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Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) claimed that all religions divide objects or phenomena into the sacred and the profane. Sacred objects are those which are extraordinary and are treated as if set apart from the routine course of events in daily life. The profane are those objects or phenomena seen as ordinary and constituting the reality of everyday living. Durkheim believed that the celebration of religious beliefs and sacred ritual united the community and integrated individuals and that it enhanced the sharing of collective sentiments and solidarity in profane areas of social life. The secularization and rationalization of Western societies has reduced the realm of the sacred.

When it is difficult to conduct a census of an entire population, a researcher will work with a portion of that population, a sample, which is thought to be representative of the population in question. Researchers typically try to ensure that a sample has been drawn in a random fashion. This ensures that the distribution of population characteristics corresponds to the assumptions of probability theory. This allows inferences to be drawn about the population. Many times non-random samples are used, however.

Refers to the process or method of drawing a sample from a population. This process can be based on random selection such that each member of the population has an equal probability of being selected (eg: putting all the names into a hat). Many statistical tests assume a process of random selection. However, the method may not be based on random selection. One might, for example, select for convenience the first 100 people you meet or all the students in an introductory sociology class.

Any sample is only one of many samples which could have been drawn from a population. Consequently, a researcher may not get the same results with each sample (eg: the mean or average might vary). As the sample gets larger this variation is less drastic, and the sampling error is smaller. Social scientists have ways of calculating the sampling error and you can see this in the news many times when a reporter says: ‘a survey of this size is accurate within 3.5% 19 times out of 20’. For example, the 3.5% is the sampling error. 95 times of 100 times the mean would fall within +/- the mean or average reported.

The actual physical representation of a population, a voters list or a student class lists, for example, from which a sample is actual drawn. A population is a somewhat abstract concept while the sampling frame is the real listing of members of that population such that you can imagine them being placed into a hat for purposes of random sampling.

A positive or negative response by an individual or group to behaviour and designed to encourage or discourage that behaviour. Positive sanction would include rewards, compliments, applause, or smiles, while negative sanctions would include punishments, frowns, avoidance, or gossip. Sanctions can be informal (coming from friends and neighbors) or formal (coming from authorized institutions like the police, the government, the school), and must be seen as forms of social control.

A method of work organization where management implements a specialised division of labour and sets out detailed instructions for the performance of work. Associated with the innovative methods introduced by Frederick Taylor (1856-1915) to separate workers from their knowledge of the work process, to divide labour so as to pay only for the specific skill required to perform a narrow function and to establish management as the controller of work and the work process. See: INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS / TAYLORISM / .

The methods and techniques of investigation and analysis used in the sciences to develop theories and design experiments. Usually scientific methods attempt to discover the causes of things and the relationships between variables. The key assumption of scientific method is that a claim or theory can be tested by discoverable and measurable evidence. Scientific experiment and research has led to the development of many laws : mechanics, electrical energy, light, transfer of heat, relativity etc. The idea of scientific method has been influential in sociology, but scientific methods cannot be applied to many of the topics that interest sociologists nor can they be strictly applied where they do have relevance. Generally, scientific method involves the steps of gathering of data, by observation and research, formulation of hypotheses, testing by experiment, replication of tests to ensure consistent results, and avoidance of personal bias and pre-judgement. A theory or hypothesis must be stated in a testable form to have scientific status: it must be clear enough that it can be disproven. Early sociologists like Auguste Comte (1798-1857) assumed that sociology would develop into a science of society equivalent to the natural sciences of physics and chemistry and this view continued to be influential in the sociology of Emile Durkheim (1858-1917). Modern sociologists tend to reject the idea that sociology can be scientific, but they do employ aspects of scientific method in trying to arrive at a rigorous and systematic understanding of aspects of society. See: SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE / .

As used by Edwin Lemert secondary deviance refers to deviant behaviour which flows from a stigmatized sense of self; the deviance is thought to be consistent with the character of the self. A person's self can be stigmatized or tainted by public labeling. Secondary deviance is contrasted to primary deviance which may be behaviorally identical to secondary deviance but is incorporated into a ‘normal’ sense of self. One may, for example, get drunk several times because one sees oneself as enjoying a party. However, if one notices that friends are hiding their liquor during visits to their house, one may come to see oneself as a ‘drunk’ and then continue to get drunk because one is a drunk. The first acts are primary deviance and the second act is secondary deviance.

See group, secondary.

Refers to those occupations which tend to be located in the most competitive areas of the economy and are more labour intensive. These occupations tend to pay lower wages, have insecure employment, be less unionized, and provide less opportunity for advancement. Typical industries are restaurant and hotel services, cashiers and retail sales. This labour market has been dominated by women and minorities, while the other market (the primary labour market) has been dominated by white males. This term was originally part of what was referred to as dual labour market theory. The term segmented labour market is now used but studies continue to find a significant dualism to the labour market and this continues to be useful for understanding women's occupational location and their low wages relative to men. See: PRIMARY LABOUR MARKET / .

