Polity

Student Resources - Glossary

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Words in blue within entries refer to terms found elsewhere in the glossary

A

absolute poverty
Poverty defined as lacking the minimum requirements necessary to maintain human health. See also relative poverty.
absolute rate of mobility
Total number of movements within a class structure within a given period of time.
achieved status
Status which is achieved through an individual's own efforts. See also ascribed status.
ageing population
A population in which the average age is getting higher, with a greater proportion of the population over retirement age, and a smaller proportion of young people.
ageism
Stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination against individuals or groups on the grounds of their age.
agenda-setting
The power to manage which issues are to be presented for public discussion and debate and which issues are to be kept in the background.
aid
Economic, military, technical and financial assistance given (or loaned) to developing countries.
alienation
The lack of power, control, fulfilment and satisfaction experienced by workers in a capitalist society, where the means of producing goods are privately owned and controlled.
altruism
Behaviour that is motivated by an unselfish concern for the welfare of others.
anomie
A sense of normlessness, confusion and uncertainty over social norms, often found in periods of rapid social change and other disruptions of the routines and traditions of everyday social life.
anti-capitalist movement
A collectivity of a wide range of groups, united in their stand against the social inequality and exploitation fostered by capitalism.
anti-globalization movement
A loose network of groups and organizations globally opposing neo-liberal economic globalization (but using globalized communications).
anti-school subculture
A group organized around a set of values, attitudes and behaviour in opposition to the main aims of a school.
apartheid
A system whereby society is divided on the basis of ethnic grouping – more especially, skin colour. Found in South Africa until the mid-1990s.
arranged marriage
A marriage which is arranged by the parents of the marriage partners, with a view to compatibility of background and status. More a union between two families than between two people, and romantic love between the marriage partners is not necessarily present.
ascribed status
Status which is given to an individual at birth and usually can't be changed. See also achieved status.
authoritarian
A system of rule which emphasizes the authority of a particular person, leading party or the state in general over the people.
authority
Legitimate or accepted power – for example, parents are said to have authority over children and governments over their citizens.

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B

banding
A means of ensuring the pupil intake of schools has a spread of pupils drawn from all ability bands. It is also commonly used as an alternative word for streaming in schools, whereby students are divided into groups of similar ability (bands or streams) in which they stay for all subjects. See also streaming.
beanpole family
A multi-generation extended family, in a pattern which is long and thin, with fewer aunts, uncles and cousins, reflecting fewer children being born in each generation, but people living longer.
beliefs
Ideas about things we hold to be true.
bias
Presenting a subject in a one-sided way, favouring one point of view over others, or ignoring, distorting or misrepresenting issues.
bilateral aid
Aid involving only the donor and the recipient, usually government to government.
biodiversity
Refers to the number and variety of species in ecosystems, threatened by human activity.
bio-piracy
Refers to the appropriation, generally by means of patents, of legal rights over indigenous knowledge – particularly biomedical knowledge – developed by indigenous groups, without permission from and without compensation to the indigenous groups themselves.
birth rate
The number of live births per 1,000 of the population per year.
bisexuality
A sexual orientation or sexual attraction towards people of both sexes.
black economy
Running parallel to the official economy, the black economy is informal and most people in it work for cash-in-hand which thus avoids payment of various taxes. It is illegal.
blogosphere
A collective term to describe all the online diaries or reports known as blogs.
bottom billion
Collier's term for the poorest billion of the world's population; also 'Africa plus'.
bourgeoisie (or capitalists)
The class of owners of the means of production in industrial societies, whose primary purpose is to make profits.
Bretton Woods
The place where an agreement in 1944 set up the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and what became the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
bricolage
The use of readily available ordinary objects to create something new. For example, in the study of youth culture, it refers to the use of everyday items like bin liners, safety pins and toilet chains, and habits like spitting, to create a new distinctive Punk identity.
bridging capital
Membership of groups of possibly diverse individuals who focus on a shared issue, e.g. a local parent–teacher association.
bureaucracy
A term derived from the works of Weber. A system of organization in which there is a hierarchy of officials, each with a different level of authority. All officials must stick to the rules, and detailed records are kept of every action.

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C

capitalism
An economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange of wealth are made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, whose primary aim is to make profits.
capitalists
The social class of owners of the means of production in industrial societies, whose primary purpose is to make profits.
cash crops
Crops that are grown for sale in the market, and especially for export; colonialism imposed cash crop cultivation as the main form of agriculture in many colonies.
caste
A system of closed social hierarchy based on the Hindu belief in reincarnation which determines one's social position during this lifetime.
cereal packet family
The stereotype of the ideal family found in the mass media and advertising. It is generally seen as involving first-time married parents and their own natural children, living together, with the father as the primary breadwinner and the mother as primarily concerned with the home and children.
child labour
Where children, usually under the age of 10, are employed, often for very low wages.
churnalism
A form of journalism in which journalists produce news articles based on pre– packaged material in press releases provided by sources such as government spin doctors, public relations consultants and news agencies, without doing further research or checking facts.
circulation of elites
This describes how social change may occur where there is a single unitary elite holding power, suggesting that the only possibility for change is the replacement of one elite for another. Also, a circulation of elites may be a gradual process whereby younger members gradually replace older members within the existing elite.
citizen journalism
Where members of the public, rather than professional journalists and media companies, collect, report and spread news stories and information.
class conflict
The conflict that arises between different social classes. It is generally used to describe the conflict between the bourgeoisie and proletariat in Marxist views of society. See also Marxism.
class consciousness
An awareness in members of a social class of their real interests. See also false consciousness.
class
For Weber, this relates to an individual's market position, and how scarce and needed their skills are.
classic extended family
A family where several related nuclear families or family members live in the same house, street or area. It may be hori­zontally extended, where it contains aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., or vertically extended, where it contains more than two generations. See also modified extended family.
cleavages
Groups in society that are distinguishable from each other by their different patterns of consumption.
closed belief system
One that cannot be disproved, because it relies on faith or beliefs rather than empirical evidence, and rejects or explains away any evidence that challenges that belief system.
closed system/society
A society in which there is very little social mobility. Usually members of this society are likely to spend their whole lives in the class/group into which they were born. Status is therefore ascribed rather than achieved.
collective conscience
The shared beliefs and values which form moral ties binding communities together, and regulate individual behaviour.
collective intelligence
The way users of new media collaborate and share knowledge, resources and skills to build a shared or group intelligence that is greater than that of any one individual.
colonialism
A system in which European powers had direct political control over most of today's developing countries.
commissioning
In the National Health Service, the process of assessing the health needs of the local population, and organizing the delivery of health services by the NHS or private healthcare companies to meet these needs.
communes
Self-contained and self-supporting communities, where all members of the community share property, childcare, household tasks and living accommodation.
communism
An equal society, without social classes or class conflict, in which the means of production are the common property of all.
compensatory education
Extra educational help for those coming from disadvantaged groups to help them overcome the inequalities they face in the education system and the wider society.
conditionality
The setting of conditions on aid, so that it will be withheld if those conditions are not met.
conjugal roles
The roles played by a male and female partner in marriage or in a cohabiting couple.
conservative force
One that maintains, or seeks to restore, traditional beliefs and customs and maintains the status quo (the way things are currently organized in society). This may sometimes involve supporting social change in order to return to traditional values and ways of life that are at risk of disappearing, or have already disappeared.
constant sum view of power
A situation in which some groups benefit to the detriment of others.
consumption patterns
Ways in which people spend their money. Some sociologists, such as Giddens, suggest these are as important as class in demonstrating identity.
consumption property
Wealth for use by the owner, such as consumer goods like fridges, cars, or a home that you own, which do not produce any income. See also productive property.
corporate crime
Offences committed by large companies, or by individuals on behalf of large companies, which directly profit the company rather than individuals.
counter-school subculture
A group organized around a set of values, attitudes and behaviour in opposition to the main aims of a school.
covert role
Where the researcher in a participant observation study keeps her or his identity as a researcher concealed from the group being studied. See also overt role.
crime
Behaviour which is against the criminal law — law–breaking.
cultural capital
The knowledge, education, language, attitudes and values, and network of social contacts and lifestyle possessed by the upper and upper middle class which give students who possess them an in-built advantage in a middle-class-controlled education system. Associated with the French Marxist Bourdieu (see Marxism). See also habitus.
cultural convergence
The way new media users engage with a range of media content delivered in a variety of ways, and the ways they seek out, share and make connections between this content, and make sense of it.
cultural defence
Where culture, such as religion, acts as a focal point for the defence of community identity which is seen as under threat in some way from an external force.
cultural deprivation
The idea that some young people fail in education because of supposed cultural deficiencies in their home and family background, such as inadequate socialization, failings in pre-school learning, inadequate language skills and inappropriate attitudes and values.
cultural homogenization
The process whereby the separate characteristics of two or more cultures are erased, and become blended into one uniform culture. Often linked to the ideas of globalization and cultural imperialism, with world cultures becoming increasingly the same global culture.
cultural imperialism
The imposition of Western, and especially American, cultural values on non-Western cultures, and the consequent undermining of local cultures and cultural independence. Often linked to cultural homogenization, media imperialism and global culture.
cultural transition
Where groups make the transition to a new culture, for example through migration, with their own culture, as shown through such facets as religion, providing a source of identity and support during the period of transition and adaptation to the new culture.
culture clash
A difference and conflict between the cultural values of the home and those of educational institutions. See also culture.
culture jamming
Subverting the messages transmitted by large corporations about the desirability of their brand.
culture of hybridity
A culture that is a 'mix' of two or more other cultures, creating a new culture (a hybrid).
culture of poverty
A set of beliefs and values thought to exist among the poor which prevents them escaping from poverty.
culture
The language, beliefs, values and norms, customs, roles, knowledge and skills which combine to make up the way of life of any society.
customs
Norms which have existed for a long time.
cycle of deprivation
An explanation of how one aspect of poverty, such as poor housing, can lead to further poverty, such as poor health, build­ing up into a cycle which makes it difficult for the poor to escape from poverty.

