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A German word, translated as ‘community’, used by sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936) to define an ‘ideal type’, or model, society where social bonds are personal and direct and there are strong shared values and beliefs. Characteristic of small scale, localized societies, it is in contrast to Gesellschaft which refers to complex, impersonal societies. American sociologist Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) amplified the contrasts of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft with his ‘pattern variable’ value alternatives. See: GESELLSCHAFT / PATTERN VARIABLES / .

The gap between the political party preferences of men and women. During the 1990s this gap became significant, with women in most western societies more likely to support liberal or socialist parties favouring public welfare programmes and men more likely to support conservative or right of centre parties. All political parties now give some attention to positioning their policies and advertising to appeal to both women and men.

social roles ascribed to individuals on the basis of their sex. The term gender differs from sex because it refers specifically to the cultural definition of the roles and behaviour appropriate to members of each sex rather than to those aspects of human behaviour that are determined by biology. Thus giving birth is a female sex role, while the role of infant nurturer and care giver (which could be performed by a male) is a gender role usually ascribed to females. See: SEX / .

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

A term used by George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) to refer to an individual's recognition that other members of their society hold specific values and expectations about behavior. In their behaviour and social interaction individuals react to the expectations of others thus orienting themselves to the norms and values of their community or group.

Those people born approximately between the years 1960 and 1970 at the end of the baby boom and caught in the forces of economic restructuring and globalization. Also referred to as the ‘thirty somethings’ (they will of course become ‘forty somethings’). The term was coined by Canadian author Douglas Coupland (1991) as the title of a novel exploring the experience of growing up in the ‘shadow’ of the baby boom generation. See: BABY BOOM / .

The systematic killing of an entire ethnic community. In Canadian history the complete physical elimination of the Beothuk aboriginals of Newfoundland as a result of disease and deliberate killing is perhaps an example. See: CULTURAL GENOCIDE / .

A process of change in the social and economic condition of urban neighborhoods where poorer original residents are replaced by newcomers from middle class and professional groups.

Rule by elders. A society in which power, wealth and prestige flow upwards within an age pyramid. While authority or power was in the hands of elders in many small-scale societies and great reverence was paid to them, in modern society wealth may flow towards the elders but there is little positive evaluation or prestige bestowed on the elderly and they are seen as having little authority.

A German word, translated as ‘society-association’, used by Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936) to refer to an ‘ideal type’, or model, of a society where social bonds are primarily impersonal, instrumental and narrow. Characteristic of large scale, complex societies, with a strict division between private and public spheres of life, it contrasts to the community-oriented life of the Gemeinschaft American sociologist Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) amplified the contrast of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft with his ‘pattern variable’ value alternatives. See: GEMEINSCHAFT / PATTERN VARIABLES / IDEAL TYPE / .

Title of Marcel Mauss' 1925 essay exploring the way in which gift giving among tribal societies is a moral exchange, driven by obligation, and how the giving away of one's possessions as gifts creates individual wealth and status by expanding and cementing a complex network of personal and family obligations to the giver. See: KULA RING / MORAL ECONOMY / POTLATCH / .

Developed by Italian statistician Corrodo Gini to provide a mathematical expression of the degree of concentration of wealth or income. While it has been criticized over the years it continues to be used by social scientists describing inequality or comparing inequality among nations. A Gini coefficent of approximately 0.400 is normal for most developed economies. For a fuller grasp of how the coefficient is determined see Lorenz curve. See: LORENZ CURVE / .

In the analysis of women in the work place, this concept is useful for describing the invisible barriers that block the promotion of women. It refers to barriers that are not explicit, but are inherent in the social organization and social relationships of the workplace. For example, women may find their corporate careers obstructed because they are excluded from the recreational and social associations created by male fellow workers and lack the social contacts that are important in gaining status and recognition.

A comprehensive world-wide process of the internationalisation of communication, trade and economic organization. In the economic sphere it can be seen in international trade agreements, vast increases in the volume of international trade and growing economic interdependency. It is also marked by the expansion of the size and power of multinational corporations and the development of the American entertainment industry's domination of international cultural communication. Generally the process is seen as driven by the growth of international capitalism and involving the transformation of the culture and social structures of non-capitalist and pre-industrial societies. See: FREE TRADE / .

An economy whose central method of capital accumulation is the manufacture of goods for consumers (televisions), for public consumption (trains) or for private economic use (robots for building cars). It has been claimed for several years that western societies have passed through this goods producing, or industrial, stage and have now entered a new economy founded on the delivery of services and the production and dissemination of knowledge. See: SERVICE ECONOMY / .


Igor Gouzenko was a Soviet citizen working as a clerk in the Soviet embassy in Ottawa from 1943 to 1945. When he discovered that he and his family were to be returned to the Soviet Union he defected and reported to Canadian authorities that a Soviet spy ring was operating in Canada. This was the first of several ‘spy scares’ to emerge in the west after the Second World War. After much controversy the Canadian government acknowledged that such a spy ring was operating and Gouzenko was given protection and a new identity and he and his family remained in Canada. As a result of this case there was an escalation of repressive measures against potential dissidents in Canada. For American equivalents See: HISS, ALGER / MCCARTHYISM / .

Refers to the great rise in agricultural productivity brought about by new plant hybrids, fertilizers and agricultural chemicals in the 1950's and 1960's. Advocated by the developed nations as a way to make developing nations food sufficient, there is now a concern that this enforced transformation of agricultural methods has harmed the environment, diminished local control and erased local methods of production.

A term from environmental science referring to an increase in the average temperature of the earth brought about by the effects of atmospheric pollution. The pollutants are suspended in the lower atmosphere above the earth and retard the loss of heat by convection from the earth's surface.

A name used to refer to the Liberal party of Canada, this derives from the mid 1800's when it was first applied to members of a radical farmers movement in south-western Ontario. In the early 1870's this and other movements joined together to establish the Liberal party which then inherited the name.

A count of the total amount of crime in a given community, making no distinction between crime categories. It is usually better to talk about the number of crimes within a specific category, say ‘violent crime’. Even here, however, one finds that a majority of violent crimes are ‘assault level 1’ crimes, the least serious form of assault and not classed as violent crime in the USA.

Gross Domestic Product is the value of all goods and services including the value of dividend, interest and other payments made to overseas investors produced by a nation over a one year period.

Theory which has been derived through inductive reasoning, thus giving it a firm grounding in data or observations of the world. This was an attempt to avoid sociological theory which was overly abstract and for which the references to the real world were unclear. Such abstract theory would be simply a logical construction deduced from assumptions and propositions.

An aggregate of individuals having some characteristic in common. They may be distinguished from others by appearance, language, socio-economic status or cultural values and practices. A group is often characterized by a sense of common identity, shared interests and goals among its members, but a group may exist simply because its members share some objective characteristic and are defined as a group by others.

A circle of individuals with whom a person is extensively involved: they have bonds of common activity and emotional commitment. People interact in primary groups as whole person to whole person: relationships are comprehensive and emotionally charged. Examples include the family and small traditional communities. Term was developed by C.W.Cooley (1864-1929) and contains echoes of ‘Gemeinschaft’. See: GEMEINSCHAFT / .

a number of individuals jointly linked by some common instrumentally-related characteristic. The members of the group have some specialized and specific relationship to each other. Examples include a professional association, colleagues in the workplace, a political party, a tennis club. Term was developed by C.W. Cooley and contains echoes of ‘Gesellschaft’. See: GESELLSCHAFT / .

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Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
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*This social science dictionary has 1000
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