Characteristics that are sex related but are not directly connected with the physiology of reproduction (the sex organs). For example, statistically, men tend to be heavier with more muscle mass and physical strength than women although there are some women heavier, more muscular and stronger than some men. See: SEXUAL DIMORPHISM / .

Usually contrasted with churches or denominations, sects are thought to be small and inward-looking religious or spiritual groups which reject the values of the wider society. Examples would be the Jehovah's Witnesses, Salvation Army, Christian Science. These groups typically begin with a charismatic leader who articulates a strong rejection of the compromises made with the secular world by other religions. Over time, as leadership is routinized and members experience some upward mobility, there tends to be more acceptance of worldly matters and secular values.

The process of organizing society or aspects of social life around non-religious values or principles. The term is linked closely to Max Weber's concept of a growing ‘disenchantment of the world’ as the sphere of the magical, sacred and religious retreats in cultural significance before the driving force of rationalization of culture and social institutions powered by emergent capitalism. See: RATIONALIZATION / .

One of the aims of all socialization is to place a ‘police person’ inside each of us, rather than relying on external controls. Many experience ‘self-control’ when a voice inside says: What will mother think? Will this harm my chances of being accepted as a police recruit? This is effective self-control.

In the Canadian context this term has clearest reference to the aspirations of First Nations peoples. While the term is as yet without a clear definition, as used by the federal government it means something like self-determination. The Indian Act replaced traditional Indian governments with band councils that acted as agents of the federal government. These councils only exercise those powers granted by the Indian Act. Whatever form self-government takes it would involve legislative changes to give First Nations peoples the tools to be much more self-determining. For some First Nations peoples the idea of self-government is an acknowledgment of nationhood. For these groups their status as self-determining nations was never given up through colonization or treaties, so to have self-government recognized is seen as an acknowledgment of this earlier, and continuing, nationhood. As currently envisaged by federal and provincial governments, self government is not equivalent to territorial sovereignty, although it implies extensive legal autonomy within the general framework of the federal government's overriding power to make provision for ‘peace, order and good government’.

A method for measuring crime involving the distribution of a detailed questionnaire to a sample of people, asking them whether they have committed a crime in a particular period of time. This has been a good method for criminologists to determine the social characteristics of ‘offenders’.

A count of delinquency based on the method of asking young people if they have committed an illegal act in a specified time period. See: SELF-REPORT STUDIES / .

A constitutional structure of government where legal authority is divided between various institutions. In the United States, the Constitution divides federal authority between the President, Congress and the Supreme Court, all of which have delimited powers and responsibilities. This concept of government differs from the idea of parliamentary supremacy which confers complete authority to Parliament and grants it unconstrained legal powers. Canada exhibits a blend of the idea of parliamentary supremacy and the idea of separation of powers, since the written part of the Canadian constitution explicitly divides federal and provincial powers and establishes a framework of constitutional law by which Parliament is restrained in its actions.

As used by ethnomethodologists this is the same as conversation analysis. See: CONVERSATIONAL ANALYSIS / .

An unfree status associated with agrarian economies dominated by feudal social relationships. Serfs were labourers bound to the land and to service to a landlord but differing from slaves in that they possessed security of the person, the right to personal property and customary rights to use land and other resources. Serfdom has occurred in many world societies including England, France, Russia, China and Japan. While serfdom was first extinguished in England in the 16th century it persisted in Russia until the general emancipation ordered by Tsar Alexander 11 in 1861. A modified form of serfdom, based on indentured or bonded labour, is still widespread in world societies. See: FEUDALISM / .

The national governments of Canada and the United States use this rule in deciding how to count occurrences in a multiple crime situation: only the most serious crime is counted.

Usually contrasted with a goods-producing economy and refers to an economy based largely on the provision of service rather than manufactured goods. These services may include medical service, accounting, social work, teaching, design, consultancy, short order cook, waiting tables, driving taxi. The shift to a service economy is sociologically interesting because it appears to be associated with different labour market demands, differing educational requirements, and differing wage structures. See: GOODS PRODUCING ECONOMY / .

The biological classification of individuals as males and females. Sociologists would note, however, that even though this is a classification based on biological differences it is a socially constructed classification. See: GENDER ROLES / .

Refers to stereotypes of the sexes and the consequent actions of characterizing men and women on the basis these stereotypes. For example, women are mediators and men are competitive; boys prefer trucks while girls prefer dolls. See: STEREOTYPE / .

Actions or attitudes that discriminate against people based solely on their gender. Sexism is linked to power in that those with power are typically treated with favour and those without power are typically discriminated against. Sexism is also related to stereotypes since the discriminatory actions or attitudes are frequently based on false beliefs or over generalizations about gender and on seeing gender as relevant when it is not. See: STEREOTYPE / .

A broader classification of sexual offence than ‘rape’ . Rape occured only when sexual penetration was involved, but this new definition of a sexual assault is broader. It is an assault that has as its consequence a violation of the sexual integrity of the victim. This is now the defined criminal code offence.

Differences between males and females in size and appearance. Sexual dimorphism in humans is greater than in some animals and less than in many. Evolutionary psychologists and biologists are intrigued to understand the function of sexual dimorphism.

