Sociology General Sociology by mikeholy


									                                  Sociology 204 General Sociology
                                      Concepts and Definitions

Accounts: According to Schwalbe, “as long as we do what others expect us to, we do not usually have to give
accounts. It is only when our behavior is unexpected, or violates a rule, that we have to account for it, perhaps with
a justification or an excuse. See Schwalbe, The Sociologically Examined Life, pp. 167ff for examples.

Adult socialization refers to the resocialization processes that we go through as we begin and change careers, form
intimate bonds, and develop families of our own. Although power, especially in sense 2 and sense 3 is often seen in
negative terms, as involving coercion and conflicts of interest, all three senses of „power‟ can also be seen in more
positive terms as „enabling.‟” Power, is therefore, a complicated term, and must be interpreted in context.

Anomie: meaning “without norms”: A concept introduced by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917). A condition in
which there exists little consensus among the members of a society or when there is a lack of certainty on values or
goals. The consequences of anomie include class struggle and inequality, and the potential for increased rates of

Asceticism: The practice of denying oneself comforts and leading a life of self-discipline. Usually associated with
religious devotion, the idea is used by Weber to characterize the “protestant ethic.” (See his book The Protestant
Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism).

Biological Essentialism--the idea that there are essential or natural female or male characteristics. In contrast,
while recognizing the limited number of specific sex differences (menstruation, pregnancy and lactation [for most
females] and production of sperm [for most males], the dominant perspective within sociology takes a different
position. Sociology generally asserts that being placed in a category as male or female, and taught to perform the
expected behaviors associated with that category, has more far reaching effects on the formation of identity than
genetic composition or the bodily signs associated with maleness or femaleness. This term can be used as well to
discuss other human classification systems such as race--and in earlier historical periods, social class. A few social
researchers continue to defend biological bases for the differential treatment of human beings. While some scholars
attribute differences to essential biology, and others reject any biological determinism at all, the most widely
accepted view acknowledges an interplay between the “potential” with which humans are born and the social
processes that shape this potential. Understandably, those who want to change unequal power relations emphasize
the role of social and historical processes over biological ones in the formation of human beings.

Borderwork: Barrie Thorne, in her book Gender Play (1993), presents her research on the development of gender
identity within the school setting. She found that “ (w)hen gender boundaries are activated, the loose aggregation
“boys and girls” consolidates into “The Boys” and “The Girls” as separate and reified groups. In the process,
categories of identity that on other occasions have minimal relevance fore interaction become the basis of separate
collectivities.” (Thorne, pp. 64ff). Thorne describes four different kinds of border work: contests, cross-gender
chasing, “cooties” and other pollution rituals, and invasions. “Borderwork” is especially important because it
emphasizes” gender as an oppositional dualism” and because exaggerating gender difference leads us to disregard
variations among the members of each group as well as how much each has in common with the other. (p.86). It
becomes easy to see gender difference as something natural rather than constructed.

Boundary Maintenance. Ways of controlling group membership so that those who should be included act
appropriately to stay included and those to be excluded are successfully kept from becoming part of the group.
Membership requirements serve this purpose in a general way. Peter and Patricia Adler explore a much more
complex process of inclusion and exclusion in the formation of cliques among school children. (See their article
“Peer Power” in FERGUSON (Mapping the Social Landscape, pp. 173-188) for examples of the process of
boundary maintenance). This term is similar to Barrie Thorne‟s concept of “borderwork,” in which the distinction
between “THE girls” and “THE boys” was maintained through the same kind of process.
Bourgeosie: A complex term that originally refered to an inhabitant of a borough, but became associated with
owners of capitalist enterprises and was used by Marx almost interchangably with “capitalist class.” You may also
find the term used as in “bourgeois society,” usually meaning more “middle class society.” In this course, you are
being introduced to Marx‟s use of the term, which is used in opposition to “the proletariat,” or working class.
Marx claimed that the proletariat were oppressed by the owning class (bourgeosie) and if they would only unite,
they could throw off that oppression. “You have nothing to lose,” Marx exhorted the workers, “but your chains.”
(from the conclusion of The Communist Manifesto).

Bureaucracy: a formal organization characterized by a clearly defined hierarchy with a commitment to rules,
efficiency, and impersonality.

Caste: A system of stratification which differentiates and evaluates on the basis of hair, skin color, nose and eye lid
shape and sometimes religious belief or occupational status. This is a closed form of stratification in which status is
determined at birth and is lifelong. Caste membership, then, is an ascribed status--the status is virtually "inscribed"
on the person.

Class system : An "open" system of stratification based primarily on economic status, which may be subject to
change. Membership in a class is defined as an achieved status, one that depends to some extent on characteristics
over which the individual has some control. Concepts associated with class include wealth and income, power, and
prestige-- and the lack of these. In this context, Wealth refers to the economic dimension--what people own or the
money they receive. Power relates to the political dimension--the ability to control or influence the behavior of
others, even against their will. Prestige refers to the social respect, admiration, and recognition associated with a
particular social status.

Collective Legitimization and Self Identity: Themes described by Velliquette and Murray in “The Tattoo
Subculture” (Ferguson anthology). In this case, collective legitimization refers to the process of impression
management by which tattoo artists worked to present their business as “legitimate”--providing a clinical
atmosphere, becoming certified, showing work at galleries, attending national conventions. Self identity is used to
refer to the way people getting tattoos used them to express their “inner selves,” to tie in with some “meaningful
experience” or to change their image by adopting a visible symbol of difference.

Color Line: A term used by W.E.B. Dubois to describe the systematic exclusion of African Americans from the
mainstream of American life. Also, “color bar” “the systematic or institutionalized restriction on access to resources
or social opportunities in which the basis of discrimination is determined by socially established criteria of racial
origin, especially criteria established by whites and applied to blacks.

Community: a set of primary and secondary groups in which the individual carries out important life functions. A
territorial community is a population that functions within a particular geographic area, while a non-territorial
community refers to a network of relationships formed around shared goals.