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D

death rate (sometimes referred to as the crude death rate)
The number of deaths per 1,000 of the population per year. See also mortality rate.
debt boomerang
George's term to describe the ways in which the debt crisis has negative effects in the developed world.
debt crisis
Caused by the inability (and sometimes refusal) of indebted countries to pay interest on loans or to repay the original loan; debt repayments hold back development by diverting money and resources.
deforestation
The fall in the amount of land covered by forest as a result of human activity.
delinquency
Crime committed by those under age 18, though the term 'delinquency' is often used to describe any anti-social or deviant activity by young people, even if it isn't criminal.
democracy
A system of rule based on the equal treatment of all citizens and offering them all an opportunity to be involved in their own governance.
demographic transition
In demography, the change from high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates.
demography
The study of the characteristics of human populations, such as their size and structure and how these change over time.
dependency culture
A set of values and beliefs, and a way of life, centred on dependence on others. Normally used by New Right writers in the context of those who depend on welfare-state benefits.
dependency ratio
The relationship between the proportion of the population who are working and those who are dependent or not working.
dependency theory
Alternative Marxist-influenced theory to modernization, focused on external factors which impede development, including relationships with developed countries.
dependent age groups
Those under age 17 (age 18 from 2015) in compulsory education, and over retirement age.
dependent population
That section of the population which is not in work and is supported by those who are, such as the under-18s (who are still at school or in training), pensioners, the unemployed and others living on welfare benefits.
deprivation index
A list of items, lifestyle indicators or needs, such as food, health, housing, income, ownership of consumer goods, and access to transport, used to measure the level of deprivation experienced by an individual, group or geographical area.
desacralization
The loss of the capacity to experience a sense of sacredness and mystery in life.
desertification
The spread of deserts, as land on the edges of deserts loses its vegetation and top soil.
deskilling
A situation in which the skills and knowledge previously needed to do a job are no longer required. A good example would be in printing photographs which used to need four specialized workers, but can now be done by a computer operated by a relatively unskilled person.
determinism
The idea that people's behaviour is moulded by their social surroundings, and that they have little free will, control or choice over how they behave.
development state
A state which sees its main purpose as development and leads the country's development programme.
development
The process by which societies change; a controversial term, with different writers having different conceptions of what processes are involved and what the outcome should be.
deviance
Rule-breaking behaviour of some kind, which fails to conform to the norms and expectations of a particular society or social group.
deviancy amplification
The way the media may actually make worse or create the very deviance they condemn by their exaggerated, sensationalized and distorted reporting of events, and their presence at them.
deviant career
What arises when people who have been labelled as deviant find conventional opportunities blocked to them, and so are pushed into committing further deviant acts.
deviant voters
Those who vote for a political party which does not, on the face of it, seem best to reflect their class interest – such as a working-class Conservative voter.
diaspora
The dispersal of an ethnic population from its original homeland, and its spreading out across the world, while retaining cultural and emotional ties to its area or nation of origin.
digital divide
The gap between those people with effective access to the digital and information technology making up the new media and those who lack such access.
digital underclass
A group of people, mainly those from the lowest social classes, the least educated and the unemployed, who are increasingly disadvantaged in comparison to those who have full access to and use of the internet and other digital media.
direct participation
Where individuals vote in general and local elections and may be members of formal political parties, e.g. the Labour Party.
disability
A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
discourses
Frameworks for thinking, bodies of ideas, which exist at particular times and in particular places. Discourses can be used as mechanisms for exerting power over people; they are often backed up by institutions.
disease
A biological or mental condition, which usually involves medically diagnosed symptoms.
diseases of affluence
Diseases arising from lifestyles and social conditions in societies as they get richer.
diseases of poverty
Diseases which primarily arise from poverty and malnutrition.
disembedding
The way social relations are lifted out of local contexts, and are no longer confined by time and space.
disenchantment
The process whereby the magical and mystical elements of life are eroded, as understandings of the world based on religion, faith, intuition, tradition, magic and superstition are displaced by rational argument, science and scientific explanation.
Disneyization (or Disneyfication)
The process whereby something is transformed into a diluted or simplified, trivialized and sanitized version of its original form, to create an in offensive neutral product resembling the Disneyland theme parks.
division of labour
The division of work or occupations into a large number of specialized tasks, each of which is carried out by one worker or group of workers.
divorce Rate
The number of divorces per 1,000 married people per year.
domestic division of labour
The division of roles, responsibilities and work tasks within a household.
domestic labour
Unpaid housework, including cooking, cleaning, childcare and looking after the sick and elderly.
dominant culture
The main culture in a society, which is shared, or at least accepted without opposition, by the majority of people.
dominant ideology
The set of ideas and beliefs of the most powerful groups in society, which influence the ideas of the rest of society. Usually associated with Marxist ideas (see Marxism) about the ruling class and how the ruling class can impose its own ideas on the rest of society.
dual labour market
A theory that says there are two types of employment – the primary labour market with secure, permanent jobs, and the secondary one with insecure, often temporary, part-time work.
dysfunction
When a part of the social structure does not contribute to the maintenance and well-being of society, but creates tensions and other problems.

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E

earned income
Income received from paid employment (wages and salaries). See also income, unearned income.
ecofeminism
Feminist theory based on the idea that women's relationship with nature and the environment is different from that of men.
economic growth
The growth of national income, usually measured by Gross National Product.
educational triage
The way schools divide pupils into three groups – those who are likely to succeed in exams (mainly concerning GCSEs A*–C) whatever happens, those who have a chance of succeeding if they get some extra help (mainly those around the C/D-grade boundary), and those who have little chance of succeeding whatever is done. Schools concentrate on the first two groups, and particularly the second group, and basically write-off those who have little chance of success.
elaborated code
A form of language use involving careful explanation and detail. The language used by strangers and individuals in some formal context, like a job interview, writing a business letter, or a school lesson or textbook. Associated with the work of Bernstein. See also restricted code.
elite
A small group holding great power and privilege in society.
embourgeoisement
The notion that working-class manual workers were adopting more middle-class norms and values.
emigration
Leaving the usual country of residence for another country for a period of at least a year, so that the country of destination becomes the one of usual residence.
empirical evidence
Observable evidence collected in the physical or social world.
English Baccalaureate (EBacc)
A certificate awarded to pupils who achieve at least 6 GCSEs A*–C in maths, English, two sciences, a foreign language and a humanity, like history or geography.
epidemiologic transition
In health, the change from the main problem in a society being infectious diseases to it being 'diseases of affluence' such as cancer and heart disease.
equality of educational opportunity
The principle that every child, regardless of her or his social class background, ability to pay school fees, ethnic background (see ethnicity), gender or disability, should have an equal chance of doing as well in education as her or his ability will allow.
ethics
This involves the morality and standards of behaviour when carrying out research. These include obtaining the informed consent of those being studied, avoiding physical, social and mental harm to those helping with research, respecting confidentiality, and giving accurate and honest reports of findings.
ethnic identity
One in which individuals assert their identity primarily in terms of the ethnic group and culture to which they belong.
ethnicity
The shared culture of a social group which gives its members a common identity in some ways different from that of other groups.
ethnocentrism
A view of the world in which other cultures are seen through the eyes of one's own culture, with a devaluing of the others. For example, school subjects may concentrate on White British society and culture rather than recognizing and taking into account the cultures of different ethnic communities (see ethnicity).
exhaustible resources
Those that can be renewed, but that can also be exhausted and destroyed if overused – for example, fish stocks and forests.
existential security
The feeling that survival is sufficiently secure for it to be taken for granted. Religious participation is highest in societies or groups with low levels of existential security, and lowest in societies or groups with high levels of existential security.
Export Processing Zones
Areas in developing countries where the normal workplace regulations are relaxed to encourage transnational corporations (TNCs) to invest.
export-oriented industrialization
An industrialization strategy based on production for export.
expressive role
The nurturing, caring and emotional role, often seen by functionalists (see functionalism) as women's natural role in the family, linked to women's biology. See also instrumental role.
extended family
A family grouping including all kin (see kinship). There are two main types of extended family: the classic extended family and the modified extended family. See also beanpole family, nuclear family.