The allocation of work task, either in the private household or in the public economy, on the basis of the sex of the person. Women may cook the meals and men wash the dishes, or women may perform caring roles such as nursing or social work in the public economy, while men perform the tasks of driving trucks, fighting fires, or manufacturing goods. Most societies have had some division of labour by sex. The sexual division of labour is related to stereotyping. Although this expression seems to have survived criticism from social scientists it is actually incorrect: the division of labour between the sexes is chiefly gendered: it is based on cultural practices rather than any inherent suitability of either sex to perform specific roles.

A system in which land is cleared and then cultivated until it is exhausted, at which point new land is cleared and the process restarted.

A term from semiology - the study of signs. For example the expression ‘ a pig is coming’ is the signifier (or the signifier could be a gesture, clothing style, form of architecture, consumer good), while the content of this expression is the signified. The signifier and the signified always exist in some relationship (called signification) and the hearer is always decoding this relationship. For example in one instance the hearer may ‘hear’ the signifier ‘pig’ and assume that an animal pig is in the area suitable for hunting. Another time the hearer may ‘hear’ that a policeman is in the area, while at another time the hearer may ‘hear’ that the speaker's supervisor is arriving.

Published in 1962, and written by Rachel Carson, this book was an early call to arms for the environmental movement. Carson portrays the forces that modern society has brought into being which assault nature and human life itself. The title comes from an imaginary community in which ‘There was a strange silence. The birds, for example- where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the morning that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence over the fields and woods and marsh.’

Premised on the belief that most crime is opportunistic rather than being the outcome of those driven to commit a crime no matter what. This form of prevention attempts to reduce the opportunities for crime rather than just relying on the police after the crime has occurred. This approach is also called ‘effective guardianship’.

Describes a relationship between people in which one person is not legally free but is treated as the legally owned property of the other. As such the slave can be sold or exchanged. Slave relationships have been found in many parts of the world and have sometimes been the central economic relationships of the society. As legal property of their owners, slaves can be forced to produce goods or services whose value remains with the owner.

The degree to which an individual is integrated into ‘the social’. Do they have binding ties to the family, to the school, to the workplace, to the community ? While Durkheim first focused on the importance of the social bond it has gained wide acceptance in the theory and research of Travis Hirschi. Hirschi argues that as the socal bond is weakened the degree of deviant involvement goes up.

An aspect of many micro-interpretive perspectives in sociology and must be understood as a contrast to positivistic and structural sociology. Rejecting the notion that events or social phenomena have an independent and objective existence, they examine the methods that members of society use to create or construct reality. Durkheim, for example was a positivist and a structuralist and argued that suicide had an objective existence, independent of himself and others. That is, there was something about the way of death that constituted something as a suicide. An advocate of the social construction of reality perspective would argue that suicide is just a label for a death and is constituted, or created, by the accounts that people like police, family, or coroners give of the death. Our accounting methods then construct reality rather than there being some independent reality which we can describe or explain. This phrase was used in 1966 by Peter Berger and T. Luckmann. See: SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM / LABELING THEORY / PHENOMENOLOGICAL SOCIOLOGY / ETHNOMETHODOLOGY / .

Used metaphorically to suggest that a group of self-interested and rational individuals came together and formed a contract which created society. Each was willing to give up a little bit of freedom to create social rules that would protect their self-interest. This theory suggests that individuals were historically prior to societies. It was this view which sociologist Emile Durkheim argued against in the late nineteenth century with his claim that society must come before the individual since human culture and communication can only arise in society.

Attempts to explain why it is that all of us do not commit crime. Or to put this another way: why are most people law-abiding? The answer lies in dimensions of social control. The many ways in which people are controlled by family, schools, work situations, conscience, etc. Most conventional theories, by contrast try to explain why individuals commit crime.

Members of the Social Credit party were first elected in Canada under the leadership of evangelical Christian preacher and radio broadcaster William Aberhart. In the Alberta general election of 1935, Aberhart led the party to a decisive victory when they won 56 of the 63 seats. Later that same year, 17 members were elected to the House of Commons. In subsequent years, Social Credit members were elected in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Quebec. The party's political program was founded on the theories outlined by Major C. Hugh Douglas in his 1920 book, Economic Democracy. Douglas argued that the economic problems of capitalist societies resulted from a failure to balance production with sufficient mass purchasing power to absorb the goods produced. According to Douglas this was because industrialists had to hire labour and also purchase raw resources, but when the object was produced the worker would only be paid for labour and thus receive less than the market value of the goods produced and be unable to purchase the objects produced. These rather strange economic notions led to the belief that the government should correct this imbalance by giving each citizen a portion of a ‘national dividend’ to support economic stability. The Social Credit government of Alberta attempted to introduce policies based on these ideas, some of which were disallowed by the federal government. With the world-wide recovery from the depression in the late 1930's, the party moved away from Douglas's economic theories and adopted more main -stream free-enterprise policies. Social Credit remained somewhat distinct, however, in its strong identification with regional issues and its evangelical and fundamentalist Christian roots. The last Social Credit government anywhere in Canada was defeated in 1991 in the British Columbia election. The party ceased to have representation in the British Columbia legislature after the 1996 provincial election and appears to have collapsed.

