[ 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 amount of crime which is unreported or unknown The total amount of crime in a community consists of crimes which are known or recorded and the dark figure of crime. Criminologists have used differing methods (like victimization surveys) to try to decrease the amount of unknown or unrecorded crime. Considering the notion of a dark figure of crime is based on a positivist approach to criminology and assumes that crime is real or objective.

The total amount owed by governments to lenders who have bought bonds and Treasury bills sold by government to cover past deficits and operating expenses. A substantial portion of Canadian government debt is now held by investors outside of the country.


A concept central to post-modernism, this is a process of rigorously analyzing and making apparent the assumptions, judgments and values that underlie social arrangements and intellectual ideas. Authors such as J. Derrida reject the idea that there is any correspondence between texts and truth, suggesting that texts (eg: the writing of Marx or Plato) have no objective links to external events. This being so these texts are not used to learn about the external events or to evaluate those events. Rather the text is only examined internally to search for the hidden text (or subtext) which gives meaning. See: POSTMODERN / .

A set of ideas within the environmental movement which stress the belief that modern societies have become anthropocentric - placing the human species and its interests at the top of the agenda. Supporters of deep ecology argue that society must become biocentric - seeing all biological organism, including humans, as having value in and of themselves. This suggests that human relationship with the natural environment should not be based on its value for the human species; rather things should be valued for themselves and consequently we should return as much of the environment to its natural state as possible.

The gap between governments' revenues, from taxes and charges, and their expenditures, on programs, infrastructure, and debt financing. See: DEBT / .

Refers to the process through which humans go when trying to comprehend the social situations in which they find themselves and deciding on what values and norms are relevant in guiding social interaction. If one contrasts macro-structural studies and symbolic interactionism, this concept is associated with the latter. The structural view tends rather to focus on the situation individuals are in, not on their definition of the situation. The term was first used by W.I. Thomas (1863-1947).

Reduction in the size of populations held in institutions of involuntary confinement, primarily mental hospitals and prisons. This movement began in the 1970s and was very successful in reducing the size of mental hospitals. While prison populations appeared to decrease in the United States for a short time, there was a subsequent increase of unprecedented dimension. Community mental health programs and community corrections developed in response to the desire for deinstitutionalization, but community corrections has come to be seen as an aspect of net widening. See: NET WIDENING / .

A major case on Aboriginal rights decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997. The court held that Aboriginal title to land was not extinguished by the establishment of sovereignty by the Crown. It also stated that Crown ownership of lands was a separate issue from jurisdiction over those lands. Where Aboriginal title to land was established by long term exclusive and continuous occupation the Crown may still infringe on aboriginal title for valid legislative objectives like settling foreign populations or for economic development. The Court specified that groups with Aboriginal title should be involved in the decision-making process regarding their lands. Depending on the nature of any proposed infringement fair compensation would normally be required.

As used in experimental psychology, refers to unintended features of the experiment which affect the results, thus compromising the internal validity of the study. The term is also used in the sociology of deviance to refer to those organizational features of work settings, other than the formal goals of the organizations or principles such as due process or fairness, which shape arrest decisions, plea bargaining, or jury deliberations. Examples of demand characteristics which police officers may attend to in making decisions on the street are the informal expectations of police culture, their work load, their need to accumulate overtime or organizational rules.

A form of social mobility which takes place over time but which is not caused by individuals ascending or descending in class or status, but rather by changes in the occupational structure of the economy. It results from there being greater demand for some kinds of labour and a shrinking demand for others and not from the openness of the society. In a situation of high demand mobility, with little openness, one might find that workers occupy the same relative positions in social and economic position as their parents although performing quite different kinds of work. See: SOCIAL MOBILITY / .

In the original Greek literally ‘rule by the people’. In the Greek world, political organization was usually centred around ‘city states’ and male citizens had equal rights to participate in government. The Greek concept of citizenship implied that citizens must become actively involved in government, not just vote for representatives. In modern usage the term has become narrowed to mean a system of government where citizens have equal legal rights to vote in free elections. See: AUTOCRACY / MERITOCRACY / PLUTOCRACY / .

