SOCIOLOGY VOCABULARY

(in alphabetical order)

 

Absolute poverty - a deprivation of resources that is life threatening (living on, or just above, the margin of survival)

 

Animism – the religious beliefs surrounding a spirit world animated by living spirits and souls that exist in all living, and non-living, things.  It’s a polytheism, but necessarily of gods/goddesses but personal or impersonal spirits of nature, often seen spiritual connected to each other.

 

Assimilation - bring ethnic and racial diversity within a society into a common cultural fold; making them more alike, or more like the dominant ethnic or racial group (ie. "the melting-pot")

 

Blasé Urbanite – in a highly congested urban area with lots of traffic, activities, noise and different people, many with deal with the over-stimuli by disconnecting from much of what is around them; sorting of tuning most of it out; acting more blasé.

Bureaucracy – it is an organizational model based in rational thought seeking to accomplish tasks in a specialized and efficient manner (large businesses, governments, schools, etc.)

 

Civil religion- a quasi-religious loyalty binding individuals in a basically secular society (ex. patriotism, socialism or any social or political movement or constitution that people have strong feelings towards, and creates a sense of solidarity)

 

Class system- a system of social stratification based on individual achievement (stratification system supposedly based on individual merit, but often includes some structure of inequality like inheritance, sexism, racism, ethnocentrism)

 

Cognitive Dissonance – the psychological anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory, competing, or otherwise incompatible attitudes, information or behavior.  Humans tend to adjust their attitudes (frame of reference/perspective) before they change their behavior.  One may like a person because they are popular and fund, but disapproves strongly of his or her habits and beliefs.  It's hard to humans to be consistent and comfortable with all the decisions one makes in life; so we often adjust our attitude about our decisions than try and alter our behavior; we want to feel good about the choices we are making in life, even if it involves some inconsistency or even hypocrisy.

Colonialism- the process by which some nations enrich themselves through political and economic control of other countries. (ex. Europeans in the Americas or Africa in the 18th & 19th centuries)

 

Cultural lag- the fact that cultural elements change at different rates, which may disrupt a cultural system (ex. religion lagging behind the changes happening in science or technology; or old traditions of gender roles that are hard to die in an egalitarian modern society)

 

Cultural relativism- the practice of judging a culture by their own standards; all culture groups are valid and functional to those who practice in those cultures. (there is no good or bad cultures; inferior or superior; just different based on each group’s own cultural evolution)

 

Culture- the beliefs, values, behavior, and material objects that define a people’s way of life; it is everything that a particular group of people can and do share in common (ex. values, beliefs, social norms, world view, etc.) in an attempt to functional and fulfilled human beings

 

Culture shock - personal disorientation that accompanies exposure to foreign cultures or an unfamiliar ways of life different from your own.

 

Davis-Moore thesis - the assertion that social stratification is a universal pattern because it has beneficial consequences for the operation of a society; sort of justifies inequality in a class system (functionalist theory).

 

Dialect -

Disenchantment -

Dramaturgical analysis - Erving Goffman’s term for the investigation of social interaction in terms of theatrical performance; we are all actors in society playing our different roles with different "sets" or "stages" with our unique languages as our “scripts”

 

Endogamy - marriage between people of the same social category (same religion, race, social class/caste, tribal group, ethnicity)

 

Ethnicity - a shared cultural heritage (group usually sharing in common language, religion, history-homeland-ancestry, and some remaining customs and traditions; ethnic group often represent watered-down culture groups due to the assimilation pressures around them)

 

Ethnocentrism - the practice of judging another culture by the standards of one’s own culture; an attitude of superiority about one's own culture or society

 

Exogamy - marriage between people of different social categories; this is often to build social, political and/or economic alliances between two different groups or families

 

Extended Family – those family members outside of the nuclear family related by blood (some definitions include family member related by marriage too, but most do not).  So we’re talking aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc., a group of blood related nuclear families.

 

Gender - the significance and roles 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; the roles society lays out for us becomes a part of our individual identity, and the identity we superimpose upon others (typical librarian, policeman, drill sergeant).

 

Gemeinshaftan attitude or behavior in a group that reflects community sharing, cooperation, and self-sacrifice; usually associated with tribal and traditional cultures in more rural or low-population areas.

 

Gesellshaft an attitude or behavior within a group that reflects a more independent, self-reliant, competitive and individualistic nature; usually associated with more modern urban high-population areas.

