[ 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 ]

A classification of humans beings into different categories on the basis of their biological characteristics. There have been a variety of schemes for race classification based on physical characteristics such as skin colour, head shape, eye colour and shape, nose size and shape etc. A common classification system uses four major groups: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid and Australoid. The term was once popular in anthropology, but has now fallen into disrepute, because the idea of racial classification has become associated with racism - the claim that there is hierarchy of races. The idea of race categories also appears to be unscientific, since humans are able to mate across all ‘races’ and have done so throughout history, creating an enormous variety of human genetic inheritance. In addition the defining characteristics of ‘race’ do not appear in all members of each so-called race, but merely occur with some degree of statistical frequency. If the defining characteristic of each ‘race’ does not appear in all members of each ‘race’ then the whole definition is clearly inadequate.

An ideology based on the idea that humans can be separated into distinct racial groups and that these groups can be ranked on a hierarchy of intelligence, ability, morality etc. See: ETHNOCENTRISM / RACE / .

This form of feminism is relatively recent and differs from traditional Marxism in arguing that women's oppression is historically primary, harder to transform, causes more harm and is more widespread than class oppression. Similarly it is argued that women's oppression provides a model for understanding other forms of oppression such as racism and class domination. Some radical feminists claim that women's oppression is rooted in biology and its elimination will require a biological revolution transforming women's relation to reproduction. Within criminology, they focus on documenting and analyzing ways in which the content of law and practices of law enforcement have served to entrench and strengthen male dominance in society. See: FEMINISM / LIBERAL FEMINISM / .

A method of ensuring union security which resulted from a Supreme Court ruling (handed down by Justice Ivan Rand) resolving a 1945 strike by the Canadian Autoworkers against Ford Motors in Windsor, Ontario. The ruling declared that unions must bargain on behalf of all workers in the plant and thus allowed for the automatic deduction of union dues from all workers whether members of the union or not.

Until 1982, rape was a criminal offense in Canada and was defined as the offence of forcible sexual intercourse, involving penetration, with someone who has withheld their consent, or, in the case of consent, with someone whose consent has been obtained by threat, impersonation or misrepresentation of the nature of the act. Feminist critiques of this law and the coming of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms produced changes and the offense of rape was replaced with three offenses of sexual assault.

Legal prohibitions which restrict the ability of the defence to explore the sexual past of the victim (usually a woman) during a rape or sexual assault trial. This provision entered Canadian law as section 276 of the Criminal Code of Canada in 1983. The provision was struck down by a 1991 Supreme Court decision ruling that the prohibition could deny an accused a fair trial.

When studying crime, if a researcher wishes to compare the amount of crime over time or between communities of different sizes, it is not adequate to do a gross count of the amount of crime because the population basses may be different. To get around the problems involved with this, criminologists calculate crime rates (or incarceration rates, conviction rates, recidivism rates). This is done by dividing the amount of crime by the population size and multiplying by 100,000. This produces a rate per 100,000, but occasionally it is useful to calculate a rate per million or some other figure.

See levels of measurement.

This term has two specific meanings in sociology. (1) The concept was developed by German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) who used it in two ways. First, it was the process through which magical, supernatural and religious ideas lose cultural importance in a society and ideas based on science and practical calculation become dominant. For example, in modern societies science has rationalized our understanding of weather patterns. Science explains weather patterns as a result of interaction between physical elements like wind-speed and direction, air and water temperatures, humidity, etc. In some other cultures, weather is thought to express the pleasure or displeasure of gods, or spirits of ancestors. One explanation is rationalized and scientific, the other mysterious and magical. Rationalization also involves the development of forms of social organization devoted to the achievement of precise goals by efficient means. It is this type of rationalization that we see in the development of modern business corporations and of bureaucracy. These are organizations dedicated to the pursuit of defined goals by calculated, systematically administered means. (2) Within symbolic interactionism, rationalization is used more in the everyday sense of the word to refer to providing justifications or excuses for one's actions. See: ACCOUNTS / .

A psychological mechanism which emerges when failure is imminent. Albert Cohen, for example, found that lower-class boys often turned middle-class values, the very values causing them to fail, on their head. There was a certain degree of nihilism; rather than taking money to purchase things they needed, they may throw the money away, give it to others, or purchase useless articles. Or, rather than valuing the middle-class sofa, they might defecate on it.