The gap between the potential democratic control exercised by citizens of a nation and the actual amount of democratic control available because of the transfer of decision making to non-elected agencies. Many social scientists are of the belief that this deficit has increased substantially because of free trade agreements, the deregulation of corporate activity, the growth of multinational corporations which are now beyond the ability of any one nation to control and the growth of super bureaucracies designed to coordinate cross-border activities.

The transformation of the structure of a population accompanying the change from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy. The former society is characterized by high birth rates and high death rates, providing some stability to population size. Stability is also found in mature industrial societies with low death rates and low birth rates. The transition period typically involves declining death rates while birth rates remain high, leading to population growth. See: DEMOGRAPHY / .

The study of populations, including their size, structure and transformations.

The proportion of the population that is outside the labour force and thus dependent on the economic activity of those working. This is typically calculated as the proportion of the population between the ages of 0 to 16 plus those over 65 to those between the ages of 16-65. As industrial societies have matured, and particularly those with a large baby boom such as Canada, the dependency ratio has increased significantly (for example, from 1 dependent to 20 workers to 1 dependent for 3 workers). See: BABY BOOM / DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSITION / .

A central concept of dependency theory. Rather than seeing the world's nations dividing economic labour and interacting as equal partners, dependent development suggests that some nations are able to impose unequal exchanges on others and thus retard the economic development of these nations or make their development dependent on stronger or more economically advanced nations. Dependent development has typically involved the exporting of primary resources. See: COLONIALISM / IMPERIALISM / METROPOLIS-HINTERLAND THEORY / .

Statistical tools or techniques used to describe a sample or a population. For example, a mean, median or mode is a descriptive statistic. See: INFERENTIAL STATISTICS / .

The process by which division of labour and technological development has led to the reduction of the scope of an individual's work to one, or a few, specialized tasks. Work is fragmented, and individuals lose the integrated skills and comprehensive knowledge of the crafts persons. See: AUTOMATION / CRAFT UNIONS / .

The theory that examination of one or more definable factors allows for a complete explanation and prediction of the characteristics of society or the individual. For example, to argue that societies gain all their central characteristics from the psychological drives of human beings is a form of psychological determinism; to explain the social roles and behaviour of men and women by reference chiefly to their sex is biological determinism. See: ECONOMIC DETERMINISM / PSYCHOLOGISM / .

As used in criminal justice, refers to crime prevention achieved through the fear of punishment. See: GENERAL DETERRENCE / SPECIFIC DETERRENCE / .

An approach to crime prevention which focuses on the way a crime occurs or a victimization happens. For example, the community may focus on helping teachers develop self-control in young people, providing follow-up on violent behaviour by young people or educating the public to make their property more secure. In general this approach to crime prevention tries to prevent the development of a motivated offender.

Commonly refers to violations of social norms (including legal norms) but many sociologists reject this behavioral or normative definition of deviance and see deviance instead as simply a label. Deviance in this view is that which we react to, through social control responses, as deviance. See: LABELING THEORY / .

Where the individual commits deviant acts but does not adopt a primary self-identity as a deviant.

Where the individual commits deviant acts and although recognizing that these acts are socially defined as deviant remains committed to continue them. This results in the adoption of a deviant self identity that confirms and stabilizes the deviant life style.

The belief that social organization, culture and intellectual ideas change because of the development of contradictions that create challenges to the existing state of affairs and lead to the emergence of something new from this tension. Georg Hegel (1770-1831) developed this idea in Western philosophy when he claimed that every existing social arrangement or intellectual belief system represents a ‘thesis’ - a way of doing or thinking about things - that gives rise to a contradictory, or opposing, ‘antithesis’. From the contest between ‘thesis’ and ‘antithesis’ emerges something new and unique: a ‘synthesis’. There is some element of this conception in the writing of Karl Marx (1818-1883) when he claims that contradictions arise in capitalism and the resolution of these contradictions produces a new type of social and economic system. This suggests that the seeds of capitalism's demise or transformation are located within capitalism and are not generated from outside. See: CONTRADICTIONS OF CAPITALISM / DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM / .

