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A theory which arose from the study of deviance in the late 1950's and early 1960's and was a rejection of consensus theory or structural functionalism. These approaches to deviance assumed that deviance could be understood as consisting of behaviour that violates social norms. Deviance is therefore something objective: it is a particular form of behaviour. Labeling theory rejected this approach and claimed that deviance is not a way of behaving, but is a name put on something: a label. Law is culturally and historically variable: what is crime today is not necessarily crime yesterday or tomorrow. For example in 1890 it was legal to possess marijuana, but illegal to attempt suicide. Today, the law is reversed. This shows that deviance is not something inherent in the behaviour, but is an outcome of how individuals or their behaviour are labeled. If deviance is therefore just a label it makes sense to ask: where does the label come from? How does the label come to be applied to specific behaviours and to particular individuals? The first question leads to a study of the social origins of law. The second question leads to an examination of the actions of labelers such as, psychiatrists, police, coroners, probation officers, judges and juries. See: AMPLIFICATION OF DEVIANCE / SECONDARY DEVIANCE / MORAL ENTREPRENEURS / .

A fundamental component of the economic and social theories of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and of his analysis of capitalist exploitation. Marx argues that the value of any commodity is determined by the socially necessary labour time that goes into its production. Marx uses the term ‘socially necessary labour time’ because the labour time required to create a commodity depends on the society's levels of technology and craft. In Marx's theory, commodities should in principle be exchanged in the market place for prices that exactly correspond to the necessary labour time embodied in them. When a commodity is exchanged- or sold - for more than its labour value, a surplus value is realized. This theory of value provides the foundation of Marx's claim that labour is exploited in a capitalist society: the capitalist, through the power of capital ownership, is able to pay the worker less than the market value of the commodities produced and the surplus value is captured by capital and largely re-invested to augment the means of production. See: SURPLUS VALUE / .

Literally, ‘to leave alone’. This is the economic doctrine that government should not interfere in the economic or social regulation of society unless absolutely necessary. It assumes that the competitive system of free markets is the best means of allocation of scarce resources between alternative uses. Government intervention in the market place to regulate economic activity is seen as illegitimate and inefficient. This doctrine lost popularity in the middle of the twentieth century, with the rise of the ‘welfare state’ and extensive public ownership of parts of the economy, but has regained favor in the 1980's and 1990's. See: CLASSICAL ECONOMIC THEORY / INVISIBLE HAND OF THE MARKET / .

The title of Canadian philosopher George Grant's 1965 prophetic book in which he argues that Canada's national autonomy was lost to the creeping forces of continentalism. See: CONTINENTALISM / .


Children who spend a part of the day unsupervised, usually the period from the end of school until a parent returns from work.

A body of rules or norms passed by a legislated authority and enforced by an authorized and specialized body. Law clearly identifies the defining characteristic of the state - the ability to establish and legitimately use coercion to enforce a framework of social regulation and direction. The state, by passing law and having the authority to force compliance, can coerce citizens to act in particular ways (or leave the country). Not all societies have law. While all large-scale, modern societies have law it was not found among hunter-gatherer, pastoral or horticultural societies. In these societies social life was regulated primarily by custom and tradition.

Gerald LeDain was the chair of the 1969 Royal Commission on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, investigating the role the government and courts should play in prohibiting and regulating drugs used largely for recreational purposes. The Commission produced numerous published volumes, which rank among the most thorough and accurate assessments of drugs and drug policy in the world, but none of the recommendations were legislated. The Commission stimulated the new sociology of deviance in Canada through its sponsorship of research.

A criminological perspective emerging in Britain in response to the rise of neo-conservatism. The right-wing politics of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made it clear that left-leaning criminology had little impact on social policy and was going to have little significance in the future. Some critical criminologists struggled to make their work relevant and did so by focusing on the working class as victims of street crime, state and corporate crime and women as victims of male crime. They asserted that official studies of crime underestimated victimization of the working class and women and supported community controlled research as a method of getting at the ‘reality’ of their experience. Social policies to reduce victimization of marginal communities, involve communities in crime prevention, return political control to local communities and increase police accountability follow from this beginning point. Left realism can be contrasted with left idealism, which, while also believing that the structure of capitalism is the culprit in crime, tended to see working class crime as acts of rebellion or political resistance. This can be seen as a somewhat romantic or idealistic view.

A condition during which a political order, or government, is unable to evoke sufficient commitment or sense of authority to properly govern. The government, or those in authority, is no longer seen as legitimate. Low levels of voter turnout in the United States, for example, may be seen as an indicator of a legitimation crisis as may the massive rejection of the Charlottetown accord in Canada when acceptance was recommended by most of the established political leaders in the nation. From a political economy perspective the major source of the legitimation crisis is the economic transformation of the world in conjunction with what is termed ‘globalization’. This transformation raises the possibility that citizens will see the economic system with its growing class polarization and impoverishment as illegitimate as well as the governments that attempt to regulate this new world economic order. See: GLOBALIZATION / EXCEPTIONAL STATE / .

Refers to the ideas of Vladimir Ilich Lenin ( 1870-1924) leader of the Russian Revolution (1917) and founder of the Soviet Union. Lenin's ideas were mainly derived from Marxism but he had a distinctive view of the importance of leadership in creating a working class revolution. He advocated the organization of the working class by a disciplined and centralised Communist Party believing, unlike Marx, that class consciousness could only develop under the guidance and direction of party leadership. Many historians have argued Lenin's focus on the dominant role of the party and of its central leadership led directly to the establishment of Stalin's dictatorship and to millions of deaths in the attempt to establish Soviet- style communism.