A late nineteenth century social philosophy which unites an interest in social problems (eg: inequality) with an interpretation of Darwin's work on the origin of species. Advocates argue that the central Darwinian principle of evolution, development and progress, is the survival of the fittest and extinction of the weakest. Applied to social affairs this implies that those who get ahead in society are the most fit and deserve their position. More importantly, perhaps, this perspective suggests that supporting those who fall behind ( by providing welfare, for example) interferes with the principles of evolution and obstructs social progress. Sociologists of course believe that social problems like inequality must be understood within a social and cultural context, rather than a context of biological competition.

A general term for political doctrines that claim an important role for the state and the community in the shaping and directing a society's economic and social life. Social democracy differs from socialism because it is committed to preservation of a largely capitalist and free market economy, but shares with it an emphasis on the importance of redistribution of wealth and income so that citizens may have social and economic conditions that effectively provide for reasonable equality of opportunity. Modern welfare-state liberalism is closely allied to social democratic ideas. See: SOCIALISM / .

The theory that crime and other deviant behaviour is most likely to occur where social institutions are not able to direct and control groups of individuals. It is argued that gangs will arise spontaneously in social contexts that are weakly controlled. Some criminologists think that the concept of social disorganization just reflects middle-class failure to comprehend organization different from their own.

A term used by critical sociologists with a meaning similar to that of ‘society’. When we talk of Canadian society, however, we tend to think only of one society and imagine it being static. Critical sociologists wish to talk about Canadian society being formed in different ways over time. Each would be a different social formation although all would be called Canada. Each formation would be characterized by a particular organization of economic and political relationships.

An attempt to use the Gospel, the teachings of Christ, to deal with social problems arising in an expanding industrial nation like Canada. This movement appeared in Canada in the 1880's and was a major force in social and political life through the 1930's. Its central belief was that God was at work in the creation of social change, social justice and moral reform. This core value can be found in the Social Service Council of Canada (1912), United Church (1925), and the CCF (1932) and played an important part in shaping the nature of sociology in Canada. The movement is particularly associated with the work of J.S. Woodsworth, T.C. Douglas, Grace McInnis, and others. These ideas would now be part of what is referred to as ‘liberation theology’.

Activities by government, social agencies and volunteers designed to change and improve the social situation of individuals, groups and communities, strengthen social bonds and encourage internalization of social control.

The term map is used primarily as a metaphor (although one could actually place data or statistics on a geographic map). Mapping in the first sense means identifying the social characteristics of victims, offenders or inmates or other groups.

Upward or downward movement within a stratification system. Liberal theory claims that capitalist societies are open-class and therefore one can expect a high degree of social mobility. According to liberal theory this movement within a stratification system should result from a person's achievements and should not be based on ascribed characteristics such as sex, race, region of birth, and parent's class position. Social mobility is typically measured by comparing the status positions of adult children to that of their parents (intergenerational mobility), but it can be measured by comparing a person's status position over their own lifetime (intragenerational mobility). Sociologists see social mobility as a useful way to measure equality of opportunity. See: DEMAND MOBILITY / EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY / .

A group of people organized, outside of institutions established for this purpose, so as to bring about political and social change which will satisfy their shared interest or goal. Political parties therefore would not be social movements although the New Democratic Party often describes itself as part of a social movement. It is more correct to talk about the environmental movement, the gay rights movement, the women's movement, the labour movement, victim's rights movements, prisoner's rights movements, movements for drug decriminalization. Sociologists are interested in studying the dynamics of such movements and the conditions or forces which make some successful and others less successful.

Another way of referring to the class structure. The social relations of production refers to the social relationships that people enter into in the production or delivery of goods and services. From a Marxist perspective these relationships are inevitably those of owners and non-owners or those who control the work and those who do not control the work. In this way of thinking, social class is founded on the economy of any society and it is the pattern of class relations that give a society its central character.

The patterned and relatively stable arrangement of roles and statuses found within societies and social institutions. The idea of social structure points out the way in which societies, and institutions within them, exhibit predictable patterns of organization, activity and social interaction. This relative stability of organization and behaviour provides the quality of predictability that people rely on in every day social interaction. Social structures are inseparable from cultural norms and values that also shape status and social interaction.

A political doctrine that upholds the principle of collectivity, rather than individualism, as the foundation for economic and social life. Socialists favour state and co-operative ownership of economic resources, equality of economic condition and democratic rule and management of economic and social institutions. See: SOCIAL DEMOCRACY / .

A perspective that examines women's social situation as shaped by both patriarchal gender relations and by the class structure of capitalism. It sees gender and class oppression as inseparable and rather than working for the equality of women within a liberal, democratic capitalist society, it argues for the equality of women within a society that is not dependent upon the exploitation of one group by another ie: a classless society. See: FEMINISM / LIBERAL FEMINISM / ..