Rebellions occurred in both Upper and Lower Canada (and in many other parts of the world) in 1837-38 with the main issue being the rejection of colonial rule and demand for local, responsible government. In Lower Canada an additional objective of rebellion was the desire to establish primacy for the Quebecois nation within Canada. British troops put down the rebellion, often rather brutally, and this event is seen by many as the reconquest of the Quebecois (a repeat of the battle of the Plains of Abraham, 1759) which stimulated growth of Quebec nationalism.

Repetition of criminal behaviour by an offender previously convicted and punished for an offence. Recidivism is a measure of the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs or the deterrent effect of punishment. While an important concept in evaluation research, criminologists have great difficulty in determining just how to measure recidivism. For example, is it recidivism to commit a less serious offence than the previous offence? Is it recidivism to be returned to prison for a violation of the terms of parole (ie: a criminal offence has not been committed)?

A revolt during 1869-70 of the settlers and Metis of what is now Manitoba. In 1867-68 the government of Canada negotiated the purchase of the lands owned by the Hudson Bay Company without consulting with the residents of the territories involved (the largest group were French speaking Metis). This annexation led to fears, particularly among the French-speaking and Catholic Metis, that language, religious and education rights would be lost. The residents declared a provisional government in direct opposition to the federal government's wishes and this led to negotiations resulting in the creation of the province of Manitoba and established French language rights, acknowledgment of the tenure of existing farms and the promise of millions of acres of land to settle Metis land claims. Metis peoples prefer to refer to these events as acts of resistance rather than a rebellion. See: METIS / NORTHWEST REBELLION OF 1885 / .

A term from social psychology identifying that group to which people refer or make reference in evaluating themselves. One may make reference to ‘social science students’ when contemplating what political party to vote for or one might refer to ‘feminists’ when deciding to change or not to change one's name after marriage.

To refer a political question to an electorate for direct decision. Referendums do not fit well with a parliamentary system of government and Canada has used them infrequently. The first was in 1898 on a question of prohibition and the next in 1942 on the matter of conscription. English speaking Canada voted in support of allowing the government to use conscription, while French speaking Canada voted against it, thus creating a crisis for government. A federal referendum was also held in 1992 to seek support for a constitutional change (the Charlottetown Accord); this was soundly defeated. Provincial governments have relied on referendums somewhat more often. Newfoundland, for example, held a referendum in 1948 on the question of entry to Canada (it took two votes to win agreement, and then by only 52.3%); in 1988 the province of Prince Edward Island held a referendum on the question of whether a fixed link with mainland Canada should be established; in 1980 Quebec held a referendum on permission to negotiate-sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada (this was defeated by 60% of voters), and a second referendum was held in Quebec in 1995 on a more direct question of separating from Canada (this was rejected by 51% of the voters).

As used by ethnomethodologists the term means that an object or behaviour and the description of this can not be separated one from the other, rather they have a mirror-like relationship. Reflexivity and indexicality are properties of behaviour, settings and talk which make the ongoing construction of social reality necessary. Both of these properties question the objectivity of accounts, descriptions, explanations, etc. An ethnographic description of a setting is reflexive in that the description seeks to explain features of a particular setting (eg: village life) but the setting itself is what is employed to make sense of the description. See: INDEXICALITY / .

The founding party political program of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation adopted at a convention in Regina in 1933. The Manifesto was strongly socialist and called for extensive nationalization and radical measures to promote equalization of wealth and incomes. In subsequent years, the party retreated from the radical goals of the Manifesto and, in 1956, this change of policy was made explicit in the Winnipeg Declaration and became embodied in the policies followed by the New Democratic Party which succeeded the C.C.F. in 1961.

A measure of association between two quantitative variables. This form of statistical test is only possible with interval or ratio data. If an independent variable and a dependent variable are placed on the two axis of a graph with the actual data then scattered on the graph, it is possible to draw a line through the resulting points in a way that minimizes the distance between the points. The resulting line (which may be straight or curved) is a regression line. Any particular value for the dependent variable can then be predicted by multiplying the value of independent variable by the regression coefficient (a number which determines the slope of the line).

