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Children born to the baby boomers. Those Canadians born between 1980 and 1995. See: BABY BOOM / .

A set of ideas within the environmental movement. A basic assumption of this set of ideas is that patriarchal societies tend to associate women with nature and debase, or rape, both. Thus it is necessary for the environmental movement to overthrow patriarchal structures and ideologies in order to protect or enhance the natural environment.

An error made in reasoning about differing units of analysis. Specifically it is the error of using data generated from groups as the unit of analysis and attempting to draw conclusions about individuals. For example, if neighborhoods with high rates of unemployment also have high crime rates, it is an error to conclude that it is necessarily the unemployed people in neighborhoods that commit crime. See: UNIT OF ANALYSIS / .

Developed by criminologists in the early part of the twentieth century, this research looks at the relationships of various areas of a community to each other and the ways in which particular forms of behaviour may flourish in some communities and not in others.

The study of living beings relationships to the world around them, including other living beings. The study of the interdependence of living beings.

A form of determinism that explains social structure and culture as a product of the social and technical organization of economic life. Karl Marx has been described, many claim incorrectly, as an economic determinist. See: DETERMINISM / .

An aspect of the routine activities approach to understanding crime and in particular victimization. This approach argues that three key factors are required for crime to happen: a motivated offender, a suitable target, and ineffective guardianship of that target. Effective guardianship would include having locks on bikes, security lights in the backyard, or putting goods in the trunk of the car. Measures like this should reduce the risk of being victimized.

A shortening of the word equalitarian, suggesting a commitment to, or a state of, equality. Egalitarian societies or groups are contrasted to hierarchical or class-based societies or groups.

In anthropology this refers to the individual from whom the networks of kinship and family relationship and descent are reckoned and traced. In psychology the term is used to refer to the self of the individual and the way they have constructed their personality and identity in society. In Freud's psychoanalytic theory, the ego is the outcome of the individual's struggle to adapt their basic drives (the ‘id’) to the imperative control of society and culture (the ‘super ego’). Between their drives and the coercive influence of social expectation, individuals create a sphere of unique personality.

Electrical activity of the sweat glands in the skin. Tests of electrodermal activity have indicated correlation between skin conductivity and tendency to delinquency, aggressiveness and recidivism.

The argument that, contrary to the class conflict theory of Karl Marx (1818-1883), increasing numbers of the working class will come to assume the life style and individualistic values of the middle class and will reject commitment to collective social and economic goals. The opposite would be class consciousness.

Refers to migration out of a nation. Emigrants are those who leave their home country. See: IMMIGRATION / .

As used by Arlie Russell Hochschild, emotional labour refers to paid work requiring the worker to maintain observable facial and bodily displays with the intention of creating particular emotional feelings in clients. Among workers performing emotional labour are flight attendants (who continue to smile as the plane crashes), bill collectors, funeral directors, doctors, nurses, and others.

Evidence that can be observed through the senses, it can be seen, touched, heard, smelled, tasted and, to some extent, measured. This is the only form of evidence acceptable to positivism which describes social science as the study of a social world deemed to be external to the observer and proceeding with the researcher being a neutral ‘observer’ of that external world.

The philosophical belief that sensory input (seeing, touching, hearing, etc.) is the sole source and test of knowledge. See: EPISTEMOLOGY / POSITIVISM / .

Equity can be thought of as a state of being equal or fair, and fairness in dealing with people. Employment equity has come to have several dimensions. First it suggests equal pay for equal work or equal pay for work of equal value. The goal of both these principles is to establish equality between men and women, or able-bodied and physically-challenged persons, or ‘whites’ and people of colour. The term has also come to imply proportionate hiring of various minority groups.

Those parents who have seen their children mature and establish residences of their own. Sociologists have noted a number of changes related to this stage of the family life cycle: movement to smaller homes, women returning to paid work, changes in attitudes, changes in relations to children, increased social involvement in community matters, the potential for psychological feelings of rolelessness.

The practice of seeking a mate or marriage partner from within a group defined by social status, ethnic identity, family relationship or area of residence or some other distinct social characteristic. For example, people tend to marry within their own status or class, religion or ethnic group. Some societies have rules of endogamy that specify marriage to a particular kinship-related partner. A low rate of endogamy suggests that a group is being assimilated into the surrounding society. The opposite of endogamy is exogamy. Both practices are defined by values and norms that vary cross-culturally. See: HOMOGAMY / .

Acquiring the right to vote in the elections of the nation. Women, for example, were enfranchised in 1918. Many groups in Canada were denied the right to vote and thus were disenfranchised, being without the vote. The right to vote is now a constitutional right and the last large adult group to achieve this right was the federal prison population (although this still remains controversial). See: SUFFRAGE / .