(1) A process of social interaction and communication in which an individual comes to learn and internalize the culture of their society or group. Socialization begins immediately at birth, with the conditioning influences of infant handling, and continues throughout an individual's lifetime. Sociologists recognize the limitless variety of individual experiences of socialization, but have given much attention to general patterns of socialization found in individual societies and groups within them. The sociological use of the term refers to the learning and absorption of culture and not simply to the process of interacting with others. (2) The term is also sometimes used to refer to the collective ownership and management of economic resources eg: a nationalized industry or resource, or to publicly provided and financed services eg: ‘socialized medicine’ (medicare).

A human community, usually with a relatively fixed territorial location, sharing a common culture and common activities. There is cultural and institutional interdependence between members of the society and they are, to some extent, differentiated from other communities and groups. Societies are generally identified as existing at the level of nation states, but there can be regional and cultural communities within nation states that possess much of the cultural distinctiveness and relative self-sufficiency of societies.

A perspective on human social behaviour made accessible by the publication in 1975 of E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology and Richard Dawkins's 1976 publication of The Selfish Gene. This perspective begins with the assumption that humans are above all else animals and therefore the roots of human social behaviour can be found in our evolutionary heritage. Since this way of understanding relies on genetics and biological adaptation it is not a sociological perspective. The term sociobiology has been replaced to a great extent by the term evolutionary psychology

A term which is often contrasted with that of social class. Socioeconomic status, largely an American usage, has developed as a way to operationalize or measure social class on the assumptions that class groupings are not real groups. It is a rather arbitrary category and is developed by combining the position or score of persons on criteria such as income, amount of education, type of occupation held, or neighborhood of residence. The scores can then be arbitrarily divided so as to create divisions such as upper class, middle class, lower class. Sociologists are interested in socioeconomic status, as they are in class, since it is assumed that this status affects life chances in numerous ways. See: CLASS / .

As used by C.W. Mills (1916-1962) this term refers to the ability to imagine and understand the intersection between personal biography and historical social structures. This is indeed the essence of sociology: imagining that every individual's life is given meaning, form and significance within historically specific cultures and ways of organizing social life. Having a sociological imagination then is identical with being a good sociologist: it is a standard against which to judge sociology.

The study of the social bases of what is known, believed or valued both by individuals and society. The essential idea is that knowledge itself, how it is defined and constituted, is a cultural product shaped by social context and history. In this view knowledge cannot be treated as a thing in itself, as an objective, universally true body of facts and theory, but must be understood in the social context in which it originated. The principal ideas of postmodernism are closely linked to this long tradition in philosophy and the social sciences. See: POSTMODERN / .

Refers to body types and behind this idea lies the belief of early criminologists that there were distinctive body types and these types were associated with personality and temperament. It was believed that the mesomorph with a well-built, muscular body (note the sexist connotation of this) was associated with aggressive personality, insensitive to pain and tended to act impulsively.


As used by Michel Foucault (1926-1884) refers to what psychologists mean by the psyche, the self, subjectivity or human consciousness. Foucault argues, for example, that the development of the penitentiary in the early 19th century resulted in a shift from punishing the body to punishing the soul.

The authority possessed by the governing individual or institution of a society. Sovereign authority is distinct in that it is unrestricted by legal regulation since the sovereign authority is itself the source of all law. The idea of state sovereignty appears to have developed first in Europe, in the late middle ages, where it emerged once a division was made between the sacred authority of the church and the secular authority of the state. So long as state power was subject to religious institutions -like the Catholic church - state sovereignty could not emerge. In Britain, state sovereignty is possessed by the Crown in Parliament: law passed by Parliament and consented to by the Crown has unchallengeable legal authority. In Canada, the locus of sovereignty is more ambiguous since the written parts of Canada's constitution, the Constitution Act of 1867 and the Constitution Act 1982, prescribe a federal-provincial division of powers and special procedures for constitutional amendment that limit the authority of the Crown and Parliament. Major changes to Canada's constitution require the unanimous consent of parliament and the ten provincial legislatures thus suggesting that political sovereignty in Canada is shared by the Crown in Parliament and the Crown and legislatures of Canada's ten provinces.

A legal case advancing the aboriginal rights of natives in Canada. Ronald Sparrow, a Musqueam, was charged with violating federal regulations while fishing in an area not covered by existing treaties. A 1986 Court of Appeal ruled that section 35(1) of the Canadian Constitution meant that an aboriginal right to fish for food continued to exist in non-treaty areas of the province.

The attitude that it is naturally right and appropriate to give priority to human interests and demands over those of all other living creatures. It has led to endangerment and extinction of many animal species and to extensive environmental damage and depletion.

As used in criminal justice, refers to crime prevention achieved through instilling fear in the specific individual being punished such that they refrain from future violation of the law. Also referred to as individual deterrence. See: GENERAL DETERRENCE / .

Claims to land made by Native groups covered by treaties but where the terms of treaties have not been met or land has been removed over the years without consent. See: CALDER CASE / COMPREHENSIVE LAND CLAIMS / .