A tax structure which requires the more well-off to pay a lower percentage of their income (or wealth) in tax than a less well-off citizen. Sales tax and the federal goods and services tax (GST) are of this type as these taxes remain constant regardless of one's income. The consequence is that the more well-off citizen pays a smaller percentage of their income to cover the tax on a new refrigerator than does a less well-off person. See: PROGRESSIVE TAXATION / FLAT TAX / .

As defined by F. Allen (1981) refers to the belief that a primary purpose of punishment is to effect a change in the character, attitudes and behaviour of convicted offenders so as to strengthen the communities social defence but also to contribute to the welfare of the individual. This belief can be traced back to the 18th century work of John Howard and its influence is seen again in an American Congress of corrections held in 1870 and put into place in the Elmira Reformatory (opening in 1877) In Canada these ideas shape the discussions of the ‘new penology’ through the 1920's and 1930's but they were not firmly implemented until the early 1950's and are perhaps best demonstrated by the 1957 Haney Correctional Institution located in British Columbia. See: NOTHING WORKS / .

To treat as though real that which is just an abstraction or a conceptualization. Sociologists since Durkheim have been accused of reifying society which critics say is just an abstract concept and does not exist. To act as though society exists and thus can act or make decisions or coerce people is to reify society.

A process in which a behaviour is strengthened; increasing the probability that a response will occur by either presenting a contingent positive event or removing a negative event.

See social relations of production.

A theory of state power based on Marxist ideas. This perspective assumes that the state can and does play a limited independent role in the maintenance and stabilization of capitalist society. Differs from pluralism in viewing state power as strongly constrained by the ideological and structural characteristics of capitalist society. See: STRUCTURALIST APPROACH / .

Relative deprivation and absolute deprivation are often contrasted. Absolute deprivation refers to the inability to sustain oneself physically and materially. Some right wing groups suggest that this is how Canada should define and measure poverty. Rather, Canada uses a form of relative deprivation; deprivation is not judged against some absolute standard of sustainability but of deprivation in relation to others around you. You may have sufficient money to meet your needs and even meet them adequately but feel relatively deprived.

Identifies one of the standards (another being validity) against which the tools used to measure concepts are judged. Reliability refers to consistency of results over time. If a bathroom scale is used to measure the concept of weight, one must ask: Is this tool (the bathroom scale) reliable? Does it provide consistent results? To check this get back on the scale a second time to see if it produces the same results. Notice that the bathroom scale may be reliable and yet be inaccurate. Are I.Q. tests a reliable measure of ‘intelligence’? Are official suicide statistics reliable measures of the ‘suicide’ rate? Are questions about which political party a person would vote for a reliable measure of ‘political preference’? Since in many of these examples it is difficult to assume, like weight, that the results would remain the same over time, it may be more correct to think of reliability as indicating consistency of results among users of the tool or measurement. See: VALIDITY / .

The degree to which one believes in and is involved in religion. For example, attending church, volunteering for the church, giving donations to the church, believing in the values, morals and mythology of their religion.

Found more frequently in the United States than in Canada (where its influence is chiefly located in the Reform Party), refers to groups or individuals who combine the economic conservatism of classical liberalism (beliefs in free market economies, small government, autonomy of the individual) with the socially conservative views of many fundamentalist religions (eg: against abortion, intolerant of homosexuality, non-supportive of single parent mothers, propose censorship of children's reading material, recommend reducing rights of criminal offenders, etc.). Since these groups support an economic doctrine which is gaining wide acceptance they are able to move into positions of power and influence and their social views are giving shape to many aspects of life. See: NEO-LIBERALISM / .

A resource that can be exploited without depletion because it is constantly replenished. This includes forest resources, the fisheries, naturally occurring food crops and the fertility of agricultural land. There is heated debate in Canada about where to set the appropriate levels of resource use compatible with long term renewal. See: SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT / .

REP. Street language for reputation."