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F

Fair Trade
A movement to try to alter the terms of trade so that producers in developing countries receive a higher proportion of the profit.
false consciousness
A lack of awareness among people about what their real interests are, and the false belief that everyone benefits from the present organization of society, which is presented as fair and just.
family
A social institution consisting of a group of people related by kinship ties: relations of blood, marriage / civil partnership or adoption. Cohabiting couples not linked by kinship are also often regarded as a family unit.
family ideology
A dominant set of beliefs, values and images about how families ought to be.
fatalism
A state of mind in which someone believes there is nothing they can do to alter their situation or circumstances.
feminism
The view that examines the world from the point of view of women, coupled with the belief that women are disadvantaged and their interests ignored or devalued in society. See also liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, radical feminism.
fertility rate
A general term which is used to describe either the general fertility rate or the total fertility rate.
feudal/estate system
A system of society in which the hierarchy of power and prestige is closely tied to the ownership of land.
floating voters
Those who change the political party they vote for from election to election.
focus group
A form of group interview in which the group focuses on a particular topic to explore in depth and people are free to talk to one another as well as the interviewer.
folk culture
The culture created by local communities that is rooted in the experiences, customs and beliefs of the everyday life of ordinary people.
folk devils
Individuals or groups posing an imagined or exaggerated threat to society.
forced labour
Where individuals work for another person with no control over any aspect of their lives, but do get paid, usually a very small amount.
forced marriage
A marriage in which at least one party, usually the woman, has no chance to refuse. Often involves the exchange of money.
functional prerequisites
The basic needs that must be met if society is to survive.
functionalism
A sociological perspective and structural theory which sees society as made up of parts which work together to maintain society as an integrated whole. Society is seen as fundamentally harmonious and stable, because of the agreement on basic values (value consensus) established through socialization. See also Marxism, structuralism.
fundamentalism
A return to the literal meaning of religious texts and associated behaviour.
future generations
The concept of sustainable development requires consideration of the future of today's children, and also of people not yet born, even though there is no established way of representing their interests.

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G

gate-keeping
The power of some people, groups or organizations to limit access to something valuable or useful. For example, the mass media have the power to refuse to cover some issues and therefore not allow the public access to some information. Similarly, doctors act as gate-keepers as they have the power to allow or refuse entry to the sick role.
gender identity
How people see themselves, and how others see them, in terms of their gender roles and biological sex.
gender role
The pattern of behaviour which is expected from individuals of either sex.
gender
The culturally created differences between men and women which are learnt through socialization.
general fertility rate
The number of live births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age (15–44) per year. See also total fertility rate.
Gini Coefficient
A method of measuring one person's income against those of all other individuals in that society. A coefficient of 0 means all incomes are equal and there is no inequality; a coefficient of 1 means all income goes to one individual. Thus the nearer to 1, the more unequal the society.
glass ceiling
An invisible barrier of discrimination which makes it difficult for women to reach the same top levels in their chosen careers as similarly qualified men.
global civil society (GCS)
A loose collection of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), activist groups and others, overlapping with the anti-globalization movement; there is a debate as to whether there is a coherent GCS or whether the organizations are too different and lack any common focus.
global culture
The way cultures in different countries of the world have become more alike, sharing increasingly similar consumer products and ways of life. This has arisen as globalization has undermined national and local cultures.
global decision-making
Refers to states acting together and taking decisions at a global level through international governmental organizations (IGOs) to resolve issues that states acting alone are unable to do.
global village
The way that the mass media and electronic communications now operate on a global scale and so shrink barriers of space and time that the world has become like one village or community.
global warming
The rise in global temperatures now acknowledged to be caused mainly by human activity, likely to lead to severe consequences such as rising sea levels and increased desertification.
globalists
In the globalization debates, those who argue that globalization is a positive and irreversible force from which all will eventually benefit, and are associated with neo-liberalism.
globalization
The growing interdependence of societies across the world, with the spread of the same culture, consumer goods and economic interests across the globe.
grassroots political activity
Local members of a political group being involved through distributing leaflets and newsletters, attending local meetings, etc.
green revolution
Scientific and technological developments that improved agricultural yields, enabling more food to be produced in developing countries but creating some environmental problems because of heavy use of pesticides and insecticides.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
One of the ways, along with Gross National Income (GNI), used by economists to measure the total wealth (value of goods and services) produced by a country in a particular year.
Gross National Income (GNI)
One of the ways, along with Gross Domestic Product (GDP), used by economists to measure the total wealth (value of goods and services) produced by a country in a particular year. It differs from GDP in that it also includes income obtained from other nations.
grounded theory
Theory that arises from (is grounded in) analysis of data that have been collected.
group interview
An interview in which the researcher interviews several people at the same time, with the researcher controlling the direction of the interview, and responses directed to her or him. See also focus group.

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H

habitus
The cultural framework (see culture) and set of ideas possessed by each social class, into which people are socialized (see socialization) and which influences their tastes in music, newspapers, films and so on. Bourdieu, a French Marxist (see Marxism), argued the dominant class has the power to impose its own habitus in the education system, giving those from upper-class and middle-class backgrounds an inbuilt advantage over those from working-class backgrounds.
halo effect
When pupils become favourably or unfavourably stereotyped (see stereotype) on the basis of earlier impressions by the teacher, and are rewarded and favoured or penalized in future teacher–student encounters.
Hawthorne effect
When the presence of the researcher, or the group's (or individual's) knowledge that it has been specially selected for research, changes the behaviour of the group or individual, raising problems with the validity of the research.
health
Being able to function normally within a usual everyday routine.
health chances
The chances people have of enjoying good health, and avoiding ill-health and disease.
hegemonic control
Control of the working class achieved mainly through the hegemony and acceptance of ruling-class ideas.
hegemonic identity
An identity that is so dominant that it makes it difficult for individuals to assert alternative identities.
hegemonic masculinity
A male gender identity that defines what is involved in being a ‘real man’, and is so dominant that those who don't conform to it are seen as odd or abnormal in some way.
hegemony
The acceptance of the dominant ideology by the working class, as a result of the power of the ruling class to persuade others to accept and consent to its ideas.
heterosexuality
A sexual orientation towards people of the opposite sex.
hidden curriculum
Attitudes and behaviour which are taught through the school's organization and teachers' attitudes but which are not part of the formal timetable.
hierarchy of credibility
The greatest importance being attached by journalists to the views and opinions of those in positions of power, like government ministers, political leaders, senior police officers or wealthy and influential individuals.
high culture
Cultural products (see culture), mainly media-based, seen as of lasting artistic or literary value, aimed at small, intellectual, predominantly upper-class and middle-class audiences, interested in new ideas, critical discussion and analysis. See also low culture, mass culture, popular culture.
Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative
A system by which heavily indebted countries can apply to have debt written off, provided they keep to conditions.
homogenization
The removal of cultural differences, so that all cultures are increasingly similar.
homophobia
An irrational fear of or aversion to homosexuals (see homosexuality).
homosexuality
A sexual orientation towards people of the same sex, with lesbian women attracted to other women, and gay men attracted to other men.
host immigrant/assimilation model
A view of race relations which sees the host community as homogenous and expects the immigrant groups to be absorbed into this community by adapting their culture to that of the original population.
household
An individual or group living at the same address and sharing facilities.
human capital
The knowledge and skills possessed by a workforce that increases that workforce's value and usefulness to employers; the theory that a country's people are a potential source of wealth; by educating its people, a country can increase its human capital.
Human Development Index
A composite measure of social and economic indicators, giving a statistical value to the level of development.
hybrid culture
A new culture formed from a mix of two or more other cultures.
hybrid identity
An identity formed from a mix of two or more other identities – for example, British Asian.
hybridization
The creation of a new hybrid culture when aspects of two or more different cultures combine.
hydraulic society
A society in which power is related to the control of access to water.
hyperreality
A view of the world which is created and defined by the mass media, with the image of an event more real than the event it is meant to be depicting.
hypothesis
An idea which a researcher guesses might be true, but which has not yet been tested against the evidence.