Concepts: According to Babbie, (in his article Sociology an Idea Whose Time Has Come), “concepts are the mental
images we use to bring order to the mass of specific experiences we have. Basically, we form concepts in order to
group similar things together and to distinguish dissimilar ones.” While this document you are reading contains
many such “concepts”, the items listed in bold below share the distinction of being important images that indicate
patterns of social life discovered by, recognized by, or invented by sociologists. They are not “truths,” but images
that are useful as long as they help us to form pictures of human experience and aid us in understanding the ways
human beings act in the social worlds they have created.

Conflict Theories: These theories are associated with the work of Karl Marx, and Max Weber, and in the United
States, with C. Wright Mills, W.E. B. Dubois, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Conflict theories emphasize the role
of conflict, especially between groups and classes in human society. They also stress the role of power and coercion
and the pursuit of economic and political interests in human affairs. These theories have been criticized for a
perceived overemphasis on conflict between groups and for a tendency (in some forms of Marxism, for example) to
present a utopian vision of future resolution to these conflicts.

Conformity: an individual's willingness to go along with an opinion or action undertaken by others in the group.
Contingency and Cause: See Schwalbe, Chapter 8.

Crime: “If deviance is the violation of a social norm, then a crime is the violation of social norms that have been
made into laws” (FERGUSON, p. 253).

Cultural Capital: Knowledge of cultural background, norms and skills that helps members of an elite class to
monopolize scarce social, economic and cultural resources for their social group. This is accomplished by
developing strong social networks characterized by respect and affection and providing contacts out of which new
networks can be formed. Cultural capital is inculcated in childhood and is recognized by those who also possess the
same cultural capital. Since education is the variable most strongly associated with cultural capital, members of
lower classes can sometimes gain a measure of cultural capital through successful completion of formal education

Culture: the framework of beliefs, expressive symbols, and values in terms of which individuals define their world,
express their feelings and make their judgments. (Geertz). "Cultures are the result of collective creativity and are
subject to historical change and transformation" ( Harper Collins Dictionary of Sociology, p.503). According to
Howard Becker, culture is made up of the shared understandings that people have of a particular situation, and
provides solutions to practical problems they face together everyday. Another sociologist, Ann Swidler, speaks of
culture as a "tool kit" --providing various components that people can use to construct strategies for action. John
Hall and Mary Jo Neitz define culture as ". . .(1) ideas, knowledge (correct, wrong or unverifiable belief) and recipes
for doing things; (2) humanly fabricated tools (such as shovels, sewing machines and computers); and (3) the
products of social action that may be drawn upon in further conduct of social life (an apple pie, a television set, or an
interstate highway. (Culture, A Sociological Perspective, p.4).

Definition of the situation: the perception and the interpretation of the total configuration of social factors
operating at the same time in any given situation. The most common definition is given by William and Dorothy
Thomas (1928), called The Thomas Dictum: "If a situation is defined as real, it is real in its consequences."

Deviance: The recognized violation of social norms. For primary deviance and secondary deviance, see
FERGUSON, pages 241ff.

Doing gender A term used by Candace West and Don Zimmerman (in an article by this name in Gender and
Society, Vol 1, No.2, June 1987 pp. 125-151). As they state, this is an "understanding of gender as a routine
accomplishment embedded in everyday interaction. . . .Doing gender means creating differences between girls and
boys and women and men, differences that are not natural, essential or biological. Once the differences have been
constructed, they are used to reinforce the "essentialness" of gender." Since doing gender "renders social
arrangements based on sex category accountable as normal and natural, . . institutional arrangements of a society can
be seen as . .merely an accommodation to the natural order. Thus, if in doing gender, men are also doing
dominance and women are doing deference. . the resultant social order is a powerful reinforcer and legitimator of
hierarchical arrangements." This approach to understanding gender socialization is also referred to as the social
construction of gender.

Double Consciousness. W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American sociologist, describes double consciousness in
his classic book Souls of Black Folk. He says: “...the Negro is....born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in
this American World,--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through
the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness, this sense of always looking
at one‟s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one‟s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused
contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled
strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder” (Du
Bois, Souls of Black Folk, 1903, p. 2).

Empirical Questions: Questions that are answered through experience and observation, rather than systematic
logic. You have to “be there to see there.”
Elective Affinity: A term coined by Max Weber that suggests that rather than one thing causing another, that some
things may have an “affinity” for one another. In Weber‟s analysis, Protestant values of hard work and delayed
gratification (denying oneself in this life for reward in the next) was very useful in providing motivation for the
demands of capitalist expansion (where saving and reinvesting money--denying oneself the immediate fruit of ones
labor), could make the investment “grow.” For Michael Messner, (see Ferguson anthology 4th edition) organized
sports and masculinity share this affinity. He claims that the structure of organized sports helps to create what we
come to know as “masculinity.”

Ethical issues in sociological research: Both professional organizations and institutional review boards have
established criteria for research studies to protect those who participate. These include assuring: voluntary
participation, no harm to participants, and providing for anonymity or confidentiality in responses. Researchers
must also weigh the benefits of deceiving participants (in studies where they might change their behavior if they
know what is being tested) against the morality of deceiving people in any situation.

Ethnocentrism: The evaluation of other cultures, taking one's own culture as the norm.
Three solutions to the problem of ethnocentrism: a) The “Human Family”--the claim that variations among
human groups are superficial and that in crucial aspects of human life, all humans are the same; b) Cultural
Relativism: The belief that the values and concepts of a culture should be evaluated within the framework of that
culture. Denies that universal concepts and values are possible; c) the Paradoxical solution--Transcending
cultural judgment: Both stances--the human family and cultural relativism--can be held simultaneously. They
both present important but partial perspectives. We all are members of the human family, but we are at the same
time very different. In social research, this emphasizes the need to make ethical judgments with hesitancy,
recognizing that we are making judgments from our own understanding of another culture, group or situation.

Ethnographic Research: An approach to research in which the researcher spends significant time with the people
whose lives she/he wishes to understand. The researcher is primarily interested in the meanings people give to their
lives, how they understand their worlds and interactions, and how things are accomplished within their social
settings. To see how one researcher describes “doing” ethnographic research, explore Elaine Bell Kaplan‟s article:
“Not our Kind of Girl,” in FERGUSON, pp. 57 -65.