A concept linked to Marx's ideas, but an expression never actually used in his writing. In general, this concept suggests that the process of social change is not attributable to changes in culture or ideas but arises within the material conditions of people's lives, in the way they are organized around economic activity. See: CONTRADICTIONS OF CAPITALISM / DIALECT / .

Developed by Edwin Sutherland in the 1930's, this was a radical explanation for criminal behaviour since it argues that crime, like any social behaviour, is learned in association with others. The phrase ‘differential association’ simply means that people have different social situations and thus learn different things. What is learned is cultural material. If the individual regularly associates with criminals , and is relatively isolated from law abiding citizens, then they are more likely to engage in crime themselves. First they learn some specific skills needed to commit crime (how to open a locked vault), and second, ideas that justify and normalize crime. This concept leads directly to a subcultural theory of crime that asserts that not all groups in society uphold the same values or norms and for some groups crime is normative.

A characteristic of relatively simple societies where people encounter each other in a variety of overlapping roles, there is little occupational specialization and no clear separation of private and public spheres of life. People are continuously reminded of their extensive bonds with others.

One of two large categories of foreign investment. Direct investment refers to financial investments in a company in order to gain control or ownership, while portfolio investment refers to financial investment for the purpose of interest or dividends.

An important theme in post-modernism especially in writers like Michel Foucault (1929-1984) for whom it is important to analyze how people talk about the world around them. The central idea is that the way people talk about the world does not reflect some objective truth about that world, but instead reflects the success of particular ways of thinking and seeing. These ways of thinking and seeing tend to become invisible, because they are simply assumed to be truthful and right, and in this way people's thought processes themselves can come to represent and reinforce particular regimes of power and coercion.

The unequal treatment of individuals on the basis of their personal characteristics, which may include age, sex, sexual orientation, ethnic or physical identity. Discrimination usually refers to negative treatment, but discrimination in favour of particular groups can also occur. See: PREJUDICE / .


To be without the right to vote. More commonly the term is used to describe groups that have little power or representation in the political process. Young people could be called disenfranchised since they have a low rate of voting and more importantly they have little representation in the political process or institutions which concern them. See: ENFRANCHISEMENT / SUFFRAGE / .

This phrase can be used in a psychological way or in a sociological way. For psychology it refers to the tendency for people in crisis to dissociate their experiences from aspects of their personality or identity. This can lead to multiple personality. For the sociologist it refers more to social isolation from others for a variety of reasons.

One of two key categories of justice or fairness, the other being retributive justice. Distributive justice refers to fairness in the allocation of the rewards or benefits of society or of an institution within society. For example, it is seen as ‘fair’ that those student essays which best meet the criteria of academia should receive the best grades. When Karl Marx asserts that workers produce value in a commodity which they do not receive and are thus exploited, he is concerned about distributive injustice. Retributive justice, on the other hand, refers to fairness in the administration and imposition of punishment on those who have brought harm or negative consequences on individuals or society. It is seen as fair, for example, that those who violate the law should receive punishment. The criminal justice system can be thought of as the institutionalization of this type of justice.

Until the Divorce Act of 1968 divorce was difficult to obtain in Canada and in Quebec and Newfoundland where no legislation existed, divorce could only be obtained through a private Act of Parliament. The 1968 Act created two grounds for divorce: fault (adultery, mental and physical cruelty, homosexuality, imprisonment or addiction) and marriage breakdown (which included separation for at least three years). The divorce rate jumped considerably after the passage of this Act. The 1986 Divorce Act removed the fault grounds and provided that divorce could be obtained when marriage breakdown could be proven by a separation of one year.

Commonly known as "fraternal twins

This term was used by Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) and Alfred Schutz (1899-1959), but its current meaning derives from Harold Garfinkel, the founder of ethnomethodology. He asserts that the documentary method is a method which lay persons and sociologists alike use in commonsense reasoning about the world. The method consists of treating an actual appearance as the document of, or as pointing to, a presupposed underlying pattern. The child's choice of toys (a boy choosing a truck or a girl choosing a doll) is seen as an indication of an underlying pattern of biological preferences (or for the sociologist, of gender socialization) Further, there is a reciprocal relationship between the ‘document’ and the underlying pattern: the underlying pattern is now given some legitimacy because of the observation of the individual ‘document’ -the child's choice of toys. See: ETHNOMETHODOLOGY / .