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I

iatrogenesis
Any harmful mental or physical condition induced in a patient through the effects of treatment by a doctor or surgeon.
ideal type
A model of a phenomenon, like a religious organization, built up by identifying the essential characteristics of many factual examples of it. The purpose of an ideal type is not to produce a perfect category, but to provide a measuring rod that enables the researcher to compare particular examples and identify the extent to which they are similar to or different from the ideal type.
identity
How individuals see and define themselves and how other people see and define them.
ideological state apparatuses
Agencies which serve to spread the dominant ideology and justify the power of the dominant social class.
ideology
A set of ideas, values and beliefs that provides a means of interpreting the world, and represents the outlook, and justifies the interests, of a social group.
illness
The subjective feeling of being unwell or unhealthy (see health) – a person's own recognition and definition of a lack of well-being.
immediate gratification
A desire to have rewards now rather than waiting to acquire them in the future, which is known as deferred gratification.
immigration
Entering another country for a period of at least a year, so that country becomes the one of usual residence.
impairment
Some abnormal functioning of the body or mind, either that one is born with or arising from injury or disease.
imperialism
The process of empire-building associated with the colonial system.
import substitution industrialization
An industrialization strategy based on domestic production of consumer goods to replace imported ones.
imposition problem
When asking questions in interviews or self-completion questionnaires, the risk that the researcher might be imposing their own views or framework on the people being researched, rather than getting at what they really think.
impression management
The way individuals try to convince others of the identity they wish to assert by giving particular impressions of themselves to other people..
income
A flow of money which people obtain from work, from their investments, or from the state. See also earned income, unearned income, wealth.
indirect participation
Where individuals express interest in a political issue via alternative means from voting and party membership, e.g. by participating in pressure group activity, such as that of Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth.
individualism
The idea that individuals are self-reliant and independent, and pursue their own interests without reference to the state or to the activities of a wider social group. In politics, for example, this might refer to the idea that people shape their own level of political participation and activity rather than subscribing to broad ideological movements.
inductive approach
One which develops theories on the basis of evidence that has been collected.
Industrial Revolution
A phrase coined by Tawney in the 1880s to describe the process by which Britain had developed from an agricultural society into a society based on manufacturing.
industrialized
Countries are industrialized if their economies are based on industry rather than agriculture or extraction.
infant mortality rate
The number of deaths of babies in the first year of life per 1,000 live births per year.
informal sector
An employment sector, characterized by lack of regular work and wages, including petty trading, self-employment, casual work and so on; the dominant sector in cities in developing countries.
informed consent
The ethical requirement (see ethics) that those taking part in a sociological study have agreed to do so, and have given this consent based on a full appreciation and understanding of the nature, aims and purposes of the study, any implications or risks taking part might have, and the uses of any findings of the research.
insider groups
Pressure groups which have an active relationship with governments, offering representatives to sit in governments committees, or consultants for government policy.
institutional racism
Patterns of discrimination based on ethnicity that have become structured into existing social institutions.
instrumental orientation
An attitude in which wages/money are the most important aspect of work.
instrumental role
The provider/breadwinner role in the family, often associated by functionalists (see functionalism) with men's role in family life. See also expressive role.
integrated conjugal roles
Roles in marriage or in a cohabiting couple where male and female partners share domestic tasks, childcare, decision-making and income earning.
intergenerational social mobility
When the class of the child is different from the class of the parent. The move can be either upwards or downwards.
international governmental organizations (IGOs)
These are established by states; examples include the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and World Trade Organization (WTO).
International Monetary Fund (IMF)
A key international governmental organization (IGO), which gives loans to members and which has helped to spread neo-liberal economic globalization.
international non-governmental organizations (INGOs)
Non-profit groups which are independent of the state; they are largely funded by private contributions and work internationally on a range of global humanitarian, development and environmental issues.
interpretivism
A sociological perspective that suggests that, to understand society, it is necessary to understand the meanings people give to their behaviour, and how these are influenced by the behaviour and interpretations of others. The focus of research is therefore on individuals or small groups rather than on society as a whole. See also positivism, social action theory.
interviewer bias
The answers given in an interview being influenced or distorted in some way by the presence or behaviour of the interviewer.
intragenerational social mobility
When an individual moves from one class to another during their own working life. It can be either upwards or downwards.
inverse care law
The suggestion that those in the greatest need of help from the welfare state (including health services) get the fewest resources allocated to them, while those whose need is least get the most resources.
iron law of oligarchy
A phrase coined by Michels referring to the principle that all organizations eventually end up being ruled by a few individuals.
Islamophobia
An irrational fear and/or hatred of or aversion to Islam, Muslims or Islamic culture.

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K

kibbutz
A community established in Israel, with the emphasis on equality, collective ownership of property and collective childrearing.
kinship
Relations of blood, marriage / civil partnership or adoption.

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L

labelling
Defining a person or group in a certain way – as a particular 'type' of person or group.
labour power
People's capacity to work. In Marxist theory (see Marxism), people sell their labour power to the employer in return for a wage, and the employer buys only their labour power, not the whole person as they did, for example, under slavery.
laissez-faire
A philosophy of society in which government has only a minimal role; it suggests that the most efficient and free society is one in which the state provides only the most basic of society's needs.
latent function
The unrecognized or unintended outcome of the action of an individual or institution.
laws
Official legal rules, formally enforced by the police, courts and prison, involving legal punishment if the rules are broken.
left wing
In the political spectrum, those ideas and organizations that tend to be critical of existing social arrangements. These include democratic parties such as the Labour Party in Britain, as well as authoritarian anti-democratic parties such as the communists.
liberal feminism
A feminist approach (see feminism) which seeks to research the inequalities facing women, and to enable women to achieve equal opportunities with men, without challenging the system as a whole. See also Marxist feminism, radical feminism.
life chances
The chances of obtaining those things defined as desirable and of avoiding those things defined as undesirable in a society.
life course
The various significant events individuals experience as they make their way through life, and the choices they make and the meanings they give to events such as marriage or cohabitation, parenthood, divorce and retirement.
life expectancy
An estimate of how long people can be expected to live from a certain age.
lifestyle
The way in which people live, usually indicating something about their disposable income.
looking-glass self
The suggestion that our image of ourselves as a social being is built up by reflecting on the opinions of others, seeing ourselves as we think others see us.
low culture
A derogatory (critical and insulting) term used to describe mass culture or popular culture, suggesting these are of inferior quality to the high culture of the elite. See also high culture, mass culture, popular culture.
lumpenproletariat
A term used by Marx to describe the group of unorganized working-class people. Now seen as synonymous with the underclass by many commentators.