False Parallels of Inequality: The concept of “reverse discrimination” suggests a parallel experience of racism by
whites who feel victimized by affirmative action policies or sexism by men who feel victimized when discouraged
from pursuing careers in female dominated fields. Schwalbe argues (Chapter 11, p. 212ff)that such charges of
parallel discrimination are false because they fail to take history, context, and differences in structural power into

Families: Other family structures, some very old and some quite new, include polygamous family forms, “blended”
family forms (families formed as a result of divorce/remarriage), single parent families, and “domestic partnerships”
(composed of cohabiting heterosexual couples or gay/lesbian couples, with or without children). Some sociologists
suggest that we speak of “families” rather than “The Family” which is often defined only in terms of heterosexual
marriage and blood ties.

Family Values: A term with very little common meaning, often used by conservative social movement activists to
mean the practices associated with nuclear family forms. Certainly every family has values, but whether these are
“good” values, “appropriate” values, or “necessary” values is the subject of much debate.

Family: “a group of people related by kinship or similar close ties in which the adults assume responsibility for care
and upbringing of their natural or adopted children.” (Harper Collins Dictionary, p. 166). Historically, we see a
great deal of variation in family forms. Sociologists most often have distinguished between the concepts of
“extended family” (more than two generations living in close proximity) and “nuclear family” (parents and
dependent children).

Formal organization: : a group that has an explicit, often written set of norms, statuses, and roles that specify each
member‟s relationships to the others and the conditions under which those relationships hold. This is often a large,
secondary group whose members interact for the purpose of achieving their common goals as efficiently and
effectively as possible. Sociologist Amitai Etzioni (1975) classifies formal organizations according to why people
participate in them. These include:
 l) coercive organizations (such as total institutions like prisons or mental hospitals--people don't want to be there, so
they must be controlled);
2) utilitarian organizations (mostly voluntary, but may be experienced as necessary. People join these because they
are means to an end--such as going to college in order to have a career or following various rules at work in order to
keep your job);
3) voluntary organizations--the multiple groups people join without expectation of material reward--civic groups,
athletic associations, PTA, Greenpeace, Young Republicans.

Functionalist Theories: Sometimes called "Structural-Functionalism," these theories explain social institutions
primarily in terms of the "functions" they perform. Societies are viewed as made up of interdependent parts that
operate together to meet different social needs. Functionalism tends to neglect the independence of social actors
and, with its emphasis on the social integration and social order, has difficulty accounting for social conflict and
social change. Durkheim is frequently associated with this type of theory.

Gay and Lesbian Families: Those who oppose homosexuality reject this concept completely as an appropriate
description of the personal relationships and living arrangements of gay and lesbian persons. However, the fact of
these families‟ existence cannot be disputed--especially since they define themselves as family. As Judy Stacey
argues, “gay and lesbian families are here.”

Gemeinschaft: a term used by sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936) to refer to the close, personal
relationships of small groups and communities.

Gender: A socially constructed category into which specific humans are placed based on perceived anatomical
difference. Gender is a social creation rather than a biological given. Rather than being born as girls or boys, or as
feminine or masculine, human are taught what it means to be girls or boys or to act feminine or masculine. In
sociologist Erving Goffman's terms, we "perform" gender --we act out (or resist acting out) the meanings of
"boyness" or "girlness” available to us through our culture. We then become emotionally attached to that meaning--
that particular way of appearing--and respond to others' regard for our performance--becoming a boy or girl in the
process. (See “Doing Gender” above). Saying that gender is socially constructed does not deny all biological
differences between women and men, although intersexed persons provide an exception to this general rule.
Rather, the claim is that the meanings of these differences, and the social statuses determined because of the
differences, emerge from social processes--not biological ones.

Gender-Bending. “External blending of masculine and feminine gender stereotypes. . .Using their bodies and
outward appearance, gender benders give new meaning to the concept and representation of sexual difference.”
Taken from Anneke Smelik‟s online article entitled “The Carousel of Genders.”

Generalized Other: a person‟s internalized conception of the expectations and attitudes held by people “in
general.” These are so much a part of us that we don‟t even realize we are following “rules.” They just seem
normal, natural, or obvious to us--but not always to people from other cultures or societies.

Gesellschaft: a term used by Tonnies to refer to the well-organized but impersonal relationships among members
of modern societies.

Group behavior, factors influencing: The most commonly studied by sociologists and social psychologists
include group size, group leadership, and group decision-making.

Group leadership: A group process in which an individual, in a given situation, "is able to direct and control group
interaction more influentially than any other group member" (Palazzolo: 1981:213).

Groupthink: a process of conformity in which opinions contrary to those held in common and expressed by group
members are ignored or quickly dismissed. Alternative views and doubts get suppressed. Examples include the Bay
of Pigs invasion of Cuba, Watergate, and the Challenger disaster (Morton Thiokol's infamous "O" ring debacle).
Hegemonic masculinity: refers to dominant ideas--as reinforced in political and economic arrangements,
individual consciousness, and institutionalized gender relationships, regarding what a real (read "normal") man/male
is supposed to be like and how such a person is supposed to behave--as opposed to those who do not exhibit the
behaviors and attitudes thought to be normal for males.

Hegemony: In general, this term refers to the power exercised by one social group over another. The Italian
political philosopher Antonio Gramsci extended this concept to argue that "the domination of ideas in the major
institutions of capitalist society--the Catholic Church, the legal system, the education system, the mass
communications media, etc.--promoted acceptance of ideas and beliefs that benefited the ruling class." (Harper
Colllins Dictionary). The particular interests of one social group were assumed by the general population to be
"natural" or "common sense" or "how relationships should be". Social change would only come about, claimed
Gramsci, with the development of a new "hegemony" which would serve the interests of those who claim the right
to manage themselves.

