[ home | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z || help | about ]

The original inhabitants of a country or territory. In the Americas, the aboriginal people have descended from the first inhabitants of the continents, before European contact, and include the peoples broadly classified as Indian and Inuit. The synonymous term ‘native peoples’ is also widely used. Section 35(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 declares that ‘aboriginal peoples’ includes ‘Indian, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada’.

Abortion was regulated by criminal law in Canada until January 1988 when the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional on the grounds that it was applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner. No new law has been enacted so abortion continues to be legal. The troublesome law was an amendment to the Criminal Code made in 1969 allowing a therapeutic committee to authorize an abortion if it was deemed the life or health of the mother was at considerable risk. In the United States abortion was legalized in 1973 by the Supreme Court case known as Roe vs. Wade. The struggle between pro-life and pro-choice groups over abortion has now shifted to the financing of abortions, hospital policy and protest outside clinics providing abortions. Conflict over the abortion issue is less intense in Canada, where there is overwhelmingly pro-choice public opinion, than in the United States, where there is a strong pro-life movement linked to fundamentalist religious groups.

Where an individual may be held liable for a breech of the law without the requirement that criminal intent (mens rea) be proven by the prosecution. Usually the illegal action will be one that is manifestly damaging to the public interest. These offenses are most likely found in regulatory law. A captain found with undersize lobster in the hold of a fishboat, for example, has no opportunity to claim lack of knowledge or that he had no intent to catch them.

(1) As used in the sociology of deviance, accounts refers to the rationalizations that people provide for their actions. Two large groups of accounts are distinguished: justifications and excuses. (2) In ethnomethodology the term is used to refer to the practices of observation and reporting which make objects and events observable and objective. For example, if a teacher claims that a student is above average, there are a set of things the teacher routinely does (setting tests and assignments, grading participation etc. ) to give this claim foundation and demonstrate the competence of the student in an objective and rational of the student is therefore connected to these accounting practices.

A process of cultural transformation initiated by contacts between different cultures. At a global level, acculturation takes place as societies experience the transforming impact of international cultural contact. The global trend towards modern economic organization and developed market economies has been accompanied by a process of cultural transformation. A key change is towards a transformation of economic organization, the great majority of individuals come to generate their income through employment or running businesses, rather than from economic bonds with family and community. In the modern world, there is great ease of international communication and interaction between cultures, but sociologists have generally focused attention on the global impact of the capitalist western world on other societies. While each society experiences a unique process of cultural and economic transformation, there are some common trends that appear to be linked to the development of complex market economies, a wage employment system and urbanization. Individuals experience acculturation when their social roles and socialization are shaped by norms and values that are largely foreign to their native culture. Educational and occupational experiences are the primary agents of the individual's acculturation process. Some sociologists use the term to refer simply to the process of learning and absorbing a culture, making it synonymous with socialization, but ‘enculturation’ is a more appropriate word for that meaning. See: SOCIALIZATION / .

Literally ‘headless’, meaning that the society is without any formalized or institutionalized system of power and authority. Collective decisions are made in a variety of ways, including informal community gatherings

A sociological perspective that focuses on the individual as a subject and views social action as something purposively shaped by individuals within a context to which they have given meaning. This approach has its foundations in Max Weber's (1864-1920) ‘interpretive sociology’ which claims that it is necessary to know the subjective purpose and intent of the actor before an observer can understand the meaning of social action. Those sociologists who focus on ‘action’ tend to treat the individual as an autonomous subject, rather than as constrained by social structure and culture. As a subject, the individual is seen as exercising agency, voluntarism, giving meaning to objects and events and acting with intent. While Max Weber insisted on the power of society and historical context in giving shape to human action, some sociologists adopting action theory have been accused of neglecting the influence of social structure and culture on people's behaviour.

One of two components of a crime, the other being mens rea. Actus reus refers to the physical component of a crime, the act of committing the crime (eg: actually taking the stereo from someone's house). Mens rea , in contrast, is the mental component of crime, the existence of a criminal intent, and this requires the offender to have intended to carry out the physical act. Both components are required for conviction under criminal law although for some other laws, called laws of absolute liability, only the physical component is required.

Policies of governments and other institutions that are designed to actively promote and advance the status and the social and occupational participation of groups of people designated by sex, ethnicity or other shared characteristic. The intent of such policies is to counteract perceived disadvantagement of such groups. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 15(2)) allows for the possibility of such policy without it being subject to challenge on grounds of discrimination against non-designated groups.