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M

macro approach
A focus on large numbers of people and the large-scale structure of society as a whole, rather than on individuals. See also micro approach.
male gaze
Where men look (gaze) at women as sexual objects.
malestream
A word coined by feminists to describe the type of sociology that concentrates on men, is mostly carried out by men and then assumes that its findings can be applied to women as well.
manifest function
The recognized and intended outcome of the action of an individual or institution.
marginality
Where some people are pushed to the margins or edges of society by poverty, lack of education, disability, racism and so on, and face social exclusion.
marginalization
The process whereby some people are pushed by poverty, ill-health, lack of education, disability, racism and so on to the margins or edges of society, and are unable to take part in the life enjoyed by the majority of citizens. See also social exclusion.
market situation
The rewards that people are able to obtain when they sell their skills and talents in the labour market, depending on the scarcity of the skills they have and the power they have to obtain high rewards.
marketable wealth
Assets that can be bought and sold and turned into cash for the owner's benefit, like a private car, a house, land, shares and other assets that can be sold. See also non-marketable wealth.
marketization
The process whereby services, like education or health, that were previously controlled and run by the state, have government or local council control reduced, and become subject to the free market forces of supply and demand, based on competition and consumer choice.
marriage rate
The number of men or women marrying per 1,000 unmarried men or women aged 16 or over each year.
Marxism
A structural theory of society which sees society divided by conflict between two main opposing social classes, due to the private ownership of the means of production and the exploitation of the non-owners by the owners.
Marxist feminism
A Marxist approach (see Marxism) to the study of women, emphasizing the way they are exploited both as workers and as women. See also feminism, liberal feminism, radical feminism.
mass culture (sometimes called popular culture or low culture)
Commercially produced culture, involving cultural products produced for sale to the mass of ordinary people. These involve mass-produced, standardized, short-lived products, often media-based, which many see as of little lasting value and which demand little critical thought, analysis or discussion. See also high culture, low culture, popular culture.
master status
A status which overrides all other features of a person's social standing, with a person being judged solely in terms of that one defining characteristic, such as that of an 'ex-con', a druggie or someone who is mentally ill.
matrilocal
Describes family systems in which the husband is expected to live near the wife's parents.
McDonaldization
Ritzer's term for the ways in which the organizing principles of a fast-food restaurant chain are coming to dominate and standardize many aspects of economic and cultural life globally.
means of production
The key resources necessary for producing society's goods, such as land, factories and machinery.
media gaze
The way the media view society and represent it in media content.
media imperialism
The suggestion that the new media, particularly satellite television and global advertising, have led to the Westernization of other cultures, with Western, and especially American, cultural values being forced on non-Western cultures, and the undermining of local cultures and cultural independence. Often linked to cultural imperialism.
media representations
The categories and images that are used to present groups and activities to media audiences, which may influence the way we think about these activities and groups.
media text
Any media product which describes, defines or represents something, such as a movie or video clip, TV or radio programme, a newspaper or magazine article, a book, a poster, a photo, a popular song, an advertisement, a CD or DVD, or a webpage.
medical gaze
The way doctors look upon a patient merely as a body, an object like a piece of meat or a machine, rather than as a whole person with a conscious mind and individual identity. Doctors search for the existence and causes of a disease through detached and sophisticated analysis obtained by gazing at a patient's body, rather than relying on that individual's accounts of her or his symptoms.
medicalization
The process whereby previously non-medical social issues and problems come to be seen and defined in medical terms, and treated as medical disorders or illnesses under the authority of doctors and other health professionals.
meritocracy(or a meritocratic society)
A society in which occupational and other status positions are achieved on the basis of individual merit like talent, skill and educational qualifications, rather than who you know or the family you were born into.
meta-analysis
A statistical technique of collating many different research findings and testing the reliability of the results by controlling the variables within each individual study.
metanarrative
A broad all-embracing 'big theory' (literally, a 'big story') or explanation for how societies operate.
methodological pluralism
The use of a variety of methods in a single piece of research.
metropolis
In dependency theory, the centre of economic activity, profiting from an exploitative relationship with satellites.
micro approach
A focus on small groups or individuals, rather than on large numbers of people and the structure of society as a whole. See also macro approach.
micro-credit
Schemes to allow poor people to borrow small sums of money.
middle class
Those in non-manual work – jobs which don't involve heavy physical effort, are usually performed in offices and involve paperwork or computer work of various kinds. See also social class, upper class, working class.
migration
Changing the country of usual residence for a period of at least a year, so that the country of destination effectively becomes the country of usual residence.
millenarian beliefs, millenarianism
The beliefs that existing society is evil, sinful or otherwise corrupt, and that supernatural or other extra-worldly forces will intervene to completely destroy existing society and create a new and perfect world order.
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
A set of eight targets set by the United Nations to achieve progress in development.
minority ethnic group
A social group that shares a cultural identity (see culture) which is different in some respects from that of the majority population of a society, such as African-Caribbean, Indian Asian and Chinese ethnic groups in Britain.
modern world system
In world systems theory, the global capitalist system.
modernity
Refers to the period of the application of rational principles and logic to the understanding, development and organization of human societies.
modernization theory
Dominant development theory of the 1960s, based on factors internal to Third World countries inhibiting their development.
modified extended family
A family type where related nuclear families, although living apart geographically, nevertheless maintain regular contact and mutual support through visiting, the phone, email and letters. See also classic extended family.
monogamy
A form of marriage in which a person can only be legally married to one partner at a time. See also polyandry, polygamy, polygyny, serial monogamy.
monopoly
When one person or company is the only possible provider of goods or services.
moral entrepreneur
A person, group or organization with the power to create or enforce rules and impose their definitions of deviance.
moral panic
A wave of public concern about some exaggerated or imaginary threat to society, stirred up by exaggerated and sensationalized reporting in the mass media.
moral regulation
The control or regulation by social values of the actions and desires of individuals.
morbidity
The extent of disease in a population, including either the total number of cases or the number of new cases of a disease in a particular population at a particular time.
mortality rate
The number of deaths per year scaled to the size of a population group. See also death rate, infant mortality rate.
mortality
The number of deaths in a population, usually measured as a rate (mortality rate) per 1,000 of a population group, such as the number of deaths per thousand of the total population each year. See also death rate, infant mortality rate.
mortification
A process whereby a person's own identity is replaced by one defined by an institution, such as a hospital or prison.
multicultural education
Education which involves teaching about the culture of other ethnic groups (see ethnicity) besides that of the majority culture.
multilateral aid
Donors contribute to a shared fund, from which aid is then given to recipients.
multinational corporations (MNCs)
Sometimes used interchangeably with transnational corporations (TNCs), but more usefully used to mean corporations that have some global aspects but are still clearly based in one nation.

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N

nation
A particular geographical area with which a group of people identify, sharing among themselves a sense of belonging based on a common sense of culture, history and usually language.
nationalism
A sense of pride and commitment to a nation, and a very strong sense of national identity.
nationality
Having citizenship of a nation-state, including things like voting rights, a passport and the right of residence.
nation-state
A state with its own political apparatus over a specific territory whose own citizens are backed by their military and have a nationalistic identity.
natural population change
Changes in the size of a population due to changes in the number of births and deaths, excluding migration. Expressed as a natural increase (+) or decrease (–) in population.
need for achievement
In modernization theory, the desire to be entrepreneurial and to make money, essential for modernization.
NEETs
People between the ages of 16 and 25 who are not in education, employment or training.
negative sanctions
Punishments of various kinds imposed on those who fail to conform to social norms. See also positive sanctions, sanction.
negotiated reading
A reading or interpretation of a media text by media audiences which amends the preferred (or dominant) reading of media content to suit their own values and beliefs. See also oppositional reading; preferred (or dominant) readings.
neo-colonialism
Refers to the continuation of past economic domination by former colonial powers over ex-colonies.
neo-liberal economic theory
The dominant theory influencing development policies in the 1980s and 1990s, based on a minimal role for states and liberalization of trade to allow the free market (capitalism) to work without restrictions.
neo-malthusian
Modern followers of Malthus's main argument: that population growth will overtake food supply.
neophiliacs
People who dislike and get bored with tradition and routine, and welcome, rapidly embrace and adapt to new technology and other changes.
neo-tribalism
Groups with very loose, fluid boundaries and an ever-changing floating membership, that only exist when they come together for particular lifestyle rituals (like clubbing and dancing).They are not the cohesive and fixed social groups, with clear identities, styles and lines of division between them, associated with the concept of a subculture.
net migration
The difference between immigration and emigration, and therefore whether the population of a country or area has gone up or gone down when both emigration and immigration are taken into account. Usually expressed as a net gain or increase (+) or a net loss or decrease (–) of population.
new barbarism
Kaplan's theory, a variant of Malthusian theory, that overpopulation and exhaustion of resources were leading to civil wars in developing countries.
new international division of labour (NIDL)
The new global economic order said to be produced by factory production moving from the developed world to some developing countries.
new professions
These are distinguishable from the traditional professions, such as law and medicine – one example is management consultancy: monitoring and regulating the work of other professionals.
New Right
A political philosophy and approach found in the work of some sociologists, mainly associated with the years of Conservative government in Britain between 1979 and 1997. This approach stresses individual freedom; self-help and self-reliance; reduction of the power and spending of the state; the free market and free competition between private companies, schools and other institutions; and the importance of traditional institutions and values.
new social movements (NSMs)
Much looser informal and less organized coalitions of groups or individuals pushing a cause or broad interest, compared to more traditional pressure groups, which are generally much more focused and organized. They are often global in scope and scale. Examples include the women's movement, the green movement and the anti-war movement.
newly industrializing countries (NICs)
Those countries that seemed to make rapid progress in the late twentieth century, notably the 'Asian tigers'.
news values
The values and assumptions held by editors and journalists which guide them in choosing what is 'newsworthy' – what to report and what to leave out – and how what they choose to report should be presented.
non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
Non-profit groups which are independent of the state; they are largely funded by private contributions and are mostly involved in humanitarian activities.
non-marketable wealth
Wealth that cannot be sold or cashed in, like occupational and state pension rights. See also marketable wealth.
non-renewable resources
Natural resources which are finite, and cannot be replenished, such as coal and oil. They can be distinguished from renewable resources such as wind, solar power and (if used sustainably) timber.
norms
Social rules which define what is expected behaviour for an individual in a given society or situation.
norm-setting
The way the mass media emphasize and reinforce conformity to social norms, and seek to isolate those who do not conform by making them the victims of unfavourable media reports.
North
The world's richer countries – developed nations; sometimes known as the 'Global North' or the 'First World'.
nuclear family
A family with two generations, of parents and children, living together in one household. See also extended family.

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O

objectivity
Approaching topics with an open mind, avoiding bias, and being prepared to submit research evidence to scrutiny by other researchers.
oligarchy
Control by a small elite.
One Nation
The belief that societies exist and develop organically and that society's members have obligations to each other.
open belief system
One that is open to questioning, testing and falsifying by others, and may subsequently change as a result of these processes.
open system
A social system in which it is possible for an individual to move from the social group in which he or she was born into a different social group.
oppositional reading
A reading or interpretation of a media text by media audiences which opposes or rejects the preferred (dominant) reading (or interpretation) of media content. See also preferred (or dominant) reading; negotiated reading.
outsider groups
Pressure groups which, for whatever reason, do not have everyday operational links with governments.
overt role
Where the researcher in a participant observation study reveals her or his identity as a researcher to the group being studied. See also covert role.