Ideal types. A concept used by Max Weber to describe the social patterns he studied. These are abstract and
“pure” descriptions of social patterns. They help us think about patterns, but no situation or organization may exhibit
all the characteristics of the pure type. (See Legitimate Domination for an example from Weber‟s work)

Identity Identities can be seen as cultural or subcultural labels for defining persons in terms of social categories
such as race, gender, class, age, education, occupation, religion, etc. Meanings of identity are a product of our
interactions with our historical time. Our choices of specific identities are limited both by what our society makes
available as potential identities and by our different life chances. When we attempt to define ourselves--to claim our
identities--or when we respond to or resist the definitions of others, we are engaged in a process of interaction with
specific others in specific contexts. Identity, then is an interactional manifestation of the self. According to
sociologist Sheldon Stryker, “Identities are 'parts' of the self, internalized positional designations. They exist insofar
as the person is a participant in structured role relationships. . .One may have a long list of identities, limited only by
the number of structured role relationships one is involved in.”

Identity alternation is a process considered normal within our social group (such as from high school student to
college student, from single to partnered, from non-parent to parent).

Identity conversion is a more extreme process, and refers to transformations of identity which require that we re-
negotiate a former identity. Previous ways of being are often considered incompatible or contradictory (such as an
atheist becoming a born-again Christian, a soldier becoming a pacifist, a person who had considered him/herself
heterosexual later coming to understand themselves as gay or lesbian.).

Ideology: Any system of ideas underlying and informing social and political action. More particularly, any system
of ideas that justifies or legitimates the subordination of one group by another. Karl Marx defined ideology as the
presentation of the world form the point of view of a ruling class. This picture was necessarily distorted because the
interests of the ruling class do not represent the interests of humanity in general. More recently the term has been
used to describe other doctrines that justify subordination of one group to another, e.g. “gender ideology,” “racial
ideology” or “generational ideology.” This notion of ideology is akin to Gramsci‟s notion of “hegemony.”

Idioculture: A small group of interacting members that has its own “lore” or culture--a system of knowledge,
beliefs, behavior and customs shared by the members to which they can refer and that serve as the basis of further
interaction. (including nicknames, jokes, insults, rules of conduct, clothing styles, songs, stories, gestures and
recurrent fantasies). Gary Alan Fine, “Culture creation and diffusion among pre-adolescents,” in Inside Social Life
by Spencer E. Cahill.

Impression Management: A term coined by Erving Goffman in his book “The Presentation of Self.” In
describing everyday social action as a “performance,” Goffman discusses how people (actors) both play parts and
stage-manage their actions in ways that seek to control the impressions they convey to other people. As Anne
Velliquette shows in her article “The New Tattoo Subculture,” tattoo artists do this in several ways (see collective
legitimization below). In addition, these artists operate in what Goffman calls the “front stage” when serving
customers --putting on their best performance, and in the “back stage” when out of the customer‟s sight--when they
can stop trying to impress. Sometimes, tattooists engage in “team performances” in which each one supports the
impression management efforts of the other when in the presence of customers.

Index: In books, an index is the section at the end that directs the reader to the page where specific ideas within the
text will be found. In social life, indexes are signs or symbols that direct the observer to social meaning beyond the
sign itself. Schwalbe describes how an unpaved road in an area where many poor people live might serve as an
“index” of the poverty of the people who live near this road, or as an index of the way the government works. He
adds “ We learn to read cars, clothes and houses as indexes of a person‟s wealth. We learn to read behavior as an
index of character” (p. 41). See pp. 41 ff of Schwalbe for discussion of the power of indexes for interpreting social

Informal group: a group whose norms and statuses are generally agreed upon but are not set down in writing.

Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege/ Invisible Resources...See MacIntosh,
( For Schwalbe‟s idea of Invisible Resource,
see Schwalbe, chapter 11, pp. 209ff.

Labeling Theory: The “labeling” approach contend that people attach various labels to certain behaviors,
individuals and groups that become part of their social identity and shape other people‟s attitudes towards them.
Labeling theories view deviance and conformity primarily as labels assigned to certain people and certain acts. As
Rosenhan describes this (Ferguson article #19) once attached to a person, these labels can become very “sticky”—
the person appears to BE the label, and little sometimes little can be done to change that identification.

Leadership styles: Sociologists describe three different styles of leadership: authoritarian (in which the leader
gives orders and directs activities with little input); democratic (in which leaders involve others in decision-
making); and laissez faire, in which leaders take a "hands off" approach.

Legitimate domination: Max Weber classified the various reasons people choose to treat dominating authority as
legitimate into three ideal types (See Ideal Type, above). These three types included: traditional authority (as in
rule by kings, passed on to progeny); charismatic authority (as in individuals able to inspire people to follow them
because of who they are. Charismatic leaders can change the world for good or ill. Examples include Jesus Christ,
Gandhi, and Hitler). The third type is legal/rational authority (what we are familiar with in representative
democracies and bureaucracies). In these cases, people obey “because it is the law or rule determined by those who
were elected or appointed to carry out the work of the group.

Life chances: probabilities of benefiting or suffering from the opportunities or disadvantages a society offers (
material rewards, social and cultural opportunities) to persons in different social categories.

Looking Glass Self: Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929) argued that humans are created through a process of
imagining how they appear to other humans and through the emotions they feel in this process of imagination.
Describing this as a mental process with a powerful emotional component, Cooley said that we first imagine how we
appear to others, then interpret others‟ reactions, and then respond with a sense of pride or shame that greatly
influences our future actions and sense of “self.” Emphasizing that we do not have the same response to every
person‟s reactions, Cooley added: “The weight of that other in whose mind we see ourselves makes all the
difference with our feeling.”