This has come to mean a society where there is no hereditary or appointed monarch or emperor as head of state. Originally it referred to a system of political rule where citizens, through representative institutions participated in government and exercised political power. This meaning derives from the original Latin res publica which means ‘things public’, those things that are connected to ruling the public realm. In its narrower meaning the term distinguishes Canada, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Thailand and other countries formally headed by monarchs, from France, Italy, Germany, the United States and many others where the head of state is a president either directly elected or appointed by an elected assembly.

In Marxian analysis, that segment of the labour force which is held in reserve, to be called into the work force when need arises. If there were no reserve labour it might be difficult for new businesses to open or for temporary or emergency projects to be undertaken in the economy. In addition labour shortage would create upward pressure on wages and increase union power. This reserve labour of course needs to be doing something during the period it is held in reserve, so it may be on welfare or working in the household. The term has been useful for understanding women's relationship to the work force. Women were pulled into the workforce during World War II and then pushed out when the men returned. During the economic boom of the 1960-70's women entered the work force in large numbers and there is fear that they will be the first fired during recession. (Although this appears not to have happened in the 1990's recession.) Women, young people and the elderly may all be thought of as reserve labour since they have traditionally stayed out of the labour force.

Land set aside, or reserved, for a designated group. In Canada as the Anglo-Europeans colonized the land and occupied territories previously inhabited by Natives, they designated lands for Native groups. Although reserved for Native bands the lands remained the property of the crown. In Canada there are 576 Native bands recognized by the government and 2,281 reserves (often called reservations) as well as some crown land settlements set aside for these peoples. These figures reveal a distinct Canadian pattern of creating reserves - many small reserves were created and typically distributed among the larger non-Native population. All of the reserve lands in Canada only add up to one-half of the Navajo reserve in Arizona.

Widely established across Canada during the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in the north, these schools were established to bring basic education to Indian and Inuit children. In effect, as well as in intent, these schools served to isolate the young from their own people and became an instrument of attempted cultural assimilation of aboriginal peoples into white European culture. Forced attendance in these schools, largely church run, broke the cultural continuity of aboriginal communities and led to the loss of traditional knowledge, skills and languages. Today they are seen as an example of colonial attitudes towards native people and it has become apparent that they caused great harm by inflicting psychological and physical isolation and abuse upon generations of aboriginal children. Many Native groups have struggled to have churches acknowledge the harm done and to institute healing programs and have pressured the federal government to acknowledge its role in this process. In addition, local programs of healing have been developed and Native communities and the broader society have had to come to terms with the legacy of residential schools.

Rather profound change or transformation of personality arising from being placed within a situation or environment no longer conducive to maintaining a previous identity. Some choose this kind of transformation by entering a monastery or nunnery while others have it forced on them by being sentenced to penitentiary. The new identity is a product of these environments and comes from interacting with others and performing the roles required in these settings. See: INSTITUTION, TOTAL / .

Usually refers to the re-organization and rationalization of administration and production in both public and private sectors. In the public sector it has been encouraged by growing deficits, in the private sector cost cutting and reorganization has been encouraged by high interest rates, recession and lower corporate profit margins.

Deriving from the notions of retribute (to give back or return) or to receive in recompense and the Christian sense of deserved, adequate or fit, the term is now used exclusively to refer to punishment. Retribution is punishment deserved because of an offence and which fits the severity of the offence. Punishment is justified because it makes the offender give up money, personal freedom or comfort that is equivalent to the harm or loss done to others. Retribution must be distinguished from revenge and retaliation.

See distributive justice.

Discrimination against a privileged group in order to correct previous discrimination against a disadvantaged group. The accusation of ‘reverse discrimination’ is often directed against those favoring equity programs or affirmative action programs. See: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION / .

There are some offences in Canadian criminal law where the prosecution does not have to test criminal intent. For example, if one is robbing a bank with friends, one of whom pulls out a gun and kills the teller, you may well be convicted of murder and not just robbery. Even if you did not know this was going to happen nor that the friend even had a gun, you will be charged and perhaps convicted of murder without the crown having to prove you intended to kill the teller.

The ritual or ceremonial acknowledgment of a person's passage from one stage of life to the next. For example, the graduation ceremony or the retirement party. Many cultures provide a ritualized acknowledgment of the passage to adulthood but sociologists note that this has all but disappeared from modern societies.