According to Max Weber (1864-1920) the spirit of capitalism is rationalization -being methodical and calculating in the pursuit of profit. Weber argues that this drive to organize work to most efficiently achieve the goals of profit or business success had its origins in Protestantism. See: PROTESTANT ETHIC / .

Under the Immigration Act any Canadian or permanent resident is able to sponsor a range of close relatives as immigrants to Canada. Family class members must only meet the criteria of good health and character. The other two classes of immigrants are refugees and independents (including entrepreneurs).

A British term, contrasted with contest mobility, to refer to a method of identifying people at an early age for social advancement and sponsoring, or supporting, them as they prepare for their rise to the top and then guaranteeing them a comfortable position. Similarly, those not so identified are not supported or given opportunity and thus are destined for positions at the bottom of the class structure. See: SOCIAL MOBILITY / .

The incorrect inference of a causal relationship between two variables where the relationship is in reality only accidental. Researchers attempt to identify or eliminate spuriousness by the use of random assignment in an experimental design or through the use of control (extraneous) variables in the manipulation of data during analysis. See: CAUSALITY / CONTROL VARIABLE / .

The first earth-orbiting satellite, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. The successful launching of this satellite shocked western countries and initiated the space race. To compete with the Soviet Union, western countries, especially the United States, restructured education at all levels and massively increased funding for science programs and scientific research.

Refers to the period from 1926 to 1953 when Joseph Stalin was leader of the Soviet Communist Party and all powerful dictator of the Soviet Union. Stalinism claimed absolute domination of the communist party over all aspects of Soviet life, politics and culture and justified mass murder and policies of mass terror in an attempt to establish communism. The communist party itself was repeatedly purged and leading members executed, exiled or imprisoned. It is estimated that as many as 20 million people may have died in famines as a result of Stalin's policies of forced agricultural collectivisation as well as many hundreds of thousands of more in political purges, displacements of populations and the rigours of the vast system of prison camps established by Stalin's secret police.


As used by Harold Innis (1894-1952), a natural resource exported to a more advanced economy. According to Innis the character of these resources and their export have given shape to the development of Canadian society. Staples such as beaver pelts, cod, wheat, forest products have each shaped settlement patterns, transportation routes, and the structure of power.

Refers to economic or social forces which trap a nation or region within the export of a particular staple. The particular settlement patterns, characteristics of the labour force, methods of capital accumulation, or transportation routes make it difficult for British Columbia, for example, to move away from a major reliance on forest products even after the richest and most accessible forest resources have been consumed. See: STAPLE / .

A key principle of the common law tradition in English Canada. Translated from the Latin, the phrase means ‘to stand by decided matters’, and embodies a set of rules concerning which court rulings are binding on other courts. In general the decisions of a higher court are binding on those of a lower court.

As defined by Max Weber (1864-1920) the institution which claims the exclusive right to the legitimate exercise of force in a given territory, through the use of police to enforce laws or the army to maintain civil stability. Institutions of the state include government and agencies like the army, police, judiciary, crown corporations, welfare bureaucracies, and regulatory bodies. While there have been stateless societies, most complex societies have state systems of formal government and administrative bureaucracies.

A term proposed by critical sociologists and social theorists to describe the political and economic structure of Soviet-style communist systems. The core idea is that state ownership of the means of production, as in Russia and other previously communist regimes, did not lead to any emancipation of the workers but merely substituted bureaucratic domination by the state and state officials for that of owners of capital. See: COMMUNISM / .

Associated with early social scientists like Adolphe Quetelet (1795-1874) and Andre-Michel Guerry (1802-1866), who began to explore the structure of emerging European societies with the assistance of statistical methods. While their early use of statistics is important they also developed a structural explanation of crime and other social problems. Although this work was to become important later, it was overshadowed by the importance given to the more individualistic theories of Lombroso.

When researchers study within groups or between group differences, they need a technique to determine if this difference would have occurred by chance. Various statistical techniques can determine this and if it is unlikely the differences could have occurred by chance it is called a statistically significant difference. Usually a .05 level of significance is used (there are 5 chances of one hundred trials that this difference would occur by chance) but other levels can be used.

Refers to a collection of tests or techniques that are applied to the data, or observations, which social scientists have gathered. There are two categories of statistics: descriptive and inferential. Descriptive statistics are used to describe characteristics of the sample or population the researcher is working with, for example one can calculate a mean, standard deviation, etc. Inferential statistics are used for drawing inferences about a population based on the observations of a sample. For example, reports of opinion polls routinely note that ‘a sample of this size is accurate to within x% 19 times out of 20’. This is the inference to be drawn about the population from which the sample was drawn.

A position in a social structure regulated by norms and usually ranked according to power and prestige. Status differs from class in that it is a measure of a person's social standing or social honour in a community. Individuals who share the same social class may have very divergent status. For example, people's status is affected by ethnic origin, gender and age as well as their level of recognition in the community. While status is statistically related to class it is common for individuals to have inconsistent class and status locations. Most sociologists use both the concepts of class and status to describe the systems of social stratification (the way individuals are ranked in various hierarchies of income, wealth, authority and power) found in societies.