Manifest and Latent Consequences: A concept developed by sociologist Robert K. Merton (1957). Writing about
the “unanticipated consequences of purposive social action,” Merton pointed out that “manifest” consequences are
those we intend and recognize. The “latent” consequences are unintended or unrecognized--they show up later. For
example, Lenore Weitzman‟s study of divorce provided evidence that the manifest consequence of “no-fault divorce
laws” (treating women and men equally before the law without requiring one partner to be “at fault”) had latent, or
unintended consequences. Except for very poor couples, the consequence of divorce showed a pattern of greatly
lowering women‟s economic status and significantly raising men‟s. Weitzman called this pattern "the feminization
of poverty."
Mass Media: Print and electronic media that have a very broad communicative capacity--sometimes extending to
entire societies. According to Martin Marger (in FERGUSON, edition four, p. 452ff), they are “agents of
socialization, instructing people in the norms and values of their society and generally transmitting the society‟s
culture. They are sources of information, supplying citizens with knowledge about their society...They function as
propaganda mechanisms through which powerful units of the government and economy seek to persuade...Finally
they serve as agents of legitmacy, generating mass belief in (and acceptance of) dominant political and economic

Master Status: Although individuals may have a variety of statuses, sometimes one of these statuses becomes
more important than any other in influencing our life chances or social interactions. For example, an African
American man may be a respected professor, father, or church leader, but find that his status as a black man takes
preference over all these other statuses. Similarly, a woman may be a brilliant scientist, but find that when she deals
with men they tend to focus on her status as a woman. In this case, there is a “master label” given to persons that
strongly affects and in fact may override any other individual attributes.

Media Effects: There have been many debates about the “effects” of mass media on those exposed to them. We do
know that consumers of media do not always respond to media in the way the producers hope, but there seems to be
increasing evidence, as Marger indicates (FERGUSON, edition four, p. 459) that “ media are becoming the chief
means through which people construct their versions of social reality.”

Moral Career: A concept developed by Erving Goffman to describe the process by which a person learns how to
become "a mental patient." Goffman's research revealed a "pre-patient phase" (in which the person denied the label
"mental patient," and insisted on other reasons for being present in the hospital). This was followed by the "in-
patient phase" (in which the person learned how to become a successful "mental patient.” Finally, there was the
"out-patient phase," in which the person accepted the label of "competent" or "in remission" upon their discharge
from the facility.

Norms: Rules of conduct that specify appropriate behavior in a given social situation. A norm either requires a
certain kind of behavior or forbids it. All social groups follow definite norms, and these are always backed by
sanctions of one kind or another--from glancing disapproval to extremes of punishment.

Ordinary Insanity: Actions that are accepted as “ordinary” by many people, but which have devastating
consequences (e.g. the willingness of ordinary Germans to support the German state even as millions of Jews were
being murdered). This idea oints to the importance of recognizing how context can affect people‟s judgment of
acceptable action (see Schwalbe, Ch.6).

Oppressive Systems: Ways of systematically organizing the social order that keep some people in subordinate
positions, or deny them the same rights or opportunities as others simply because of their membership in certain
categories that are defined as consequential in the culture. Examples are Racism, Sexism, Classism, Heterosexism,
Ageism, Ableism.

Paradox of society: When we study human societies we find a persistent paradox: We are created by the social
orders of which we are a part, and at the same time we are the creators of the social orders of which we are a part..
Another way to put this would be: We humans create the social world in which we live, but at the same time the
structures of this social world profoundly shape who we can become.

Paths of Least Resistance: following those “paths” of behavior that appear to “cause” the least discomfort to you
and members of the social setting you are in. For example, going along with racist or sexist jokes—or not objecting
to them—because you would be seen as uptight, or throwing a wet blanket” on the party. Another example would
be not standing up when you see something is unjust because others would think you are a “troublemaker.” The
opposite would be to try some “paths of MORE resistance.” If you ever wondered whether you could have any
effect on a situation, just try speaking up when you are offended or see an injustice. The resistance back at you will
be strong.
Patriarchy: A system of stratification found in many cultures which is characterized by the primacy and
domination of men over women within the family and other social institutions.

Perspective: A conceptual framework involving interrelated sets of words (that represent ideas or concepts). These
words lead us to make assumptions and value judgments about what we are seeing (and not seeing). Since there is
no way to see all aspects of a situation simultaneously, we pull out certain things and totally ignore others.
Perspectives sensitize us to parts of physical reality, desensitize us to other parts, and help us make sense of the
physical reality to which they sensitized us.

Postmodern Families: As a smaller percentage of families exist in the “nuclear” form, and more and more
permutations of family relationships occur, we can speak of “postmodern families.” The “postmodern” idea
emphasizes change and multiplicity--and celebrates rather than fears these changes.

Power: A primary concept in sociological analysis, power is potentially an aspect of all relationships, and
according to Giddens (1985) might best be seen as involving two major types--control over material resources and
authoritative power (both legitimate and otherwise). According to the Harper Collins Dictionary of Sociology
(1991: 378), power is
 1. “the „transformational capacity possessed by human beings,‟ that is „the capacity to intervene in a given set of
events so as in some way to alter them .‟ (Giddens, 1985).
2. “The probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite
resistance” (Weber 1922).
3. The reproductive or transformational capacity possessed by social structures, which may be seen as existing
     independently of the wills of individual actors, for example, the power or market forces under capitalism.

Power Elites: A term made popular by C. Wright Mills (See article 35 in Ferguson), this refers to the inner circle
of power-holders in American society. According to Mills, this group is made up of three loosely interconnected
groups that came to occupy central leadership positions--heads of industry, military leaders, and leading politicians.
Rather than calling them a “ruling class,” Mills saw that the most powerful people did not always have only
economic power but tended to share similar cultural and often social origins.

Protestant ethic: A term used by sociologist Max Weber to describe a code of conduct based on the methodical
life planning, self control, and self denial that characterized the puritan version of Protestantism. Weber claimed
that there was an “elective affinity” between this ethic and the rise of capitalism. To become a good capitalist, you
had to exhibit the same sort of personal self control (e.g. the willingness to deny yourself today for more profit
tomorrow) that characterized the good Protestant.

Racism: A set of beliefs, ideologies and social processes that discriminate against others on the basis of their
supposed membership in a so-called racial group. The system of categorization that attributes negatively evaluated
characteristics to certain persons that becomes the basis for establishing criteria for excluding groups of people in
the process of allocating resources and services. (paraphrased from Harper Collins Dictionary, p. 404).