An action performed because of its symbolic significance and its ability to evoke the emotions of those engaged in the performance. These actions are usually clearly specified by the group and there are additional rules about who can perform the ritual, and when the ritual should be performed. Ritual may be important in maintaining the values of a group or in strengthening group ties. Examples of ritual include communion, aspects of the marriage ceremony, or singing the national anthem before sports events.


A position, or status, within a social structure that is shaped by relatively precise behavioural expectations (norms). A role has been described as the active component of status. The individual, placed within a status in a social structure, performs their role in a way shaped by normative expectations. Individuals have varying ideas about normative standards and their own unique values, so role behaviour is not standardized, however radical departure from expected role behaviour will usually result in social sanctions.

An aspect of one explanation for the rising crime rate among women: their roles have converged with (become similar to) those of men.

The act of presenting your ‘self’ as being removed or at a distance from the role you are being required to play. For example, by keeping your eyes open when asked to pray or say grace, you communicate to the group that you are making no commitment to the role. A concept from dramaturgical sociology. See: PRESENTATION OF SELF / .

Where an individual plays at or pretends to occupy the role of another. This concept is useful for understanding the socialization of children and in particular that stage during which they play at being mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses, or truck drivers. It is during this playing that they master the ability to engage in reflexive role-taking and thus to develop their own sense of self. See: ROLE-TAKING, REFLEXIVE / .

Captures the stress or tension that may arise from the performance of a role.

The theory that women's lesser involvement in crime can be attributed to their socialization into traditional roles within the family and in society.

Where an individual looks at their own role performance from the perspective of another person. In taking the view point of another, they are able to see themselves as an object, as if from the outside. When we ask: ‘Am I talking too much?’, or, ‘Am I being responsible?’ we are engaging in reflexive role-taking: we are using outside standards -the point of view of another - to look at ourselves.

A theory developed in the 1970's to explain variations in victimization rates among categories of persons, areas or over time. Dependent on the notions of life style and opportunity, this theory argues that it is the life styles (ie: their routine activities) of young males which explains their high rate of victimization compared to seniors, or that it is the changes in routine-activities accompanying the increase in small households and two-income families which has increased the opportunity for property crimes.

A Commission of inquiry established by the Conservative government in 1991 as a strategy to obtain First Nations' support for constitutional change after the Meech Lake Accord was defeated in 1990 by Elijah Harper, an Aboriginal member of the Manitoba legislature.. The Commission reported in 1996 having examined a wide range of matters affecting Aboriginal peoples. The report has the potential to help Canadians redefine the relationship between First Nations peoples and government.

Chaired by Walter Gordon, the 1956 Report displays a new period of concern for Canadian nationalism. Gordon warned of the dangers of economic subordination to the United States and recommended some measures to reduce this danger. The Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau returned to this concern in the early 1970's and brought in legislation protective of national interests. Many argue, however, that the Free Trade Agreement of 1989, implemented by a Conservative government, was a victory for continentalism and accelerated the process of integrating the Canadian and American economies. See: CONTINENTALISM / .




This proclamation, signed by King George, provides the basis of Native land rights in North America. Signed at the conclusion of the Seven Years' War at which time the French signed over much of North America to the British, the document proclaims British rule over the territory. The contents of this Proclamation are significant. It acknowledges pre-existing ownership of land by Native peoples; it stated that Indian land could only be bought or treatied for by the British government; it established a procedure for obtaining land; and it used the term ‘Nations or Tribes of Indians’. These provisions provide a powerful legal foundation for current disputes over land rights. The Royal Proclamation has an entirely different significance for the Quebecois since it was intended to make the colony of Canada with a British mold: British civil and criminal law was imposed on the Quebecois and Catholics were virtually prohibited from holding public office.

One of the cornerstones of democratic society, meaning that everyone is subject to the law. It is not just the rule that everyone is covered by the Criminal Code and must be charged and convicted if appropriate. It also means that no one in the society, the Prime Minister, cabinet, senior civil servants, judges or police has power except as it is derived from law. Authority can only come from law, namely the Constitution, a statute, legal regulations, Common Law, municipal by -law. There is a rule of law rather than rule by individuals

[ 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