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paradigm
A framework of scientific laws, concepts, theories, methods and assumptions within which scientists operate, and which provides guidelines for the conduct of research and what counts as proper evidence. These are rarely called into question until the evidence against them is overwhelming.
parastatals
State-run organizations such as marketing boards, which played a leading role in the development policies of many states before neo-liberal policies were enforced.
parentocracy
Where a child's education is dependent upon the wealth and wishes of parents, rather than the ability and efforts of pupils.
participatory culture
A media culture in which the public do not act only as consumers, but also as contributors or producers of media content. This new culture, as it relates to the internet, has been termed 'Web 2.0'.
particularistic values
Rules and values that give a priority to personal relationships. See also universalistic values.
partisan dealignment
The idea that fewer and fewer individuals are strongly lining themselves up with a particular party and remaining loyal to that party over long periods of time.
partisan self-image
A person with a view of themselves as a supporter of a particular political party.
party
A term used by Weber to describe the way in which political organization will appear in any group of individuals who work together because they have common backgrounds, aims or interests.
paternity leave
Time off from work, with pay, given to men so they can be with their partner and child during a short time in the first six months of the child's life.
patriarchal ideology
A set of ideas that supports and justifies the power of men.
patriarchy
Power and authority held by males.
patrilocal
Describes family systems in which the wife is expected to live near the husband's parents.
peer group
A group of people of similar age and status, with whom a person often mixes socially.
people-trafficking
Where individuals are traded across national boundaries and often sold into prostitution, frequently becoming slaves.
perfect social mobility
Where every position in society is filled on merit and individuals move easily between the class of birth and the class of achievement based on their ability and nothing else.
personal documents
Documents, which are usually private, for a person's own use, which record part of a person's life. See also public documents.
perspective
A way of looking at something. A sociological perspective involves a set of theories which influences what is looked at when studying society.
pilot survey
A small-scale practice survey carried out before the final survey to check for any possible problems. Sometimes referred to as a pilot study.
pluralism
A view that sees power in society spread among a wide range of interest groups and individuals, with no group or individual having a monopoly of power.
pluralist ideology
A set of ideas that reflects the pluralist view of the distribution of power, with no one particular ideology able to dominate others, and with the prevailing ideas in society reflecting the interests of a wide range of competing social groups and interests.
politics
The struggle for power and interaction between individuals and groups.
polyandry
A form of marriage in which a woman may have two or more husbands at the same time. See also monogamy, polygamy, polygyny, serial monogamy.
polygamy
A form of marriage in which a member of one sex can be married to two or more members of the opposite sex at the same time. See also monogamy, polyandry, polygyny, serial monogamy.
polygyny
A form of marriage in which a man may have two or more wives at the same time. See also monogamy, polyandry, polygamy, serial monogamy.
polysemic
Used to describe a sign (such as a media message, picture or headline) which can be interpreted in different ways by different people.
popular culture
The cultural products liked and enjoyed by the mass of ordinary people. It is sometimes referred to as mass culture or low culture.
population projections
Predictions of future changes in population size and composition based on past and present population trends.
positive discrimination
Giving disadvantaged groups more favourable treatment than others to make up for the inequalities they face.
positive sanctions
Rewards of various kinds to encourage people to conform to social norms. See also negative sanctions, sanction.
positivism
An approach in sociology that believes society can be studied using similar scientific techniques to those used in the natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry and biology. See also interpretivism.
post-materialism
The theory that the need to acquire material goods is declining in importance as people give higher priority to non-material values, such as freedom, justice and personal improvement.
postmodernism
An approach that stresses that society is changing so rapidly and constantly that it is marked by chaos, uncertainty and risk, and is fragmented into many different groups, interests and lifestyles. Social structures are being replaced by a mass of individuals making individual choices about their lifestyles. Societies can no longer be understood through the application of general theories or grand stories (metanarratives), like Marxism or functionalism, which seek to explain society as a whole.
poverty line
The dividing point between those who are poor and those who are not. The poverty line used in Britain today, and by the European Union, is 60 per cent of average income.
poverty trap
When people on means-tested benefits find themselves worse off if they get a low-paid job, as the benefits they lose are worth more than the money they gain through employment. This creates a disincentive for them to look for work or take low-paid jobs, trapping them in continuing poverty.
power elite
The group that dominates society through its ability to control the important institutional positions in society. The elite is composed of those at the top of the great institutions of society, such as the government, the military, universities and industry.
power
The capacity of individuals or groups to get their own way in any given situation.
predatory state
A state that preys upon its own people, through appropriation and corruption, preventing development.
preferred (or dominant) reading
The interpretation of messages that those producing media content would prefer their audiences to accept. See also negotiated reading; oppositional reading.
present-time orientation
Concentrating on today without much consideration for the future or the past.
pressure groups
Organizations that try to put pressure on those with power in society to implement policies they favour.
primary data
Information which sociologists have collected themselves. See also secondary data.
primary definers
Powerful individuals or groups whose positions of power give them greater access to the media than others, and therefore put them in a more privileged position to influence what journalists define as news and how they present it.
primary deviance
Deviant behaviour which is not publicly labelled (see labelling) as deviant. See also secondary deviance.
primary socialization
Socialization during the early years of childhood carried out in the family and close community. See also secondary socialization.
privatization
Either: the process whereby households and families become isolated and separated from the community and from wider kin (see kinship), with people spending more time together in home-centred activities; or: where services that were once provided by the state are transferred to private companies, as, for example, with healthcare services once provided by publicly owned NHS hospitals becoming provided by privately owned hospitals.
privatized nuclear family
A self-contained, self-reliant and home-centred family unit that is separated and isolated from its extended kin, neighbours and local community life.
productive property
Wealth which provides an unearned income for its owner, such as houses which are rented out, factories and land, or company shares which provide dividends. See also consumption property.
professions
Types of occupation which are self-governing and usually of relatively high status.
proletarianization
The process whereby other groups take on the attributes and characteristics of the proletariat.
proletariat
The social class of workers who have to work for wages as they do not own the means of production.
pro-school subculture
A group organized around a set of values, attitudes and behaviour which generally conforms to the academic aims, ethos and rules of a school.
psephology
The study of voting patterns. It comes from the ancient Greek word psepho meaning 'pebble' – voting in Athens took place through the casting of pebbles to decide issues.
public documents
Documents which are produced for public knowledge. See also personal documents.
pull factors
The advantages of city life which attract people to move there from rural areas.
push factors
The disadvantages of rural life which push people into moving to cities.

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qualitative data
Information concerned with the feelings and meanings people associate with, and the interpretations they give to, some issue or event.
quantitative data
Information that can be measured and expressed in statistical or number form.