Racism, Institutional: (Taken from the website of Mark Edwards, Soc 426, Social Inequality):
“This is the "built-in" ways that policies, procedures, and normal rules of conduct lead to disproportionate negative
impact on a particular racial group. These effects often operate independently of the presence or absence of
prejudice among influential individuals. For example, if a policy is implemented that artificially raises educational
requirements for service occupations in a company, this is likely to disproportionately impact minority employees or
potential employees. However, those who institute the policy may not have "prejudice" in mind, but simply raising
the educational level of their employees. It then remains to be seen just how critical it really is to raise such
educational levels for many jobs, most of which can be and have been done quite adequately by people with lower
levels of education”
Reference groups. social units with which we identify and which we use to make comparisons in guiding our
attitudes, feelings and actions. Significant others to whom we "refer" as we attempt to perform the expected
behaviors and obligations of particular identities . Groups whose judgments about how we act out our sense of self
"matter" to us.

Reification: “The tendency to see the humanly-made world as having a will and force of its own, apart from human
beings. For example, someone might say, “Computer technology is the major force behind changes in our economy
today.” In this statement, computer technology is reified because it is spoken of as having a will of its own,
independent of human beings. It is technology that appears to make things happen.” (SCHWALBE, p. 20ff...see for
more examples).

Religion: According to Emile Durkheim, religion is “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred
things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden--beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral
community called a Church all those who adhere to them.” (1915: 62). A workable definition from this would be:
Religion consists of the beliefs, practices (rituals), the sacred and the community or social organization of people
who are drawn together by a religious tradition. Every religion has a system of beliefs, and what should be
considered sacred. Beliefs are shared in a community, and fundamental beliefs are recalled and reinforced in ritual

Religion and Science: Sociologists study religion not to prove or disprove any belief system or faith perspective
but to understand why and how people act together as a result of a shared belief system. Still, sociology, like other
systems of scientific thought that arose during the European Enlightenment, has often had a conflictual relationship
with the religious worldview. We might say most basically that science accepts as true what can be empirically
proven and religion relies on the “power of things unseen.” Certainly, people with a strong religious belief can be
good sociologists. However, since sociology is a “critical science,” every system of belief is open to analysis and
questioning. If a religious tradition permits no questioning of its beliefs or norms for behavior, sociologically
mindful persons might not find that a very comfortable home.

Representation: Most simply, representation is using language to say something meaningful about, or to
represent, the world meaningfully to other people. Representation connects meaning and language to culture.
Language is a “system of representation.” It provides users with agreed upon signs and symbols to describe and
evaluate experiences and objects. There are three approaches to explaining how the representation of meaning
through language works. The reflective approach assumes that meaning lies in the object, person, idea, or event in
the real world, and language functions like a mirror. A second approach, the intentional approach, argues the
opposite. Here the speaker, the author, imposes his or her unique meaning on the world through language. Words
mean what the author intends they should mean. A third approach emphasizes the public, social character of
language. Called the constructionist approach, it acknowledges that neither things in themselves nor the
individual users of language determine the meaning in language. Things don‟t mean: we construct meaning,
using representational systems--concepts and signs. This approach urges us not to confuse the material world,
where things and people exist, with the symbolic practices and processes through which representation, meaning and
language operate. (Taken from The Work of Representation, by Stuart Hall).

Re-socialization: processes of change from one identity to another accomplished through continuing social

Role Taking: refers to the way we try to look at social situations from the standpoint of another person from whom
we seek a response.

Role: The expected behavior of a person occupying a particular social location. As Goffman described so well, the
theatre offers a clear example of roles--referring to the parts actors play in the production. Status refers to what a
person is, whereas the idea of role refers to the behavior expected of people in a certain status. In every society,
human beings play a number of different social roles.
Secularization Thesis: This theory stated that as nations became more industrialized, that the importance of
religion would decline--that the “secular” would eventually be the primary orientation of people in the industrial
world. Recent growth in conservative religious movements around the globe, and particularly the strong growth of
religious membership in highly industrialized country like the U.S., now calls this theory into question. Now
scholars of religion seek to determine why religious membership and political involvement is growing in some areas
and not in others.

Sex Status: A form of social status. At birth a child will be classed as "male" or "female" and then assigned the sex
status of "boy" or "girl." Thus from the start, this declaration of its sex provides a child with a culturally specific set
of expectations, rights and duties appropriate for "doing gender.”

Social Class: “Categories of people who share common economic interests in a stratification system (Ferguson,
p.256).. Sociologists utilize various indicators to measure social class. For example, socioeconomic status (SES) is
calculated using income, educational attainment and occupational status. Sociologists also employ subjective
indicators of social class, such as attitudes and values, class identification, and consumption patterns.
           Upper Class: Involving less than 5% of the population, the upper class includes a set of interrelated social
institutions that provide continuity of position for those who have gained this position through inheritance or
successful movement from lower social levels. This involves socializing its members from infancy to old age in
ways that create a relatively unchanging style of life, and providing mechanisms for integrating new adult members
who come to this position. (adapted from Domhoff, in Ferguson, p. 266ff). May be divided into upper-upper class
(those from the old wealthy families, who are listed in the social register and have the most prestige) and lower
upper class (those who have acquired enormous wealth more recently such as Bill Gates).
           Middle Class: Distinguished from upper class by lesser wealth and power than upper class. Tend to be
differentiated by occupational prestige, income and education. Upper-middle tends to be mostly professional and
business people with high income and education, such as doctors, lawyers and corporate executives. Lower middle
is far larger and more diverse occupationally--some white collar mid to lower level executives, small business
owners, salespersons, managers, teachers and secretaries.
           Working Class: Primarily those with little education and whose jobs are manual labor with little prestige.
Some, such as skilled construction workers, carpenters, plumbers, may earn more than those in the lower middle
class. But their jobs are more physically demanding and often dangerous. Others are unskilled, such as migrant
workers, many janitors, dishwashers, and often child care workers, waitresses, and housecleaners. Because these are
generally underpaid, they are often called the working poor.
           Lower Class: Often characterized by joblessness and poverty. Includes chronically unemployed, welfare
recipients and poor elderly. With current downsizing, people who used to be skilled workers in mechanized industry
now may only be able to find work as unskilled workers in electronic industry on a temporary basis. Many members
of the lower class are now stigmatized as “underclass” --the group of families and individuals mostly in the inner
city who are outside the mainstream of the American occupational system and who consequently represent the very
bottom of the economic hierarchy. This “underclass” terms tends to equate poverty with images of violent
criminals, drug abusers, welfare mothers who keep having babies, or able bodied men who are too lazy to work.
(paraphrased from Sociology, by Alex Thio, 2005).

