Here’s a rundown of some of the most basic yet essential sociological concepts that one must know when learning about the study of society. Read on and refresh your memory!
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Glossary of Terms and Concepts in Sociology
Acting crowds – people who come together and have a specific goal to achieve or action to undertake.
Agricultural society – occurred when humans began to invent tools such as digging sticks and hoes and farming became a way of living among most of the members of the society.
Alienation – estrangement of a person from the rest of humanity.
Alternative movements – focus on specific changes in individuals’ beliefs and behaviors to reach self-improvement.
Anomie – state of normlessness.
Anomie theory – deviance is caused by individuals, usually from the minority groups, who want to attain a socially approved goal.
Authoritarianism – a political system that allows limited people’s participation in the political process.
Bartering – a system where individuals exchange their goods and services without the use of money.
Bilateral descent – tracing one’s ancestry through both the paternal and maternal ancestors.
Bourgeoisie – owners of the means of production especially in a capitalist social system.
Capitalism – a type of economic system where the means of production are privately owned.
Casual crowds – people who do not have many interactions but are in the same place at the same time.
Charismatic authority – grounded on the leader’s ‘charisma’ and personality.
Class consciousness – the act of the proletariat’s realization of their exploitation.
Coalescence stage – (social movements) – when people organize and come together to publicize a certain issue.
Coercive organization – membership is forced or required and without affinity.
Collective behavior – an activity that is spontaneous and non-institutionalized where people voluntarily engage in.
Commodities – goods put on sale in the market.
Communism – a type of economic system where properties and resources are shared.
Compensatory social control – violator is required to pay and compensate for his offense.
Conciliatory social control – aims to reconcile disputed parties.
Conflict theory – sees society as a result of the continuing competition of people over limited resources.
Contagion theory – individuals are rational but this rationality is blurred once they become part of the crowd.
Conventional crowds – those who come together for a scheduled event.
Convergence theory – crowds reflect the individuals’ beliefs and emotions; thus different individuals converge and find themselves in a crowd having almost a similar stance on a particular issue.
Countercultures – groups whose values, beliefs, and practices are substantially different from the widely accepted culture.
Critical sociology – centered on the basic tenets of historical materialism and seeks to use sociological knowledge to ameliorate human and societal conditions.
Crowds – people in the same place at the same time who are sharing close proximity.
Cult – a religious movement that rejects the accepted norms and values of the larger society.
Cultural hegemony – society’s dominant ideology reflects that of the interests of the ruling class.
Cultural imperialism – the act of imposing one’s values on another culture.
Cultural relativism – the manner of looking at other cultures in their contexts.
Cultural universals – common cultural patterns that were identified to be common across all societies globally.
Culture – beliefs, values, and practices shared in a society.
Democracy – a form of government characterized by the rule of the people.
Democratic socialism – a type of economic system where some important industries are owned by the government and other properties are privately owned.
Decline stage – (social movements) – occurs once the goal is reached or the people do not show interest in a certain issue anymore.
Denomination – a mainstream and large religious organization that is not sponsored by the state.
Deviance – a term used when cultural and social norms are not followed.
Differential-association theory – environment is a factor that plays a major role in creating room for deviant acts; deviant behaviors are learned by an individual from their interactions.
Digital divide – the increasing gap among regions that have access to communications technology and modern information and those who do not have or little means to acquire it.
Dyad – the smallest type of group composed of two persons characterized with the most intense relationship.
Dysnomia – inconsistency or functional disunity among parts of society; opposite of eunomia.
Ecclesia – a religious congregation that is closely allied with the state and is recognized on a national level.
Economic determinism – a theory originated from Karl Marx that emphasizes economic forces as the main factor that shapes society and its structures.
Economy – a social institution that manages society’s resources.
Emergent-norm theory – asserts that crowds respond to rather unfamiliar circumstances by developing new norms that deem to be appropriate for that certain situation.
Emigration – leaving an area to reside in another place.
Environmental racism – ethnic and racial minority groups and members of the low-socioeconomic class have a disproportionate exposure to hazardous and dangerous items.
Environmental sustainability – the degree to which the quality of human life is improved and its activities are sustained without undermining the earth’s supporting ecosystems.
Equilibrium theory – social changes will threaten the social order unless other aspects of society will make appropriate adjustments.
Ethnocentrism – view of other cultures based on how it is compared to their own beliefs, values, and practices.
Expressive crowds – people who are gathering to communicate their emotions, like the ones attending funeral services.
