Glossary - Sociology (A-Z)

Absolute poverty- a deprivation of resources that is life threatening

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

Class system- a system of social stratification based on individual achievement

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

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

Culture- the beliefs, values, behavior, and material objects that define a people’s way of life

Culture shock- persona disorientation that accompanies exposure to an unfamiliar way of life

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

Dramaturgical analysis- Erving Goffman’s term for the investigation of social interaction in terms of theatrical performance

Endogamy- marriage between people of the same social category

Ethnicity- a shared cultural heritage

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

Exogamy- marriage between people of different social categories

Gender- the significance a society attaches to biological categories of female and male

Generalized other- George Herbert Mead’s term for widespread cultural norms and values we use as references in evaluating ourselves

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

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

Homogamy- marriage between people with the same social characteristics

Humanizing bureaucracy- fostering an organizational atmosphere that recognized and encourages the contributions of everyone

Ingroup- a social group commanding a member’s esteem and loyalty whose identity is in part based on an “outgroup”, or opposition group

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

Looking-glass-self- Cooley’s assertion that the self is based on how others respond to us; seeing ourselves through the eyes of others and their reactions and feedback they give us about ourselves

Multiculturalism- an educational program recognizing past and present cultural diversity in U.S. society and promoting the equality of all cultural traditions

Multinational corporation- a large corporation that operates in many different countries

Neocolonialism-a new form of global power relationships that involves not direct political control but, rather through economic exploitation and political manipulation by multinational corporations often support by their governments

Nonverbal communication- communication using body movements, gestures, and facial expressions rather that speech

Norms- rules, guidelines and expectations by which a society guides the behavior of its members

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

Outgroup- a social group toward which one feels competition or opposition

Pluralism- a state in which racial and ethnic minorities are distinct but have social parity (equality)

Prejudice- an attitude involving a rigid and irrational generalization about an entire category of people, usually remarking on their inferiority

Race- a category composed of humans who share certain biologically transmitted traits that members of a society deem socially significant; in reality biology doesn’t recognize “races” because the differences genetically are too small and insignificant

Rationalization of society- Max Weber’s term for the historical change from tradition to more scientifically based rationality as the dominant mode of human thought

Rational-legal authority- (also bureaucratic authority) power legitimized by legally enacted rules and regulations

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

Role- behavior expected of someone who holds a particular status

Role set- a number of roles attached to a single person

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis- a hypothesis stating that people perceive the world through the cultural lens of their unique language

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

Secularization- the historical decline in the importance of the supernatural and the sacred; a declining influence of religion in everyday life

Sexual harassment- comments, gesture, or physical contact of a sexual nature that is deliberate, repeated and unwelcome

Social-conflict paradigm- a framework for building theory based on the assumption that society is characterized by inequality and conflict that generate change

Socialization- the lifelong social experience by which individuals develop human potential and learn patters of their culture

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

Society- people who interact in a defined territory and share culture

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

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

Status- a recognized social position and identity that an individual occupies

Stereotype- a set of overgeneralizations concerning some category of people, some positive stereotypes exists, but most are negative

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

Structural-functional paradigm- a framework for building theory based on the assumption that society is a complex system whose parts work together to promote stability

Subculture- cultural patterns that distinguish some segment of a society’s population; variations within a society regarding some aspects of religion, or language, or traditions/customs, or outward symbols/appearance that sets them apart from the mainstream or dominant culture

Sustainable ecosystem- the human use of the natural environment to meet the needs of the present generation without threatening the prospects of future generations

Symbolic-interaction paradigm-a theoretical framework based on the assumption that society is the product of the everyday interactions of individuals

Thomas theorem-W.I. Thomas’s assertion that situations we define as real become real in their consequences ("America is behind the spread of secularism, modernization and capitalism, so we must attack them with terrorism"; "Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and will use them against us, so we must attack them")

Urban renewal- government programs intended to revitalize cities

Values-culturally defined standards by which people judge desirability, goodness, and beauty, and which serve as broad guidelines for social living as well as public policies