 

Global perspective- the study of the larger world and our society’s place in it; comparing our thinking and behavior to that of other cultures around the world

 

Greenhouse effect- a rise in the earth’s average temperature (global warming) due to an increasing concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (like methane) in the atmosphere that holds or traps in more and more of the sun’s heat energy, not allowing it to radiate back out into space.

 

Groupthink- the tendency of group members to conform to the status-quo or proposal by a member or leader of a group; in groupthink individuals tend not to challenge the group because of its solidarity, or the popularity or charisma of its leadership

 

Heterogamymarriage by those who come from different cultural, ethnic, subcultural and/or class categories that may bring social challenges to the marriage (as opposed to Homogamy below)

 

Homogamy- marriage between people with the same social/cultural characteristics or background (as opposed to heterogamy above)

 

Homophobia - a term for a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality and people identified or perceived as being homosexual. (Amrin K. 160)

Ingroup - a social group commanding a member’s esteem and loyalty whose identity is in part based on an “outgroup”, or opposition group; so part of the ingroup’s identity is in contrast to an opposing group (outgroup).

 

Instrumental Rationalization - is decisions based in logic, reasoning, deduction, weighing out the strategies (pros/cons), seeing all the statistics/facts.  Based in science, and later used democracy & bureaucracy, though desires to keep Trad-Affect. Rationalization in both still persist.

 

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

 

Looking-glass self - Cooley’s assertion that the self (one’s self image and to some extent personality) is based on how others respond to us; using others as a mirror (looking glass) for knowing ourselves; their feedback in what they like and don’t like in us can shape our personalities to a degree.

 

Mechanical solidarity – (as opposed to Organic Solidarity below) social order and cohesion based on common agreement and uniform thinking and behavior; basically, unity or solidarity based on cultural alikeness or similarities; “we relate to each other very easily”

 

Modernity – it largely relates to the social changes that came about as a result of advanced industrialization, continuing on into post-industrial ways of life, and what is its impact on cultural social organization.

 

Multiculturalism - (a.k.a. Pluralism) an educational program recognizing past and present cultural diversity in U.S. society and promoting the equality of all cultural traditions; the government’s accommodation of the widest possible cultural diversity (multilingualism; multi-religious; multicultural history; etc.)

 

Multinational corporation - a large corporation that operates in many different countries (aka Transnational Corp.), based in one country with branches and subsidiaries in other 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 supported by their governments (ex. U.S., Europe, Japan)

 

Nonverbal communication - communication using body movements, body gestures, and facial expressions supporting, or in lieu of, speech

 

Norms- rules, guidelines and expectations by which a society guides the behavior of its members (those “1001” little rules/guidelines that we learn for proper social interaction; some written rules, others unwritten and just understood)

 

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

 

Organic Solidarity – (Durkheim) social cohesiveness that is based on division of labor and interdependence or specializations, and is characteristic of complex, industrial and post-industrial societies. (Julie Q.)

Outgroup - a social or cultural group toward which one feels competition or opposition; an outside group whose cultural practices you avoid or behave in contrast to (if you’re a Jewish Israeli (ingroup), then Palestinians are your outgroup, and vice-versa; you don’t typically copy the popular behaviors or customs of the outgroup)

 

Paralanguage - vocal features that accompany speech and contribute to communication but are not generally considered to be part of the language system;  ex. vocal quality, loudness, and tempo of speech; or background sounds that enhance or change meaning.(Julie Q.)

Pluralism- a state in which racial and ethnic minorities are distinct but have social parity (equality); an approach to leveling the playing field between minority and majority groups while celebrating the socio-cultural diversity in one’s society.

 

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

 

Presentation of Self - act of impressing and convincing our social audience.  We want to “sell” ourselves, maybe of just who we are; validate ourselves in the eyes of others; convince them our choices, agenda, and actions are legitimate or even superior.

Race- a category composed of humans who share certain biologically transmitted traits that members of a society deem socially significant; in reality it’s an artificial classification because the differences genetically or biologically are too few and insignificant biologically or genetically to represent truly different categories

 

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

 

Rational-legal authority- (also bureaucratic authority) power legitimized by legally enacted rules and regulations (stand in line; take a number; appointments only; majority rules; chain of command; etc.)

 

Religion - a social institution involving beliefs and practices based upon a conception of the sacred, and the possible rituals that surround the sacred. 

 

Religiosity – the level of religious or spiritual influence within the group or individual; how intertwined is one’s life with their religion (its history, its ritual, its sacred things, its practice, its required behavior)

 

Role- behavior expected of someone who holds a particular status (position with expected behavior)

 

Role Set- a number of roles attached to a single person (ex. mom, wife, realtor, Cuban-American, catholic, etc.)