In order to understand what postmodernism is about it is essential to understand what modernity means for the social sciences and this is linked to what is deemed to be the ‘enlightenment project’. The age of enlightenment ushered in human rationality as the source of knowledge, thus encouraging the rejection of previous authorities such as the church or custom. This new acceptance of human rationality became linked to science as the key to understanding the natural and social worlds, and led to a search to understand causality and to the belief that human rationality would lead to a more enlightened age, a progressive age characterized by human liberation. These beliefs shape social sciences by giving science a privileged position in the pursuit of truth, encouraging the search for sets of concepts to provide a framework for understanding social life regardless of particular social situations or time and the acceptance of ‘metanarratives’ (large and abstract social theory including sociology) as superior to other narrative accounts about society. Much of this is apparent in some of the works of Karl Marx. Marxian theory is a large metanarrative about the historical development of western societies such that it includes all stories about society and because of its claim to be based on scientific observation and its use of a conceptual framework (modes of production, relations of production) it claims a privileged position and a universal nature (it is to apply to all capitalist societies). Further, it is claimed that by using the metanarrative the consciousness of workers can be enhanced (corrected) and an age of liberation will follow. Modernity or the enlightenment project is reflected in ‘positivism’, the importance of the ‘scientific method’, the belief that social science can be used to better society (Emile Durkheim is very explicit about this) and the sweeping away of the subjective beliefs of ‘ordinary actors’. See: DECONSTRUCTION / METANARRATIVE / POSITIVISM / POSTMODERN / .

A term used largely in medical sociology and describing the study of the occurrence and distribution of diseases. Such investigations look for changes in the frequency of occurrence (or incidence) and association of diseases with particular physical or social locations. Epidemiological research can be conducted on crime - viewed as analogous to a disease of society - and a host of social problems.

The study of knowledge and of how we know. All science, since it is concerned with verification and proving or disproving, must make assumptions about how we know. All science then adopts an epistemology. In sociology there has been a long debate about the sources of knowledge and this can be seen in the differences between positivism and postmodernism, or between positivism and phenomenology. For sociologists this debate is most frequently engaged over the methods to be used for learning about the world: the survey or experimental method on one side, and participant observation or using one's own ‘member's’ understanding to analyze conversations. See: EMPIRICISM / ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH / MEMBER / POSITIVISM / VERSTEHEN / .

Where there is very little difference in individuals' possession of wealth, status and power. Does not exist in any complex society.

Where differences in individual's wealth, status and power are not so great as to create advantage and disadvantage in the pursuit of personal achievement. Liberal ideology and consensus theory claim that broad equality of opportunity exists in modern societies.

Funds transferred from the government of Canada to some of the provinces to compensate them for having a smaller per capita tax base than other provinces. The intent of the payments is to support a comparable level of provincial government services across all of Canada. Historically, Ontario has been the chief net contributor, via federal taxation, and Quebec the chief net beneficiary. The Atlantic provinces, Manitoba and, from time to time, Saskatchewan are also recipients, while Alberta and British Columbia have been net contributors.

See feminism, difference.

Refers to honor or positive evaluation within a group or community. Some sociologists have thought of esteem as a form of status which can operate independently of income, wealth or power. See: CLASS CRYSTALLIZATION / STATUS / .

A group of individuals having a distinct culture - a subculture- in common. The idea of ‘ethnic group’ differs from that of ‘race’ because it implies that values, norms, behaviour and language, not necessarily physical appearance, are the important distinguishing characteristic. Usually, ethnic groups are thought of as minority groups within another culture.

An individual's awareness of membership in a distinct group and of commitment to the group's cultural values. This is the subjective aspect of ethnicity, but for many people their ethnic heritage has little subjective meaning although it can be objectively determined.

The assumption that the culture of one's own group is moral, right and rational and that other cultures are inferior. When confronted with a different culture, individuals judge it with reference to their own standards and make no attempt to understand and evaluate it from the perspective of its members. Sometimes ethnocentrism will be combined with racism, the belief that individuals can be classified into distinct racial groups and that that there is a biologically-based hierarchy of these races. In principle, however, one can reject a different culture without in any way assuming the inherent inferiority of its members. See: RACISM / XENOPHOBIA / .

Uses participant observation as a tool for gathering information and is a form of what is termed qualitative research in contrast to quantitative research which focuses on measurement and formal analysis. As participant observer, the researcher becomes actively immersed in the chosen setting in order to gain understanding through experiencing aspects of the life of an individual or group. Ethnographic research is the foundation of anthropology, which has been principally concerned with the descriptive recording and analysis of the group life of traditional, generally pre-literate, societies. Until the 1950's, anthropologists would often resist close involvement in community life and maintain quite formal and narrow relations with the host society in order to do better ‘objective science’, but today, anthropologists generally seek active involvement as a source of understanding. Ethnographic research is also central to symbolic interactionism, phenomenological sociology, labeling theory and ethnomethodology, where the goal is to comprehend the subjective perspectives of individuals. Ethnographic research is linked to a reaction to positivism which distrusts subjectivity in research and attempts to treat human ‘subjects’ as an object that can be scientifically investigated. See: EPISTEMOLOGY / POSITIVISM / QUALITATIVE RESEARCH / .