A status that is automatically transmitted to an individual at birth or at a particular time in the life cycle. An individual is accorded this status through inheritance or as a result of such characteristics as sex, ethnicity or physical features.

A Native person who is registered under the Indian Act as an Indian, and a non-status Indian is one whose ancestors were never registered or who lost status for various reasons. Women and their children lost status, for example, when they married a non-Native man or a Native man who did not have status. Under Bill C-31 (1985) these people have been able to regain their status. Court decision are beginning to make the distinction between status and non-status Indians less significant.

A Royal Commission Report tabled in the Canadian House of Commons in 1970. The Commission of Inquiry had been created in 1967 and, chaired by Florence Bird, held public hearings into the status of women in society and made numerous recommendations to government. The report is built on the premises of liberal theory and measures women's status against the values of equality, individualism, and freedom.

A delinquency or crime that can only be committed by people occupying a particular status. The Juvenile Delinquents Act (replaced in 1984) for example, created criminal offences of school truancy, incorrigibility, sexual immorality and violations of liquor laws. Only young people could be charged with or found to be in a state of delinquency because of these behaviours. It was found that approximately 20% of young girls coming to youth court did so because of their sexual behaviour while few boys were brought to court on these grounds. See: DOUBLE STANDARD / .

A position in a social structure that has been attained by the individual as a result of their individual abilities, work and personal involvements. While occupational statuses are generally achieved, often in a competitive process, one can also achieve more personal statuses, for example ‘married’ is an achieved status. See: STATUS, ASCRIBED / .

A status that is automatically transmitted to an individual at birth or at a particular time in the life cycle. An individual is accorded this status through inheritance or as a result of such characteristics as sex, ethnicity or physical features.

Laws enacted by a sovereign law-making body such as a provincial legislature or the House of Commons.

This term derives from the printing process and refers to a plate made by taking a cast or mold of a surface. A stereotype then is anything which lacks individual marks or identifiers, and instead appears as though made from a cast. In sociology the stereotype (the plate or cast) is always a social construction which may have some basis in reality but is a gross generalization (eg: women like romance novels). To stereotype is to apply these casts, or gross generalization, to people or situations rather than seeing the individual variation. See: SEXISM / .

As used by Erving Goffman (1922-1982), a differentness about an individual which is given a negative evaluation by others and thus distorts and discredits the public identity of the person. For example, physical disabilities, facial disfigurement, stuttering, a prison record, being obese, or not being able to read, may become stigmatized attributes. The stigma may lead to the adoption of a self-identity that incorporates the negative social evaluation.

Physical signs of some special moral position. While having Christian origins, Lombroso used the term to refer to physical signs of the state of atavism (a morally and biologically inferior person). The stigmata of criminality for Lombroso were things like the shape of ears, length of fingers and the slope of the forehead.

On a weekend in June 1969 the New York police, continuing a policy of harassment of homosexuals, visited the Stonewall Inn, charging that liquor was being sold without a permit. As the homosexual clientele were being taken to the police wagon, a spontaneous show of resistance emerged and the police were forced to retreat and call for reinforcements. This resistance is now given substantial symbolic value and is seen as the birth of the modern gay rights movement.

A concept central to a functionalist approach or to systems theory, both of which assume that society is like an organism or mechanical system. This system is sustained by harmony and integration. However, if something begins to go wrong this is a sign of a fault in the system, or of strain. The system has to find ways to adapt to this strain or correct it or it will lead to the transformation of the system. Robert Merton's theory of crime (anomie) in an example of strain theory. He claims that there is often a strain between the culturally defined goals we all strive for and the legitimate means provided for us to achieve those goals. See: ANOMIE / .

A social division of individuals into various hierarchies of wealth, status and power. There is disagreement about how to describe stratification systems, some sociologists favour the concept of class and others discuss status differentiations.

Assigning students to distinctive streams or programs within the education system. For example, a university bound stream and a vocational stream. While schools may think this assignment is based on the cognitive ability of students or on their special needs, sociologists have frequently shown that the assignment is based on social characteristics (class, gender, race, etc.).

An explanation for crime (such as homicide) that focuses on social structure (usually this refers to inequality, poverty, or power differentials). For example the patriarchal structure of the family might help explain the abuse of women and children within the family. Sociologist Rhonda Lenton argues that the racial structure of the USA and the depth of its poverty (and the weakness of its welfare state) compared to Canada, might help explain the difference in homicide rates.

A perspective used to analyze societies and their component features that focuses on their mutual integration and interconnection. Functionalism analyses the way that social processes and institutional arrangements contribute to the effective maintenance and stability of society. The fundamental perspective is opposition to major social change. See: MACRO-PERSPECTIVE / .

Refers to French social theorists such as Claude Levi-Strauss and Jean Piaget who claim that in the most ordinary of events there is a hidden structure or pattern (often called deep structure, a term taken from linguistics) which is not immediately apparent but can be discerned by careful analysis. For example, what can be learned from the names given to pets; from food categories; from the way a child compares volume in two containers? For the early structuralists the hidden structures in these practices reveal the structure of the human mind. This being so there should be some uniformity in the pattern found in these practices around the world.