Extended family – a structure where parents and grandparents are present; can also consist of the uncles, aunts, and cousins.
Eunomia – functional unity and harmonious relationship between the parts of society.
Evolutionary theory – (used to explain social change); states that all societies move in specific directions and go through stages of evolution—progressing continuously.
Family of orientation – the family where a person is born.
Family of procreation – a family that is formed through marriage.
Fecundity number – measured number of offspring that women of childbearing age could give birth to.
Fertility rate – number of born children.
Folkways – conventional behaviors without moral significance.
Formal organizations – groups with a common goal who follow formal relationships and systems of authority.
Goods – physical things individuals discover, make, or nurture to meet one’s own needs or those of others.
Government – makes and enforces laws for society.
Habitualization – a process through which habits become part of social patterns, which then will be organized into social structures.
Historical materialism – the belief that societies are shaped mainly by power relations and collective economic activities.
Horticultural societies – as people began to cultivate plants, they gradually formed permanent settlements.
Hunter-gatherer society – nomadic people who rely heavily on wild plants and animals in their surroundings for their food.
Immigration – entering a new area where you’ll establish your permanent residence.
In-group – a group where a person has a sense of belongingness.
Industrial society – characterized by economic production and work is primarily based on machines like the steam engine.
Institutionalization – a process through which values and beliefs are ingrained in the larger society.
Institutionalization stage – (social movements) – when the movements grow bigger, the organization becomes established, and grassroots volunteerism is no longer required because usually there will now be a paid staff.
Interpretive sociology – accounts for the meanings that an individual attributes to his actions and its focus is to have an in-depth understanding of human activities.
Labeling theory – states that deviant behaviors are only considered as such because of how society labels them.
Laws – formal rules enforced by the state.
Looking-glass self – a social psychological concept, where the “self” is formed and shaped based on other people’s perception of them.
Material culture – physical objects and artifacts that are part of the culture.
Matrilineal descent – tracing of kinship through the mother’s side.
Matrilocal residence – a system where the husband is supposed to live with or near the wife’s relatives.
Mass – composed of many people but are not capable of acting together because they are dispersed and unknown to one another.
Mechanical solidarity – integration among people that is based on their shared values and beliefs.
Metaphysical stage – (law of three stages of societies) – views are based on abstract forces in the form of essences and ideas.
Modernization – a process where there is an increase in the differences among structures and the amount of work specialization.
Monarchy – a political system where a single person serves as the head of the state.
Monogamy – a marriage where a person is married to only one.
Mores – norms of morality that embodies society’s moral views and principles.
Mortality rate – the measure of the frequency of death’s occurrence in a given population within a particular time interval.
Multilinear evolutionary theory – proposed by Gerhard Lenski Jr., it states that societies undergo through different lines and that change does not necessarily steer in the same direction.
Nonmaterial culture – consists of shared ideas, attitudes, and beliefs.
Normative organization – membership is voluntary and is based on a shared interest.
Norms – established and agreed-upon expectations and rules in the society.
Nuclear family – a structure that includes married parents and children.
Oligarchy – a government by the few, which is usually composed of the elite group.
Organic analogy – society’s parts (institutions and structures) are interrelated and interdependent just like the human body.
Organic solidarity – social cohesion that is a result of work specialization, which then leads to the interdependence of society’s members with one another.
Out-group – a group wherein an individual sees himself as an outsider.
Pastoral societies – the time when people discovered their ability to breed animals and started to have surplus goods and engage in trading.
Patriarchy – male-dominant societies and where structures and systems are oppressive and unequal to women
Patrilineal descent – tracing of kinship through the father’s side.
Patrilocal residence – a system where the wife is supposed to live with or near the husband’s relatives.
Penal social control – addressing violations and deviant behavior through punishments.
Personal troubles – private issues that are within the individual’s control and character.
Politics – the activity of sharing power and influencing its distribution among groups in a society.
Polygamy – the practice of having multiple spouses.
Power – individual’s ability to exercise his will on the other person.
Positive stage – (law of three stages of societies) – society is dominated by a scientific way of thinking and the main basis are facts that can be observed and gathered.
Positivist sociology – the application of scientific methods from natural sciences in order to find the natural laws of social behavior.
Postindustrial societies – (also referred to as information or digital societies) – centered on producing non-material goods such as information and services.
Pre-industrial – (evolution of societies) – mostly agricultural and are limited to human labor.
Preliminary stage – (social movements) – the stage when individuals reach awareness about a certain issue and key potential leaders are seen.