Social Constructionist Theories: These theories emphasize the importance of human action and interaction in
constituting and maintaining social structures and institutions. Drawing on the work of Max Weber, Georg Simmel,
and George Herbert Mead these theories stress the importance of "meaning" and symbolic interaction. The social
constructionist perspective takes as an important premise that reality as we can know it is a product of the ongoing
process of human interaction. We can have no experience of reality "in the raw" but only through meanings
developed with other humans. These meanings, once widely accepted, may appear natural, eternal, or unassailable.
But humans can and do develop new meanings. And so societies, and humans, change. Social constructionist
theories have been criticized for having a narrow scope (given their focus on small group interaction) and for a
perceived tendency to underestimate the constraining power of social structures to limit human choice and action.

Social Construction of Gender: See “Doing Gender” above.

Social Group: A set of two or more individuals who share a sense of common identity and belonging and who
interact on a regular basis. Group members are recruited according to specific criteria of membership and are bound
together by a set of membership rights and mutual obligation. Types of groups include: dyads (two members),
small informal groups, formal organizations (such as bureaucracies), communities, societies.

Social loafing: As groups grow in size, people often reduce their efforts--because they think their efforts cannot be
monitored or because they expect that others will loaf and they do not want to carry more than their share of the

Social Location: Where we are located within social structures (that is, within persistent social arrangements and
patterns of behavior.) Specifically, where we are placed in history, geography, and with regard to those social
categories considered important in our culture (especially, but not exclusively, such categories as race, gender, and
social class).

Social Movements: According to Richard Flacks, “social movements arise when normal politics fail. The great
American movements of labor, women, and blacks expressed the exclusion of their constituencies from the central
political processes. Workers had no rights in their workplace to defend their life interests; at the same time they
could not find adequate political representation. Women and blacks could not vote at all, nor did they have
institutional power to protect themselves” (from “Think Globally, Act Politically” in FERGUSON, Second edition,
p. 640). During the past quarter century, conservative activists have also determined that normal politics have failed
to respond to their vision of life in America. Some have sought to reverse the gains made by earlier social activists
(such as affirmative action and abortion). Religious conservatives have been especially active in promoting their
agenda for changes in national, state and local laws regarding sexual identity, family formation, and reproductive

Social Research: The approach to the study of social life that includes a variety of strategies. Major strategies
include the sample survey, participant/observation studies ( including ethnography) and historical/comparative

Social Role: Social position or social status. In symbolic interactionist theory, beyond the concept of a position or
status, the notion of "taking the role of the other" is central to analyze social identities and social action. In this
view, a role is a perspective within a defined situation. The situation is a set
of perspectives linked together--with makes the situation "come off" or "make sense."

Social Status: Social status refers to a relatively stable position a person may find themselves in because of
placement in certain social categories. This can mean simply the position a person has within a social system, such
as child or parent. Status can also be used to mean “honor” or “prestige”, when social status indicates where people
are on the hierarchy of publicly recognized social worth. Status is associated with specific expectations, rights and

Social Structure(s): Persistent social arrangements and patterns of behavior, ways of ordering social interactions,
assumed and expected approaches to doing things together.

Socialization: the process of social interaction through which humans acquire specific social identities and social
statuses or roles as well as the symbolic elements of the culture into which they are born. More generally, the
process of socialization is an interactional process through which humans--and specific sorts of humans-- are
          Who are the agents of socialization? The major agent of socialization is the primary group, consisting of
two or more people who have a direct, intimate, cohesive relationship. We emotionally invest ourselves in and
commit ourselves to a primary group, and we view its members-family and friends--as important in terms of our
interpretations of self. Later, secondary groups become more prominent as socializing agents. A secondary group
consists of two or more people who are involved in an impersonal relationship and have come together for a
specific, practical purpose. In a secondary group, we cooperate with other people in order to achieve some goal.
Secondary groups might include school, work, and some peer groups. There are also other agents of socialization,
like the mass media, that provide various forms of communication and reach a large audience without any personal
contact between the sender and the receivers. What is important to realize is that all agents of socialization impart
particular values, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and norms to their members.
          How do the agents of socialization carry out this process? What is the means of socialization? The main
means for early and some forms of later socialization is intensive face-to-face interaction. As illustrated by the
studies of institutionalized children and cases of extreme isolation, without intensive face to face interaction--
without sound, gestures, reward, or punishment, no human would emerge. Referring back to the study of children
reared in orphanages, the researchers found that the primary difference between these children and those raised by
their mothers was the quality and intensity of face-to-face interaction. Human socialization is different from that of
other species because it involves the acquisition of language and self-reflexivity. It requires the mastery of a
complex system of symbols that permit us to have internal conversations. As Mead would argue, it is through these
internal conversations with ourselves, and the developmental process of "taking the role of the other" that we
acquire not only human nature but a specific kind of human nature or human identity. Humans then, are capable of
controlling their behavior (in contrast to assumptions about biologically determined behavior). This is due in part to
their responsiveness to symbolic social control.

Society: a relatively independent, self-sufficient group of people who occupy the same territory and participate in a
common culture.

Sociological Imagination: A quality of mind that “enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations
between the two within society.” (Mills, in FERGUSON, p.3). An approach to understanding social life that enables
us to move beyond a focus on personal troubles to a comprehension of public issues --and the relationship
between the two (p. 5).