The assumption that a person's age should determine their social status and their roles in society. Usually refers to stereotyping and devaluation of seniors. See: STEREOTYPE / .

This term is linked to sociologies which focus on the individual as a subject and view social action as something purposively shaped by individuals within a context to which they have given meaning. This view is usually contrasted with those sociologies which focus on social structure and imply the individual is shaped and constrained by the structural environment in which they are located. See: ACTION THEORY / .

The development of crop and animal raising as a food source among human communities to supplement hunting and gathering. This is thought to have first occurred among human groups in the neolithic period (approximately 10 000 to 8 000 B.C.).

A separation of individuals from control and direction of their social life. The term was used widely in German philosophy in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it has become important for sociology through the ideas of Karl Marx (1818-1883). Marx claimed that human alienation was created by a socially structured separation between humans and their work. This separation reached its highest intensity in capitalist society where the great mass of the population depended for subsistence on working under the direction of others. In the capitalist workplace, individuals were separated from ownership, control and direction of their work and were unable to achieve personal creative expression. The competitive nature of the workplace also alienated, or separated, workers from each other.

From the word alter - to make a thing different. A term central to postmodern discussions of identity in which the self is given meaning in terms of an ‘other’. This other is posed or imagined in terms of difference. Alterity then is a state of, or condition of, otherness. The term is useful for thinking about how many peoples throughout history have been cast in the role of inferior and as the opposite of those who look down upon them. Negative qualities are projected onto these ‘others’ and the imagined contrast with them strengthens the sense of one's own rightness and confirms one's sense of identity. For Euro-Canadians, for example, the ‘Indian’ has been a significant expression of the other and hence central to the Euro-Canadian sense of self. ‘Indian’ then is the ‘other’ and has the quality of alterity. See: POSTMODERN / .

Social behaviour and value orientation in which individuals give primary consideration to the interests and welfare of other individuals, members of groups or the community as a whole. The term was used by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) to describe a suicide committed for the benefit of others or for the community: this would include self-sacrifice for military objectives in wartime. Sociobiologists argue that altruistic behaviour has its roots in self-interest, the unconscious desire to protect one's genetic heritage. Critics of sociobiology respond that altruism is evident between individuals and in social situations where people are completely unrelated genetically and claim that human conduct and motivations cannot be explained without reference to the values and norms of culture.

In Greek legend the amazon was a female hunter, unusual for occupying a male role. The Amazon river was named after this legendary hunter when early European explorers encountered women who were hunters and in many ways acted like men. Many cultures have acknowledged a masculine role for women. In Hinduism this role is an aspect of the female ‘hijras’. The Kaska Indians of the Subarctic may select a daughter when it appeared the family was going to have no sons and perform a transformation ceremony to symbolically turn the daughter into a son. The dried ovaries of a bear were tied to her belt which she always wore, she dressed like males and engaged in hunting. The counterpart of this role among men is called ‘berdache’. See: BERDACHE / .

A religious sect related to the 16th century Mennonites but emerging under the leadership of Bishop Jacob Ammon. They arrived in Canada in 1825 and settled in Waterloo county, Ontario. This group is more traditional than many present Mennonites and has kept religious beliefs alive as well as the customary forms of living, dress and work. See: SECT / .

Developed by Leslie Wilkens, this term is used more frequently in Britain than in Canada. Deviance amplification refers to the unintended outcome of moral panics or social policies designed to prevent or reduce deviance. Typically, the attention given to deviance by the media and moral entrepreneurs serves to attract new recruits and provides them with a definition of what the public expects, thus amplifying the amount of deviance in society. See: MORAL ENTREPRENEURS / MORAL PANIC / .

A personality which holds a balance of feminine and masculine characteristics. An androgynous person would be one comfortable with displaying both characteristics and able to move back and forth between the two. Some feminists have advocated gender androgyny as a source of liberation from polarized cultural ideas of masculine and feminine.

A social psychological condition, rather than a societal condition which ‘anomie’ refers to, characterized by a breakdown in values and a feeling of isolation. This term has proved much easier to measure than has Durkheim's concept of ‘anomie’.

Where the division of labour in the workplace is based on power and social and economic status, rather than on differentiations of individual ability or effort. In such circumstances, according to Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), the division of labour cannot command normative consensus and may become a source of anomie and breakdown of social solidarity.