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R

race hate crimes
Violence targeted against people on grounds of their ethnicity and religion.
racial prejudice
A set of assumptions about an ethnic group (see ethnicity) which people are reluctant to change even when they receive infor­mation which undermines those assumptions.
racism
Believing or acting as though an individual or group is superior or inferior on the grounds of their racial or ethnic (see ethnicity) origins.
radical feminism
A feminist approach (see feminism) which focuses on the problem of patriarchy. For radical feminists, the main focus of research is on the problem of men and male-dominated society. See also liberal feminism, Marxist feminism.
radicals
In globalization debates, those who argue that globalization is a powerful negative force; associated with dependency theory and neo-Marxists.
realism
The view that events in both the social and natural worlds are produced (caused) by underlying structures and processes, which may be unobservable.
reconstituted family
A family in which one or both partners have been previously married, or living as a cohabiting couple, and bring with them children of a previous relationship. Also known as a stepfamily or a blended family.
reflexive self
The way an individual's identity is formed and develops through a process of reflecting on, or thinking about, her or his identity in interaction with other individuals and the agencies of socialization.
reflexivity
The way the knowledge people gain about society can affect the way they behave in it, as people (and institutions) reflect on what they do and how they do it.
relations of production
The forms of relationship between those people involved in production, such as cooperation or private ownership and control.
relative autonomy
The idea in neo-Marxist theory that social institutions in the superstructure of society can have some independence from the economy and the interests of the dominant class, rather than being directly determined by them.
relative deprivation
The sense of lacking something compared to the group with which people identify and compare themselves.
relative poverty
Poverty defined in relation to a generally accepted stan­dard of living in a specific society at a particular time. See also absolute poverty.
relative rate of mobility
Actual number of movements within a class structure within a given period of time, adjusted to take account of changes in the occupational structure of a society.
reliability
Whether another researcher, if repeating or replicating research using the same method for the same research on the same or a similar group, would achieve roughly the same results.
religiosity
The extent of importance of religion, religious beliefs and feelings in people's lives.
religious market theory
Also known as rational choice or market supply theory. Suggests that religious organizations are like businesses that compete in the spiritual marketplace for customers. Diversity, choice and competition between religious organizations leads to a greater variety of religion and improved quality of religious products tailored to the needs of consumers, which leads to more religious participation.
religious pluralism
A situation where there are a variety of different religions, different groups within a religious faith, and a range of beliefs of all kinds, with no one religious belief or organization reasonably able to claim to hold a monopoly of truth or to have the support of most members of society.
replication
see reliability.
representative sample
A smaller group drawn from the survey population, of which it contains a good cross-section. The information obtained from a representative sample should provide roughly the same results as if the whole survey population had been surveyed.
repressive state apparatus
The parts of the state concerned with mainly repressive, physical means of keeping a population in line, such as the army, police, courts and prisons.
resacralization
The renewal and continuing vitality of religious beliefs.
reserve army of labour
Refers to a group of people not normally in the paid workforce who can be called on in time of need. Marx saw them as members of the lumpenproletariat; feminists see them as married women and mothers.
resocialization
The learning of appropriate new norms and values to enable people to operate in a changed social environment when they enter a new and different society or social situation, or when their life circumstances otherwise change.
restorative justice
A process which brings together victims of crime and the offenders responsible, usually in face-to-face meetings, to help repair the harm done, restore the dignity and self-respect of victims, reduce their fear of crime, and make offenders take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
restricted code
A form of language use which takes for granted shared understandings between people. Colloquial, everyday language used between friends, with limited explanation and use of vocabulary. See also elaborated code.
right wing
Along the political spectrum, the ideas and organizations which generally favour the existing social arrangements and more traditional values. The right generally includes democratic parties such as the British Conservative Party, or 'Tories', and authoritarian anti–democratic movements such as the British National Party (BNP).
role conflict
The conflict between the successful performance of two or more roles at the same time, such as those of worker, student and mother.
role models
People's patterns of behaviour which others copy and model their own behaviour on.
roles
The patterns of behaviour which are expected from individuals in society.
ruling class
The social class of owners of the means of production, whose control over the economy gives them the power to rule over all aspects of society.
ruling class ideology
The set of ideas and beliefs of the ruling class.

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sample
A smaller representative group drawn from the survey population for studying. See also representative sample.
sampling frame
A list of names of all those in the survey population from which a representative sample is selected.
sampling methods
The techniques sociologists use to select representa­tive individuals to study from the survey population.
sanction
A reward or punishment to encourage social conformity. See also negative sanctions, positive sanctions.
satellite
In dependency theory, the deformed and dependent economies of the underdeveloped countries.
scapegoating
Blaming an individual or group for problems which are not necessarily their fault.
scapegoats
Individuals or groups who get blamed for things that aren't their fault.
scientism
A belief system or ideology that claims science and the scientific method alone can provide true knowledge and understanding of the world, and rejects any alleged truths that cannot be explained by the scientific method.
secondary data
Data which already exist and which the researcher hasn't collected her- or himself. See also primary data.
secondary deviance
Deviant behaviour which is labelled (see labelling) as such by others. See also primary deviance.
secondary socialization
Socialization which takes place beyond the family and close community, such as through the education system, the mass media and the workplace. See also primary socialization.
secularization
The process whereby religious thinking, practice and institutions decline and lose influence in society.
segregated conjugal role
A clear division and separation between the roles of male and female partners in a marriage or in a cohabiting couple.
selective biomedical intervention
In healthcare, interventions such as immunization campaigns to try to prevent the spread of disease.
self-fulfilling prophecy
People acting in response to predictions of their behaviour, thereby making the prediction come true. Often applied to the effects of streaming in schools, and how people respond to being labelled as mentally ill.
serial monogamy
A form of marriage in which a person keeps marrying and divorcing a series of different partners, but is only married to one person at a time. See also monogamy, polyandry, polygamy, polygyny.
service sector
The section of the economy, sometimes called the tertiary sector, concerned with the production of services instead of actual products, such as administration, information, communication, catering, the leisure industry, sales, finance and insurance, transport and distribution, and the running of government services such as the health, welfare and education services.
setting
A system of dividing school students into groups (or sets) of the same ability in particular subjects.
sex
The biological differences between men and women.
sexism
Prejudice or discrimination against people (especially women) because of their sex.
sexual division of labour
The division of work into 'men's jobs' and 'women's jobs'.
sexual orientation
The type of people that individuals are either physically or romantically attracted to, such as those of the same or opposite sex.
sexuality
People's sexual characteristics and their sexual behaviour.
shared resources
Those resources that are not privately owned and whose use is freely shared – for example air, water (unless you choose to buy bottled water) and parts of the countryside. They are also sometimes referred to as 'public goods'.
sick role
The pattern of behaviour which is expected from someone who is classified as ill.
simulacra
Images or reproductions and copies which appear to reflect things in the real world but have no basis in reality.
situational deviance
Acts which are only defined as deviant in particular contexts.
slavery
A situation in which people are sold like objects, forced to work for no pay and have their whole lives controlled by their owners.
social action theory
A perspective which emphasizes the creative action which people can take, and that people are not simply the passive victims of social forces outside themselves. Social action theory suggests it is important to understand the motives and meanings people give to their behaviour. See also interpretivism, structuralism.
social capital
The social networks of influence and support that people have.
social class
A broad group of people who share a similar economic situ­ation, such as occupation, income and ownership of wealth. See also middle class, upper class, working class.
social closure
A system whereby members of a group can act to prevent others from joining the group.
social cohesion
The bonds or 'glue' that bring people together and integrate them into a united society.
social construction
The important characteristics of something, such as statistics, health, childhood, old age or what is regarded as deviance, are created and influenced by the attitudes, actions and interpretations of members of society. They only exist because people define them as such. Official statistics, notions of health and illness, deviance and suicide are all examples of social phenomena that only exist because people have constructed them and given these phenomena particular labels.
social construction
The way something is created through the individual, social and cultural interpretations, perceptions and actions of people. Official statistics, notions of health and illness, deviance and suicide are all examples of social phenomena that only exist because people have constructed them and given these phenomena particular labels.
social control
The various methods used to persuade or force individuals to conform to the dominant social norms and values of a society or group.
social exclusion
The situation in which people are marginalized (see marginalization) as they lack the resources which might enable them to participate fully in education, work and community life, and lack access to services and other aspects of life seen as part of being a full and participating member of the community or society in which they live. This excludes some people – or cuts them off – from what most people would regard as a normal life, and denies them the opportunities most people take for granted.
social facts
Social phenomena which exist outside individuals but act upon them in ways which constrain or mould their behaviour. Such phenomena include social institutions such as the family, the law, the education system and the workplace.
social institutions
The organized social arrangements which are found in all societies, such as the family and the education systems.
social integration
The integration of individuals into social groups, binding them into society and building social cohesion.
social media
Includes websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social contacts.
social mobility
The movement of individuals or groups from one social class to another, both upward and downward.
social policy
The packages of plans and actions adopted by national and local government or various voluntary agencies to solve social problems or achieve other goals that are seen as important.
social problem
Something that is seen as harmful to society in some way, and as needing something doing to sort it out.
social solidarity
The integration of people into society through shared values, a common culture, shared understandings, and social ties that bind them together.
social structure
The network of social institutions and social relation­ships that form the 'building blocks' of society.
socialization
The process of learning the culture of any society. See also primary socialization, secondary socialization.
societal deviance
Acts that are seen by most members of a society as deviant.
sociological perspective
A set of theories which influences what is looked at when studying society.
sociological problem
Any social or theoretical issue that needs explaining.
soundbite
A short phrase which is easy to remember; memorable sentences or phrases plucked out of context. For example, politicans' references to 'we're all in this together', 'fairness' or 'the squeezed middle'.
South
The world's poorer countries, those that are developing; sometimes known as the 'Global South'.
spin doctor
A label given to those who are seen as manipulating news coverage in such a way as to emphasize positive events – for the government, for example – and sideline negative news.
stages of economic growth
In Rostow's version of modernization, the five stages through which societies pass as they move from being traditional to fully developed.
standardized mortality ratio
A measure of actual deaths against expected deaths. Figures below 100 suggest fewer than expected, and those above 100 indicate a higher-than-expected death rate.
state
A central authority which has legitimate control over a set territory.
status frustration
A sense of frustration arising in individuals or groups because they are denied status in society.
status
Sometimes refers to the position someone occupies in society, but more commonly refers to the amount of prestige or social importance a person has in the eyes of other members of a group or society. See also achieved status, ascribed status.
status syndrome
The harmful effects on an individual's health caused by stress and anxiety about their status situation (social standing), and consequently on their self-esteem, or view of their own social worth.
stereotype
A generalized, oversimplified view of the features of a social group, allowing for few individual differences between members of the group.
stigma
Any undesirable physical or social characteristic that is seen as abnormal or unusual in some way, that is seen as demeaning, and stops an individual being fully accepted by society.
stigmatized identity
An identity that is in some way undesirable or demeaning, and excludes people from full acceptance in society.
streaming
A system of dividing school students into groups of similar ability (streams or bands) in which they stay for all subjects. See also banding.
Structural Adjustment Programme
A programme of actions imposing neo–liberal policies on governments used by international governmental organizations (IGOs), especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
structural differentiation
The way new, more specialized social institutions emerge to take over functions that were once performed by a single institution. An example is the way some once traditional functions of the family have been transferred to the education system and the welfare state.
structural violence
The term used by Galtung (1969) to describe the way in which, even in an apparently peaceful society, a group can be exploited.
structuralism
A perspective which is concerned with the overall structure of society, and sees individual behaviour moulded by social institutions like the family, the education system, the mass media and work. See also functionalism, Marxism.
structuration
A sociological perspective between structuralism and social action theory which suggests that, while people are constrained by social institutions, they can at the same time take action to support or change those institutions.
subculture
A smaller culture held by a group of people within the main culture of a society, in some ways different from the main culture, but with many aspects in common.
subculture of resistance
A subculture that not only has some differences from the dominant culture, but is also in active opposition to it.
subjective poverty
People's own feelings and judgements about whether or not they are poor in relation to those other members of society with whom they compare themselves.
subsistence farming
Farming to produce crops and livestock for consumption by the family rather than for sale in the market.
surplus value
The extra value added by workers to the products they produce, after allowing for the payment of their wages, and which goes to the employer in the form of profit.
survey
A means of collecting primary data from large numbers of people, usually in a standardized statistical form.
survey population
The section of the population which is of interest in a survey.
sustainability
When something can continue at the same level indefinitely; for example, using trees from a forest for fuel is sustainable only if the wood is taken at the rate that the trees grow, so that the number of trees in the forest remains constant.
sustainable development
Development that sustains the natural environment, thereby ensuring that future generations can have the same level of development.
symbol
Something, like an object, word, expression or gesture, that stands for something else and to which individuals have attached some meaning.
symbolic annihilation
The lack of visibility, under-representation and limited roles of women or other groups in media representations, as they are omitted, condemned or trivialized in many roles.
symbolic interactionism
A sociological perspective which is concerned with understanding human behaviour in face-to-face situations, and how individuals and situations come to be defined in particular ways through their encounters with other people.
symmetrical family
A family where the roles of husband and wife or cohabiting partners have become more alike (symmetrical) and equal.
synergy
Where a product is produced in different forms which are promoted together, either through different arms of the same company or through collaboration of different companies, to enable greater sales than would be possible through the sale of a single form of that product or by the efforts of one company.