Sociological Mindfulness: See SCHWALBE, chapter one, p. 3. Of course, this is the focus of the entire book!

Sociology is the study of social relationships, social institutions, and social conflict. It is the study of social life and
the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociology is a critical perspective. As a study of human
social life it demands a conscious effort to question the obvious, to remove ourselves from familiar experiences and
to examine them as if for the first time. It also seeks to discover patterns in behavior that at first glance appear
random or strange. As one sociologist put it: the task of sociology is to make the familiar strange and to make the
strange familiar. Sociologists may approach the study of social life with scientific rigor--testing theories and
hypotheses with statistical measures. They may also use methods more associated with anthropology-- such as
“ethnography” (the careful observation of large and small group life). Further, they may also interpret the social
world with the tools of historical and literary analysis. Although methods vary tremendously, all sociologists focus
on the social aspects of human experience, attempting to understand the mutual effects of social structure and
individual action.

Sports as a “gendered institution” According to Michael Messner in “Boyhood and Organized Sports”
(FERGUSON,edition 4, p.132ff), sports is “an institution constructed by gender relations. As such its structure and
values (rules, formal organization, sex composition, etc.) reflect dominant conceptions of masculinity and
femininity. Organized sports is also a “gendering institution”--an institution that helps to construct the current
“gender order”. Part of this construction of gender is accomplished through the “masculinizing” of male bodies
and minds.

Stages in the Development of the Self: George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) claimed that the human self is a unique
product of continual conversations that we have with ourselves, made possible by our capacity for symbolic
communication or language. In these conversations, we are able to “take the role of the other”--to anticipate what
others expect of us and shape our behavior accordingly. This ability involves several distinct stages and an ever-
more complex understanding of symbolic interaction--the Preparatory Stage (or imitative stage); the Play Stage
(where children learn to take on particular roles in play); the Game Stage (in which children come to see roles in
relation to each other). Here, claims Mead, we learn to “take the role of the generalized other.” Here we
“generalize” from a particular expectation (Mother says I shouldn‟t pick my nose), to a generalized expectation (I
shouldn‟t pick my nose in public). Here the rules of our society and the perspectives of our culture become
internalized. What was once outside the individual comes to be inside.

Stigmatized identities: People may have a stigma attached to their identity any time they do not fulfill the usual
and accustomed norm for people in their cultural group. These can be physical stigmas, stigmas of
race/ethnicity/gender/sexuality, or stigmas of character (often related to behavior considered criminal or at least
unacceptable). With these stigmas, the individual‟s identity is seen to be a “spoiled identity” (a term from Erving
Goffman used in his classic book: Stigma). “Normal relationships” are difficult to sustain, and life chances are

Stratification: " The hierarchically organized structures of social inequality (ranks, status groups, etc.) that exist in
any society (such as class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, occupation). As in geology, the term refers to a
layered structuring or strata, but in sociology the layers consist of social groups and the emphasis is on the ways in
which inequalities between groups are structured and persist over time." (Adapted from Harper Collins Dictionary,
p. 462)

Subculture: "Any system of beliefs values and norms shared and actively participated in by an appreciable
minority of people within a particular culture. . . .(subcultures) serve to provide a means of establishing both
individual and group identity, and they are discernible largely through stylistic expression, particularly language,
demeanor, music, dress and dance." (Harper Collins, p. 503)

Theoretical Paradigms: Babbie describes these as “overarching models or paradigms of social life” (Babbie in
Ferguson (electronic reserves, p. 46). The idea here is that within sociology, as within other disciplines of study,
some perspectives claim to explain more about the way the world works than others do. A paradigm is just another
word for “model,” or “framework.” Theoretical paradigms are like perspectives in that they provide a lens on social
life. They are different, as Babbie is using the term, in that there are relatively few that have been widely accepted
in sociology. You will learn more about these later in the course, but Babbie identifies these as “the interactionist
paradigm” (or the social constructionist approach as I often describe it); the social systems or functionalist
paradigm, and the conflict paradigm. Refer back to Babbie, (FERGUSON pp 46-47, and to later definitions for
more information on these theories.

Theories of Gender Development: Sociological theories of gender development stress the importance of
socialization and the constructed nature of gender. Other theories emphasize the role of biology (a strong version
that sees gender determined by biology and a more broadly held version that emphasizes the interplay of biology
and social influences. Several different psychological theories also weigh in on the subject: Identification theory
based in psychoanalysis claims that the development of masculine or feminine identity results from different kinds
of relationships that usually exist between mothers and children of both sexes. Social learning theory claims that
individuals learn to be masculine and feminine through communication and observation. Behaviors that are
reinforced will be repeated while those that are discouraged will more likely be less likely to reoccur. Cognitive
development theories make a stronger claim for the role of children in the development of gender identity.
Communication remains the key, but children go through several stages in developing their gender identity.

Time Bind: A term used by Arlie Hochschild to describe the increasing pressures resulting from conflicting role
demands of work life and family life. In her book of the same name, she describes a contemporary tendency for
many people to take refuge in their work life--which may be less stressful than life at home.

Total Institutions: places of residence where people are isolated from the rest of society for an appreciable period
of time and where their behavior is tightly regimented.

Trends and Tendencies: See Schwalbe, Chapter 7, p. 125ff)“A change that is sustained over time—for example,
the continuing increase in the human population, is a trend. . .Tendencies are patterns of probability. For example,
chances are that people born into working class families will end up in working class jobs themselves. Of course,
this is only a tendency…..Even so, the usual pattern—the strongest tendency—is for people to end up in about the
same social class as their parents” (p. 125).

Variables: Logical groupings of attributes. See Babbie (in FERGUSON, p. 45ff (electronic reserves), and
Schwalbe, Ch. 7, p. 128). According to Babbie, “Sociologists seek to discover order among concepts. The concepts
„male‟ and „female‟ are often referred to as attributes of individuals. The variable „gender‟ is a concept that brings
together those two attributes. The variable „religion; brings order to such attributes as „Protestant,‟ „Catholic,‟
„Jew,‟ and „Hindu‟ “ (p. 45).

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