In quantitative social science concepts are measured in order to provide a frequency count for each value of a variable. Not all measurements have the same qualities and some statistical tests require particular levels of measurement. There are four levels of measurement: nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio. Nominal measures only allow for the placing of the subjects into categories, eg: female and male. Ordinal levels of measurement allow the researcher to rank respondents, eg: strongly agree and agree. Interval measurement allow the researcher to specify the distance between respondents, John has 10 less units of intelligence than does Mary. A ratio level of measurement allows the researcher to express various scores as ratios and this requires an absolute zero. For example, Mary has twice as many siblings as does John. Complex statistical tests require interval or ratio measurements.

A corporate takeover in which the purchaser finances the acquisition almost exclusively by incurring debt, rather than from corporate profits and income flows. Typically the acquiring corporation will issue shares and corporate bonds that are not backed by any significant collateral property or obligation. Bonds issued in these circumstances are popularly called ‘junk bonds’.

A form of feminism which argues that the liberal principles of equality, freedom and equality of opportunity must be fully extended to women. This form of feminism does not call for specific structural changes to society. Neither patriarchy nor capitalism are identified as the enemies of women, rather the restricted reach of liberalism is identified as the problem. See: FEMINISM / ROYAL COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN / .

An ideology that upholds private property, individual rights, legal equality, freedom of choice and democratic government. Liberalism suggests that the essence of freedom is to be free from constraint. Liberalism is an ideology that supports capitalism and advocates the principle of free markets, left largely undirected by governments. While liberalism upholds free markets, it also places great value on equal of opportunity and is strongly opposed to ascriptive processes in society, since they restrict individual choice and deny equal access to satisfaction. In the twentieth century, a more active view of the state's role in creating improved equality of opportunity in society became important within liberalism. (This trend in liberalism was also a reaction to the development of trade unions and of socialist and populist movements.) There was a massive expansion in state -provided education, social programs etc. from the end of the 19th century until the 1960's and 1970's. In the 1980's and 1990's a more classical view of liberalism has returned to prominence, one that advocates a much smaller role for the state and increased reliance on the workings of the free market. In making this argument, classical liberals claim that intervention in the market rarely, if ever, promotes choice, but frustrates the market adjustments that ultimately improve efficiency, the wealth of society and the ability of individuals to make choices. See: CLASSICAL LIBERALISM / NEO-LIBERALISM / .

A mixture of Christian belief and political activism usually derived from a Marxist analysis of social inequality. Acceptance of this theology encourages priests to assume a political posture in the pulpit and in their activities with the community. This has led to many confrontations between churches and corporate interests and the religious hierarchy has been urged to restrict the political activity of priests.

A philosophy or belief system which gives priority to the liberty of the individual. May be associated with classical liberalism regarding economic matters or the protection of those negative liberties which declare the right of the individual to be free from interference by the state, or the community, unless the actions of the individual constitute harm to others. For example, the individual has the right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religious expression, freedom of contract. Libertarianism is related to individualism and contrasted with communitarianism: See: COMMUNITARIAN / .

A theory of victimization that acknowledges that not everyone has the same lifestyle and that some lifestyles expose people to more risks than do other lifestyles. If you go to bed early you are less at risk than if you like to visit the bars many nights a week.

Used by Statistics Canada to refer to single-parent families.

These measure relationships between variables over a period of time. For example, one might follow a group of males from birth to age 30 to measure their involvement with the criminal justice system over time and relate this information to their parents' socio-economic status. A series of cross-sectional investigations taken over time will provide a longitudinal study.

Developed by C.H. Cooley (1864-1929) to describe the social nature of the self and the link between society and individual. In this formulation social interaction is like a mirror, it allows us to see ourselves as others see us. This was an early formulation of symbolic interactionism but less influential than that of George Herbert Mead.

Developed by Max O. Lorenz in order to describe the extent of inequality in a society. Imagine a graph in which the cummulated income (expressed as a percentage) is placed on the vertical axis and the cumulated number of households (expressed as a percentage) is placed on the horizontal axis. If there was perfect equality (so that the first 10 per cent of the households received 10% of the income and 20% of the households received 20% of the income, etc.) a diagonal line would be drawn across the graph. When actual income distributions are depicted on this graph the line ( a curve) departs from the line of perfect equality. For example, the bottom 20 per cent of households may receive only 4.5% of the total income. This line is the Lorenz curve and can be expressed mathematically. The Gini coefficient is an expression of the ratio of the amount of the graph located between the line of perfect inequality and the Lorenz curve to the total area of the graph below the line of equality. See: GINI COEFFICIENT / .

Established upon the division of the province of Quebec in 1791 as a result of the Constitutional Act, this territory was to eventually become the province of Quebec. See: LOWER CANADA / CONSTITUTIONAL ACT (1791) / .

It has been argued by some that the lower class have developed and transmit to their children, a different set of cultural values and expectations. They argue further that this culture is a barrier to their success in society. Used in this way it is associated with the ‘culture of poverty thesis’. More recently sociologists have rejected this emphasis on values and argue that structural barriers create the conditions which might generate these values and expectations. If this is so, the solution is to transform the structures and not to blame the poor.

As technology began to transform the early 19th century workplace, workers in Britain initiated random attacks in which they destroyed the machinery of the developing industrial order and destroyed poorly manufactured and shoddy goods. The workers involved in these actions claimed to be led by Ned Ludd. It was said that Ned Ludd (like Robin Hood) lived in Sherwood Forest and historians assume the name was probably a pseudonym for an individual or group of leaders.

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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
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*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