Primary economic sector – part of the economy that utilizes raw materials coming directly from the earth’s resources.
Primary groups – a small group with strong emotional ties, intimate interaction, and is composed of one’s significant others.
Profane things – the mundane things.
Proletariat – the working class in a capitalist society.
Public – composed of many people who share similar ideas on certain issues.
Public goods – goods provided for everyone and nonrivalrous in terms of consumption.
Public issues – challenges that are linked to the society’s structures, institutions, and processes.
Quaternary sector – comprises of the specialized activities that are information and knowledge-based service.
Quinary sector – focuses on high-levels of decision making.
Rational-legal authority – power made legitimate by written rules and regulations.
Reference groups – serves as a standard of measurement where people compare themselves with.
Reform movements – movements that seek to change a particular thing on the social structure.
Religious beliefs – specific ideas of a particular faith that members believe in.
Religious experiences – refer to the sensation that they feel as they connect to the ‘divine’.
Religious/Redemptive movements – referred to as “meaning-seeking” movements; the goal of this is to inspire spiritual growth or inner change among individuals.
Religious rituals – practices that are expected from members of a particular religious group.
Resistance movements – movements that attempt to impede change in society’s structure.
Revolutionary movements – aims to radically and completely change the ways of society.
Roles – expected behavioral patterns that represent a person’s status.
Sacred things – collective representations that are set apart and forbidden.
Secondary economic sector – transforms raw materials into finished and valuable products.
Secondary groups – usually a task-focused group, larger in size, and more impersonal in nature.
Sect – a smaller and less organized religious group.
Self-fulfilling prophecy – false beliefs and expectations about a person would lead them to act in a way that would make the false conception true.
Significant others – individuals who play a vital role when it comes to one’s socialization.
Social aggregate – people who are in the same place at the same time, have superficial interactions but do not have a shared sense of identity.
Social category – individuals who have at least one similar attribute but not interacting.
Social control – regulation of norms.
Social Darwinism – inspired by the work of Charles Darwin, it is the application of principles of biological evolution to the evolution of societies.
Social dynamics – highlights the social change that was founded on Comte’s law of three stages of societies.
Social facts – things external to the individual and exert certain control over him.
Social group – two or more people who share a common identity and have regular interactions.
Social inequality – the condition of having unequal access to the benefits one can get from society.
Social institutions – mechanisms of social order with the goal of addressing the needs of society.
Social movements – a collective behavior that is an organized effort and goal-driven.
Social statics – focuses on how social structures interact with one another to maintain social order.
Social stratification – the ranking of people within the society based on socioeconomic factors.
Social structures – patterned social relations and organized social institutions.
Socialism – the means of production is collectively owned.
Socialization – a lifelong process of internalizing society’s values, norms, and beliefs.
Society – a group of people interacting within a defined spatial territory who share cultural beliefs and practices.
Sociological imagination – a quality of mind that enables one to “grasp the interplay of individuals and society, of biography and history, of self and world” (Mills, 1959).
Sociology – the scientific study of society.
Status – one’s social position within a group.
Status quo – current structures, values, and state of a group.
Structural-functionalist perspective – views society as an organism with interrelated parts that work together to maintain social order.
Subcultures – groups that possess the dominant culture but have specific identifications at the same time.
Symbolic interactionist perspective – focuses on human actions and patterns across individual behaviors; human action is based on the meanings they attribute toward a situation and these meanings are formed from their interactions with one another and the society, which can also be modified through an interpretive process.
Taboos – societal behaviors that are prohibited.
Tertiary economic sector – service-oriented economy.
Theological stage – (law of three stages of societies) – a time when the world is viewed in terms of supernatural powers and deities.
Totalitarianism – the state possesses unlimited power and control over its people.
Traditional authority – the legitimacy of authority is based on the acceptance of people in the past.
Triad – a three-person group that is deemed to be more stable than a dyad because the third person can help balance the first two individuals whenever conflict happens.
Unilateral descent – tracing of kinship with one parent only.
Unilinear evolutionary theories – all societies go through the almost similar order of stages of evolution toward a common end.
Utilitarian organization – the reason for membership is to get a specific material reward.
Verstehen – a German term, which means to understand; this simply means putting oneself in someone’s shoes.
Little, W. (2014). Introduction to Sociology – 1st Canadian Edition. Victoria, B.C.: BCcampus. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/i
Schmitz, A. (2012). Sociology Comprehensive Edition. Retrieved from https://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/sociology-comprehensive-edition/s09-groups-and-organizations.html
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