A concept developed by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) to describe an absence of clear societal norms and values. Individuals lack a sense of social regulation: people feel unguided in the choices they have to make. Anomie can occur in several different situations. For example, the undermining of traditional values may result from cultural contact. The concept can be helpful in partially understanding the experience of colonized Aboriginal peoples as their traditional values are disrupted, yet they do not identify with the new cultural values imposed upon them: they lose a sense of authoritative normative regulation. Durkheim was also concerned that anomie might arise from a lack of consensus over social regulation of the workplace. American sociologist Robert Merton (1910- ) used the term more narrowly to refer to a situation where people's goals - what they wanted to achieve - were beyond their means. Their commitment to the goal was so strong that they would adopt deviant means to achieve it. He argued that American society - perhaps more strongly than other capitalist societies - held out the goal of personal wealth and success to all its citizens. It placed extremely high value on the attainment of wealth and high social status. Materialistic goals were so stressed in society, Merton argued, that those groups in society who did not believe in their chance of success through conventional avenues ( a good education, good job, good income, etc.), because they were poor or otherwise lacked opportunity, were induced toward unconventional routes to attain wealth - including crime. The social norms against crime were sometimes too weakly implanted in individuals to restrain them from seeking to fulfill the value of economic success through criminal means. They wanted to win the game without regard to the rules. More recently, anomie, has been used in a more individually-focused way to talk about problems of immigrant youth when faced with a new culture or about the identity crises which often erupt during the age transition from youth to adult. Durkheim's use of the term -’lack of social regulation’- remains the standard definition.

A specialisation within the discipline of anthropology centred on the scientific study of the origins and development of human beings through analysis of fossil and skeletal remains.

Also referred to as cultural anthropology , this discipline is conceptually and theoretically similar to sociology. Anthropology originally developed as the study of non-western cultures but many anthropologists now study western societies and the disciplines of sociology and anthropology have been tending to converge.

A negative and hostile attitude to Jews and the Jewish religion. As a migrant people, the Jews have experienced anti-Semitism within many societies and throughout much of recorded history. The most extreme expression of anti-Semitism was the Holocaust, when six million Jews were murdered in German concentration camps during World War II. This mass killing, carried out in an advanced and intellectually sophisticated society, traumatized Western societies and called into question the then dominant idea that historical development was marked by an increasingly rational commitment to the creation of an enlightened, progressive and humane society.

In order to protect the principle of competition, valued by all liberal, capitalistic societies, laws have been created to prevent and punish the undermining of free markets by corporate combination.

A personality disorder that involves disregard for the rights or others, as well as impulsive, irresponsible and aggressive behaviour.

A policy of racial segregation maintained in South Africa from 1948 to 1991. The policy established the doctrine of ‘separate development’ whereby South African blacks were segregated into reserves known as ‘homelands’ and subjected to residential and occupational restrictions. Apartheid was maintained by a wide range of laws that included the prohibition of inter-racial sexual intercourse or marriage and outlawed racially integrated political and social organizations. A white-minority government, faced with international pressures and internal conflict, began the process of dismantling apartheid in the late 1980's and eventually extended the right to vote on equal terms to all South African adults. A subsequent election in 1994 installed South Africa's first Black majority government led by Nelson Mandela.

The study of past cultures through the discovery and examination of remaining artifacts (things made by people) and remains of things used by people. In the social sciences, archaeology is one of the main fields of anthropology since it offers the only method for studying lost and forgotten cultures. Archaeological study can uncover a rich store of information about the beliefs, social structure, economic organization and environmental effects of past societies. Modern archaeologists have enhanced the accuracy of their work with scientific techniques of carbon dating of artifacts and the use of DNA analysis.

Where an ethnic group loses distinctiveness and becomes absorbed into a majority culture. Some sociologists suggest that the process can create a new culture resulting from the fusion of the cultures of different ethnic groups into a new blend, but the term integration is usually chosen by sociologists to suggest this blending of divergent cultures. The concept of assimilation is useful when discussing the persistence of minority cultures within host societies. In Canada, for example, visible minorities have experienced slower and less comprehensive assimilation than many western European ethnic minorities. Canada's official government policy of multiculturalism implies resistance to assimilation and support for a society where people preserve their cultural distinctiveness, yet join together for common pursuits and agree on fundamental values. See: ACCULTURATION / INTEGRATION, SOCIAL / MULTICULTURALISM / .

The view that offenders are distinguished from non-offenders by, for example, their high levels of impulsivity and aggression.

The view that offenders against the law have some psychological deficit that distinguishes them from normal law abiding citizens.