A sociological theory developed by Harold Garfinkel and building on the influence of phenomenologists such as Edmund Husserl and Alfred Schutz and more recent linguistic philosophers. Roughly translated the term means the study of people's practices or methods. There are three central strands to ethnomethodology: mundane reason analysis, membership categorization and conversational (or sequential) analysis. This is a micro-perspective and it does not see the social world as an objective reality but as something that people must build and rebuild constantly in their thoughts and actions. Rather than treating ordinary members of society as ‘cultural dopes’, driven by society, it tries to uncover the methods and practices that are used by people as they create the taken-for-granted-world. See: CONVERSATIONAL ANALYSIS / MUNDANE REASONING / .

Those factors that encourage or cause a particular outcome, for example addiction to hard drugs is a factor that can lead people into prostitution or criminal behaviour; being raised in a violent home is a factor that can lead to violent behaviour or being victimized by violence.

The study of the origins or causes of things. Typically used in medical research to describe the study of the causes of disease, but the term is also used in the social sciences in reference to social problems like crime and deviance.

Translates roughly as ‘good genes’. The eugenics movement, active in many parts of the Western world, was driven by the belief that social intervention should occur in order to protect the best gene pool. This was achieved by encouraging people who were considered to represent ‘good’ genes to breed, and, more importantly, to support interventions by the state to prevent those considered to have ‘bad’ genes from breeding. In Alberta, for example, the Sexual Sterilization Act, in force from 1928 to 1972, allowed the state to sterilize 2,832 people, most, or all, without their consent.

A relatively new paradigm for understanding human social behaviour which argues that attributes such as altruism, romantic love, protection of children, pair-bonding, coyness in females, sexual aggression, sexual attraction, or conscience, have a genetic basis. Applying Darwinian principles to the understanding of human behaviour, it is claimed, provides insights into things such as human kinship structures, male-female relationships, family formation, sibling rivalry, and domestic violence.

This arises when a liberal democratic society adopts government policies that rely on the coercive power of the state, rather than trying to maintain compromises that balance conflicting interests. This is a departure from the usual role of democratic states and therefore exceptional. Stuart Hall used the term to describe what happened in Britain in the 1980's as economic failure led to mass unemployment, a government fiscal crisis and a loss of support among important groups; there was a crisis of legitimacy. The British government fostered a sense of an enemy within the society and claimed that social instability was caused by rampant crime and militant unionists. This ‘threat’ then justified giving the state coercive powers which it used to control the crisis. See: FISCAL CRISIS / LEGITIMATION CRISIS / .

A theory associated with the work of George Homans and Peter Blau and built on the assumption that all human relationships can be understood in terms of an exchange of roughly equivalent values. These exchanges are seldom monetary, rather they are frequently intangibles like intimacy, status, connections.

In Marxian analysis the theoretical value of any commodity exchanged or sold in the market place is the amount of socially necessary labour time embodied in it. In actual market conditions, the money or equivalent paid for a commodity (the price) may differ from the value of the commodity although, in a perfectly working market, price and value would be identical. It is the unique characteristic of capitalism that the great majority of goods and services are produced to be sold, rather than for their immediate use value to the producer. In less modern economies, the production of commodities took place only in limited sectors and most production was for use values. See: LABOUR THEORY OF VALUE / .

The custom by which lower level employees assume that executives are best left uninformed of certain decisions and actions of employees, or the assumption that executives can not be legally expected to have complete control over their individual staff. This concept has been challenged in Canada now that executives can be found liable for the sexual harassment committed by their staff. Executives are expected to create an environment in which harassment will not occur or if it does it will be identified and reacted to properly.

The custom of seeking a mate or marriage partner outside of ones own kinship group or class, religion, ethnic group or area of residence. See: ENDOGAMY / .

All science provides explanation by means of a theory.

Growth which follows a geometric progression (eg: 1,2,4,8,16,32) rather than a linear progression (eg: 1,2,3,4,5,6).

Refers to the accuracy of scientific results when generalized beyond the laboratory or survey situation to the real world. If it is thought that the researcher could not expect to find confirmation of research results in the ordinary life of the community, the results would be said to be externally invalid. See: INTERNAL VALIDITY / .

A personality characteristic associated with sociability, impulsiveness and aggression.

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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