 

Role Conflict - the anxiety or strain experienced by an individual when incompatible behavior, expectations, or obligations are associated with multiple roles in one’s role set and status set.  (“I’m a boss at work but subservient to my husband at home”; “loving and giving at church but aggressive and cunning at work”)

 

Role Strain - the anxiety or strain experienced by an individual when incompatible behavior, expectations, or obligations are associated with a single social role.  (military Chaplin; military doctor; “should I play the strict vs. compassionate boss”)
 

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis - a hypothesis stating that people perceive the world through the cultural lens of their unique language; habits of speech and reading create habits of perception, and to some extent unique reality

 

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; a weakening of religiosity in favor of answers and social control outside of religion doctrine.

 

Selective Perception – choosing the evidence that supports your preconceived notion or understanding of the issue, person or group.  May refer to any number of cognitive biases in psychology related to the way expectations affect perception.  (“I don’t like that neighbor, so I look for evidence to support it; I don’t like Republicans so I look for selective evidence to run them down; I don’t like that racial group so…”)

Self-fulfilling Prophecy – “people will often live up to the expectations of others”; you continually reinforce something to someone about themselves (their level of talent, ability, potential) they will often live up to that image.

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

 

Social-Conflict Approach - (aka Conflict Theory) a framework for building theory based on the assumption that society is characterized by inequality and conflict that generate change; where Functional Theory addresses what works in a culture group or society, social-conflict theory looks for the dysfunction, what doesn’t work so well, mostly the structures of inequality

 

Socialization - the lifelong social experience by which individuals develop human potential and learn patterns of their culture; it’s the teaching and learning of culture, most of which is acquired in the early years

 

Social Stratification - a system by which society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy; ie. it’s a system of inequality (ex. caste or class systems) using many different combinations of social variables like ethnicity, race or other physical features, age, gender, kinship, etc..

 

Society - people who interact in a defined territory and share some facets of common interests and values; ie. some aspects of culture and leadership that bring them together.

 

Sociocultural evolution - the Lenskis’ term for the process of change that results from a society’s gaining new cultural information, particularly technology, that may have a good or bad impact on the society, or both

 

State capitalism - an economic and political system in which companies are privately owned although they cooperate closely with the government; a close legal relationship between big business and government

 

Status - a recognized social position and identity that an individual occupies; this is the label, identity and ideological status laid on top of a particular role played in society  (doctor, lawyer, plummer, police officer)

 

Status Set – the multiple statuses that one person might hold (if you have a role set then you will often have a status set [see “role set” and “status” above])

 

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 approach - (aka Functionalist Theory) a framework for building theory based on the assumption that society is a complex system whose parts work together to promote stability; that human work toward functional organization, order and stability, and their cultural norms and institutions reflect that goal, and therefore there’s logical reasons why people do the things they do and organize themselves the way they do

 

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 (intercity gangs; cowboys of W. Texas; Amish of Pennsylvania; hippies of the 60’s; some African-American communities; etc.)

 

Sustainable Ecosystem - the human use of the natural environment to meet the needs of the present generation without threatening the prospects of future generations; economic growth without further or irrevocable damage to natural ecosystems

 

Symbolic-Interaction approach - a theoretical framework based on the assumption that society is the product of the everyday interactions of individuals, therefore the focus of research should be on the actual viewpoints, perspectives and interpretations of people – culture and it’s institutions as THEY see it, not necessarily as social scientist see it; reality of culture is in the eye of the beholder

 

Syntax - the study of the rules for the formation of grammatical sentences in a language. (Julie Q.)

Thomas’ Theorem-W.I. Thomas’ assertion that situations we define as real become real in their consequences, even if all the facts are not considered; ie. we often act on limited information ("America is behind the spread of secularism or Christianity, modernization and capitalism, so we must attack them with terrorism"; "Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and they will use them against us, so we must attack them")

 

Traditional-Affectional Rationalization - (Weber) is decisions based in wisdom, beliefs, intuition, emotion, tradition, and respected spiritual forces.

 

Urban renewal- government programs intended to revitalize cities.

 

Value-Rational Rationalization - (T. Parsons) (corrupted outgrowth of Instrumental Rationalization) is valuing the goal in decision-making over the means of acquiring it.  “The ends justify the means.”  Don’t challenge whether the goal is good, or that the means in acquiring it may have some latent side-effects.  I’m blinded by the goal.

 

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; Core Values are key values given high priority in a society.

 

Xenophobia - an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.( Julie, Q.)