Associated with Karl Marx and his claim that each historical era is dominated by the intellectual ideas of its economically and politically ruling class. The institutions and culture of a society are widely permeated by this ideology which provides the key institutions and values of the society with an appearance of naturalness and inevitability. It is not claimed that there is only one ideology present within a society, or that this ideology is without challenge. Marx's envisages a process of class conflict in society that develops the contest between dominant ideologies and the ideas or counter ideologies that challenge them. See: FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS / IDEOLOGY / .


The legal title of the nation of Canada as stated in the BNA Act (1867). The fathers of confederation had originally wished to call the country the Kingdom of Canada but Britain was afraid of offending the Americans so demanded a different title. This was found in Psalms 72: ‘He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from rivers unto the ends of the earth.’ The word ‘dominion’ has gradually disappeared from use and Canadians now celebrate Canada Day instead of Dominion Day.

A method of enhancing internal validity in an experiment. Neither the researcher nor the subjects are made aware of which group is the experimental group and which the control group. This prevents the researcher from communicating expectations or the subjects acting in ways they think to be expected of them.

A term used to describe the situation of women who perform paid work outside the domestic sphere as well as homemaking and child-care work inside the home. Since domestic work is private and outside the cash economy, it is not remunerated and this causes it to appear as something less than real work and as part of the natural gender role of women. Canadian studies have consistently demonstrated that women perform by far the largest share of this domestic work and are thus subjected to demands greater than those typically imposed on male workers. Some feminists have advocated wages for housework as a necessary step to gain recognition for this work that women do in the private world of family and household.

A cultural practice that accords less freedom and choice to one sex than the other. The term is usually used to refer to different norms of sexual morality for women than for men. Men's sexual activity is viewed positively as natural, right and normal, whereas women are seen as diminished in status if they engage in free sexual relationships outside marriage. This double standard of conduct was once severely oppressive to women (and still is in many non-western societies), but has reduced relevance in western societies today where pre-marital sexual activity is normative for both sexes. See: STATUS OFFENCE / .

Of Russian origin, a pacifist sect rejecting the orthodoxy of established religion of the 17th and 18th century (they believed that God dwells in each person and not in the church) and also rejected secular governments. After many years of persecution a group of 7400 sailed to Canada in 1898-99 and settled in Saskatchewan. When it became clear that they would have to take an oath of allegiance in order to homestead the land, most objected and moved to British Columbia in 1908. Here the group established a complex pattern of communal living. Extremists among the group (the Sons of Freedom) continued to reject government regulation and were in conflict with the government over compulsory schooling, registration of births and taxes, for several decades. Many were arrested, a special prison was established and many children taken into care. Some stability returned to the community in the 1970's and the Sons of Freedom and the more orthodox Doukhobors live in the interior of British Columbia in relative harmony. In 1996 the government of British Columbia made it possible for Doukhobor communities to hold land without paying taxes. In place of taxes they would pay a fee for government services.

The wealth or possessions that a bride brings into the marriage. This is typically a transfer of wealth from the bride's family to the husband.

As used by Erving Goffman (1922-1982) and symbolic interactionists since, this is a metaphor for understanding human interaction and how humans present their self in society. All the world is conceived as a stage and individuals are seen as actors who present a show of their self by putting their ‘best foot forward." The metaphor is extended by Goffman through concepts such as ‘front stage’, ‘back stage,"‘presentation of self’.

a psychological state of weak normative attachment to either deviant or conventional ways.

An ideal type used to capture one side in the debate over the central values or practices of the criminal justice system. This model gives priority to values and practices that protect the rights of the offenders from the coercive power of the state. This protection would include strict regulation of police enforcement, independent and impartial judicial process, and imposition of proportional and justifiable punishment. See: CRIME-CONTROL MODEL / .

Lord Durham was called upon to investigate the rebellion of 1837-38 in Lower Canada. The report was anti-Quebecois calling for the unification of upper and lower Canada (and this was achieved with the Act of Union of 1840) and recommended a policy of assimilation of the Quebecois. See: REBELLION (OF 1837-38) IN LOWER CANADA / .

[ 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