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tabloidization
The process whereby there is a decline of serious news reporting, coverage of current affairs and documentaries, and their replacement by a more dumbed-down, entertaining, sensationalized or gossipy style of journalism – focusing on human interest stories, celebrity culture and scandal – entertainment, crime drama, soap opera and reality TV shows.
take-off
In Rostow's five stages of economic growth, the third stage at which societies achieve a momentum that ensures development.
tautology
Something that is explained by the same thing that it seeks to explain.
techniques of neutralization
Justifications used to excuse acts of crime and deviance.
technological convergence
Where several media technologies, once contained in separate devices, are combined in a single device.
technological leapfrogging
The use of a new technology when the previous version of that technology has not been used.
teenagers
Young people at a time of life between childhood and adulthood – in their 'teen' years. The teenager's status is often ambiguous and changes from one situation to another, which reflects the confusion felt by teenagers themselves as to their exact status.
terrorism
In war and conflict, the use of tactics intended to persuade the opponents, or civilians, not to resist.
theodicy
An explanation for the contradiction in the existence of a God who is assumed to be all-powerful and benevolent, and, at the same time, the prevalence of widespread suffering and evil in the world.
theodicy of disprivilege
A religious explanation and justification for social inequality and social deprivation, explaining the marginalization (or disprivilege) of believers, often used as a test of faith, with the promises of compensating rewards in a future after death.
Third Way
A political philosophy, pioneered by New Labour, that is committed to retaining the values of socialism, while supporting market policies for generating wealth and reducing inequalities.
Third World
A term used to describe the world's poorer countries, distinct from the First World (developed capitalist countries) and Second World (developed communist, or, today, ex-communist countries).
total fertility rate (TFR)
is the average number of children women will have during their child-bearing years. See also general fertility rate
totem
A sacred object representing, and having symbolic significance and importance for, a group.
tourist gaze
The viewing and experiencing of objects and locations with curiosity and interest, organized by professional tourism experts to provide pleasurable experiences for tourists that are different from everyday life.
trade liberalization
Removal of barriers to free trade, such as tariffs and subsidies.
trade Union
An organization of workers whose aim is to protect the interests of its members and improve their life chances.
transformationalists
In the globalization debates, those who see globalization as a force whose outcomes are uncertain, but which can be controlled and used to promote development.
transnational capitalist class
Associated with the radical view of globalization; globalization has created a new transnational class of business leaders, politicians and others who increasingly share common interests.
transnational corporations (TNCs)
Large business enterprises which produce and sell globally and have global supply chains.
triangular trade
The slave trade linking West Africa, Europe and the Americas.
triangulation
The use of two or more research methods in a single piece of research to check the reliability and validity of research evidence.
two faces of power
The idea that power can be exercised not only by getting your own way against opposition (the first face) but also by preventing an issue from ever being raised as controversial in the first place (the second face of power).
typology
A generalization used to classify things into groups or types according to their characteristics, which do not necessarily apply in every real-world example.

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U

underachievement
The failure of individuals or groups to fulfil their potential – they do not do as well in education (or other areas) as their talents and abilities suggest they should.
underclass
A social group right at the bottom of the social class hierarchy, whose members are in some ways different from, and cut off or excluded from, the rest of society. See also lumpenproletariat.
underdevelopment
Used by dependency theorists, the process of exploitation by which the North became and stayed rich at the expense of the South.
unearned income
Income received from productive property, like rent on buildings and land, dividends on shares, and interest on savings and other personal investments. See also income, earned income.
universalistic values
Rules and values that apply equally to all members of society, regardless of who they are. See also particularistic values.
universe of meaning
A set of beliefs and values which enable people to give life some focus, order and meaning.
upper class
A small social class who are the main owners of society's wealth. It includes wealthy industrialists, landowners and the traditional aristocracy. See also middle class, social class, working class.
urbanization
The process by which a growing proportion of people live in towns and cities, and the social and other changes which accompany this process.

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V

validity
The extent to which the findings of research actually provide a true, genuine or authentic picture of what is being studied.
value consensus
A widespread agreement around the main values of a society.
value freedom
The idea that the beliefs and prejudices of a researcher should not influence the way research is carried out and evidence interpreted.
values
General beliefs about what is right or wrong, and about the important standards which are worth maintaining and achieving in any society.
variable sum view of power
A situation whereby everyone generally benefits from the exercise of power.
verstehen(pronounced 'fair-shtay-en')
The idea of understanding human behaviour by putting yourself in the position of those being studied, and trying to see things from their point of view.
victim survey
A survey which asks people if they have been victims of crime, whether or not they reported it to the police.
victimology
The study of the impact of crime on victims, victims' interests, and patterns of victimization.
volatility
A situation in which there is a high degree of change, from one party to another, in the behaviour of voters from one election to another.

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W

Washington Consensus
A set of neo-liberal policies which were argued to be essential for reforming economies and promoting development.
wealth
Property in the form of assets which can, in general, be sold and turned into cash for the benefit of the owner. See also consumption property, income, marketable wealth, non–marketable wealth, productive property.
welfare pluralism
The range of welfare provision, including informal provision by the family and community, and welfare provided by the government, the voluntary sector and the private sector.
Weltanschauung
The framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it.
white mask
Non-white minority ethnic groups seeking to overcome prejudice and racism and gain acceptance in white society by playing down their own ethnicity and culture, and adopting the features (the 'white mask') of majority white culture.
white-collar crime
Offences committed by middle-class individuals who abuse their work positions within organizations for personal gain at the expense of the organization or its clients.
working class
Those working in manual jobs – jobs involving physical work and, literally, work with their hands, like factory or labouring work. See also middle class, social class, upper class.
World Bank
A key international governmental organization (IGO) which gives aid and loans to members to fight poverty; often accused of spreading neo-liberal economic globalization.
World Economic Forum
An annual gathering of the world's business and political leaders.
World Social Forum
An annual gathering of the anti-globalization movement.

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