1
Social Interaction The blending together of human social action. 3
Social Mobility The amount of movement up or down on one or more of the three structures of inequality (class, status, power); generally changes occur due to structural changes (new job markets opening or new technologies), not through individual effort. 6
Social Solidarity The degree of integration in any society; generally defined in terms of a feeling or belonging or “we-ness” and individual behaviors controlled by the group. 2
Social Stratification The social process through which scarce resources are consistently distributed unequally among social groups. 6
Social Structures Patterns of behavior that are repeated over and over until they become an established part of society. 4
Socialization The process through which beliefs and norms of society come to exist within the individual; socialization makes culture appear natural to us because we find it “inside.” 3
Societies Identifiable social organizations that include large numbers of communities, formal organizations, groups, and dyads; a large social union that arranges other groups into a self-sufficient system. 2
Socioeconomic Status (SES) Multidimensional analysis of social class which is often indicated by a person’s education, occupation, and income. 6
Sociological Imagination To be able to see the historical and social factors in back of personal experiences. 1
Sociological Theory A set of statements that seek to describe, explain or predict social events. 1
Sociology The scientific study of human society and human interaction. 1
Status Positions Status refers to honor that is given; status positions are places in a social hierarchy that have different honor attached to them (example: more honor is given to the position of a teacher than student–that’s why you use the term Mr./Ms./Dr./Prof. 4
Stereotypes A rigid, oversimplified belief that is applied to a social group and the individuals within it. 7
Stigmatization Occurs when powerfully negative labels are attached to certain groups of people or behaviors. 8
Structural Strain Theory A theory proposed by Robert K. Merton; argues that rates of deviance increase when there is a disjuncture between goals and the means to achieve those goals. 5
Subculture A culture that is associated with a sub-group or smaller segment of society; subcultures have their own sets of values and perspectives and languages, yet are not generally in conflict with the dominate or general culture 2
Subjectivity The inner experience of an individual. 1, 3
Suicide Rates A group measure (the raw number divided by the population size) that gives a comparable number; a way of comparing the overall tendencies of groups to have to experience individual self-destruction. 1
Symbolic Interaction A perspective in sociology that looks at human interaction has focused on symbolic meaning and sees behavior as emergent. 1
Symbols/Symbolic System The ideas, words, values, morals, and beliefs that humans use to interpret the world; the symbolic system becomes human reality. 3
Tactful Blindness Used by Goffman to explain how individuals purposefully ignore mistakes or blunders in the interaction process; used to explain interaction rituals as in terms of theatrical performances. 3
Theoretical Perspectives/Paradigms An overall view or image of society. The three classic perspectives of sociology are Structural Functionalism, Conflict and Symbolic Interaction. Each has a different approach to understanding society. 1
Thomas Theorem W. I. Thomas stated that “situations that are defined as real become real in their consequences.” Often refers to the social construction of reality. 7
Traditional Authority Stems from long held traditions of the past. Authority is usually passed down from generation to generation. 4
Utilitarian Organization Formal organization that people join with a specific goal in mind. Sociologists point out that most people join this type of organization with a remunerative goal in mind. 4
Values Shared ideas about what is good or desirable. 2
Variable Anything that can be measured. Income, for example, is a variable. 1
Wealth The amount of money one holds or saves; may be measured by real estate holdings, stocks and bonds, and so on. 6
World Systems Theory Wallerstein’s theory which claims that, due to the interconnectedness of economies throughout the world, there is a single social system or unit where stratification between nations exists. This world economic system benefits some nations more than others 6