A tendency to reproduce ancestral type in plants and in animals; to resemble one's grandparents or great-grandparents more than parents. In popular speech, a ‘throw back’. This concept was used by Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) to describe a type of criminal he called the born criminal. The atavistic criminal was one representing an earlier stage of human evolution (thus representing the ancestral type more than the parental type). This ancestral type was identified by Lombroso through several stigmatized physical characteristics - including the length of ear lobes and fingers and the bone structure of the head. This supposed physical degeneracy was associated with moral degeneracy and thus more frequent criminal behaviour. These physical stigmata were not found to be especially associated with criminals and this particular theory of criminality was rejected.

The degree to which an individual has affective ties to other persons. In Travis Hirschi's work, aspects of the ‘social bond’.

A group of individuals attending to a common media. They receive communication from the same source, but are not active participants and do not communicate with each other. In sociology, the term is used to draw attention to the way that media corporations develop audiences of readers, listeners and viewers with the business objective of selling access to this audience to advertisers. In this perspective the creation and maintenance of an audience (rather than the activity of communication) is the prime goal of media enterprises. See: CONSUMER CULTURE / .

Audience is defined as an individual's or a group of persons' cerebral and/or sensory and/or tactile intake/reception and/or perception of a culture product and/or products of communicative action(s). Culture is defined as a system of communicative action(s) with several sub-systems of such communicative actions including all types of communication in all media. Media is defined as the tools and venues of communication via which a culture product or products is/are assembled, processed, disseminated, and consumed (e.g., printed matter, television, film, radio, theater, etc.). The field of scholarship including market-oriented research where audience is studied is commonly designated as Audience Studies, aimed at the observation and analysis of individuals and their behavior with regard to his/her or their intake of a particular culture product(s) presented in a medium or media. In this definition, areas of communicative action such as the readership of literature, radio audience, television viewership, music concert audience, theater audience/spectatorship, museum viewing, multimedia, the world wide web, etc., are all understood as constituting audience of communicative action(s) with/in/of media. Audience studies is about the what, when, where, who, why, and how of a culture product or products. The following categories of audience can be listed:

  1. Readers as audience (printed media: book, newspaper, magazine, etc.),
  2. Auditory audience (radio, record, tape, CD, incl. music and other forms of material, etc.),
  3. Auditory and visual audience of performance (theater, musical, opera, concert, dance, etc.),
  4. Visual audience (museum, gallery, exhibition, photography, display, etc.),
  5. Mixed auditory and visual audience of media (e.g., television, film, video, music video, etc.),
  6. New media and technology audience (world wide web, multimedia, etc.).

The capacity of an individual or institution to secure compliance from others based on the possession of a recognized right to legitimately claim obedience. Authority is obeyed because the individual or institution issuing commands is believed to have the right to do so. Max Weber (1864-1920) defined three ideal types of authority: traditional, which rests on history, myth and ritual; charismatic, founded on a belief in a leader's exceptional qualities and inspirational mission; and rational-legal, founded on democratic principles and a framework of law to which all individuals and institutions are subject.

Officially known as the Canada-US Automotive Products Agreement. This agreement, signed in January 1965, established a link between the number of vehicles sold in Canada and the amount of automotive manufacturing activity that must be carried out in Canada. The agreement provided that manufacturers must ensure that value added by automotive manufacturing activity in Canada must not fall below the level established in 1964. The agreement also provided for percentages of Canadian manufacturing content to be increased as total Canadian sales values rose. Initially, the agreement was intended to ensure that the Canadian economy gain an appropriate proportion of the manufacturing activity and employment benefits that flowed from car sales, by foreign, chiefly US corporations, to Canadian consumers. Over the years since 1965, Canada has in fact maintained a higher ratio of value added manufacturing activity to sales than the levels provided in the Autopact. While the pact has helped ensure a strong automotive manufacturing presence in both Ontario and Quebec, it has entrenched complete foreign domination of an important sector of the Canadian economy.

The concentration of power and authority in the hands of one person. Usually, autocracy refers to a situation where state power is controlled by a monarch, religious leader or political dictator. The term can also be applied to particular social institutions where one individual has dominant power and authority. See: DEMOCRACY / MERITOCRACY / PLUTOCRACY / .

Methods of production that rely on mechanical or electronic technologies as a replacement for human labour. See: DESKILLING / FORDISM / .

A measurement of the extent to which an individual's physical organism reacts to external stimuli.

[ home | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z || help | about ]

Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
The online version of this dictionary is a product of
Athabasca University and

*This social science dictionary has 1000
entries covering the disciplines of sociology, criminology, political
science and women's study with a commitment to Canadian examples and
events and names