An approach to understanding the role of the state within a conflict or Marxist perspective. The state is seen as captured by the structure of capitalism and while having a degree of autonomy or freedom from the dominant class of society finds it must act so as to reproduce the economic and social structures of capitalism. This approach typically sees the state doing this through attending to three functions: capital accumulation, legitimation and coercion. See: CAPITAL ACCUMULATION / COERCION / INSTRUMENTALIST APPROACH / LEGITIMATION CRISES / RELATIVE AUTONOMY / .

A term used by British sociologist Anthony Giddens in order to capture elements of macro and micro-sociology, structure and agency, determinism and free will. By structuration Giddens means that human actors recreate through their interactions (and this makes social change possible) the very social structures which constrain their actions. It involves the reproduction on a daily basis of the structures and institutions of society.

Part of a wider theory which argues that behaviour is learned through socialization into the norms and values of the society. This is taken further to argue that some groups have values which are supportive of illegal behaviour. Those exposed to this subculture are more likely to exhibit deviant or criminal behaviour.

A culture-within-a-culture; the somewhat distinct norms, values and behaviour of particular groups located within society. The concept of subculture implies some degree of group self-sufficiency such that individuals may interact, find employment, recreation, friends and mates within the group.

In traditional positivistic and macro-structural sociology, the subjectivity of the researcher and of the subjects is seen as something to be avoided. The preferred stance for the researcher is objectivity, making the assumption that the observation of the world can occur in a neutral fashion without being influenced by theory or cultural or personal assumptions. The subjectivity of the subjects being studied is to be avoided since it is assumed that peoples lives are shaped by structural and cultural forces of which the subject may be unaware. More recent sociology (e.g. Interpretive Theory, Ethnomethodology) is open to acknowledging the subjectivity of both researcher and subjects. One might study, for example, the ways in which the coroner interprets notes, slash marks, family environments, or medical histories, in an effort to arrive at an interpretation of a death. The coroner's subjectivity then is a valid area for investigation. Similarly one might be interested in how the scientist too is also involved in arriving at an interpretation and examining how this is shaped by the subjective assumptions made. Subjectivism then is an approach to doing science which acknowledges and makes room for subjectivity. See: MACROPERSPECTIVE / OBJECTIVITY / .

In a causal relationship a sufficient condition (or variable) is any variable which is sufficient to bring about the effect in question. For example, a growing unemployment rate might be sufficient to cause an increase in the crime rate. Obviously many other factors (variables) could also cause the increase. Typically there are many conditions sufficient to cause an increase, or a decrease, in crime. See: NECESSARY CONDITION / .

The right to vote in political matters; the franchise. Suffragists were early members of the women's movement who protested in order to win women the vote. The beginnings of the suffrage movement in Canada can be dated to the founding of the Toronto Women's Literary Society in 1877. The Canadian Woman Suffrage Association grew from this organization under the leadership of Dr. Emily Stowe. Women achieved the federal vote in 1918. Provincial voting rights for women were achieved between 1918 and 1940, first in Manitoba and last in Quebec.

Less serious criminal offenses with a maximum punishment of six months imprisonment, a $2,000 fine or both. These crimes are tried by lower courts. Some offenses, however, are hybrids and can thus be defined as summary or indictable.

A concept developed by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) that describes one of three components of the individual personality or self. The personality consists of the id, the innate impulses and drives, the ego, the unique and individual self; and the superego, the internalized social norms or conscience. Much Freudian analytical theory is based on articulating the development of these aspects of self and their relationship.

A term from Marxist social analysis central to the materialist concept of history and social development. Marx argues that the fundamental base of any society, which permeates and shapes all its other legal, political and intellectual characteristics, is the social relations of production: the social and technological way that production is organized and carried out. These relations of production provide the social foundation on which develops the superstructure of legal and political relations and human intellectual ideas and consciousness.

The excess of production over the human and material resources used up in the process of production. In simple societies there was often little if any surplus since the production from hunting and gathering was entirely used up in subsistence. With the development of animal herding and settled agriculture, production exceeds immediate subsistence needs and social inequality and class division becomes possible when particular individuals or groups are able to take control of this surplus.

In Marxist theory this is the value created by individual labour which is left over, or remains in the product or services produced, after the employer has paid the costs of hiring the worker. It is this value which the worker produces but does not receive which allows the capitalist owner to expand their capital. See: LABOUR THEORY OF VALUE / .

Economic activity or growth which does not reduce or deplete the resources available to future generations.

Those who engage in what Robert Reich calls symbolic-analytic services. This is Reich third occupational category and refers to tasks such as problem-solving, problem-identification, and strategic brokerage services. In short it is all those jobs which involve the manipulation of symbols (data, words, oral and visual representations). This is a way to talk about a particular form of service worker, which others might call ‘knowledge work’, and is seen as the area of substantial growth in the developed capitalist nations of the world. Reich also believes that symbolic-analysts, due to the nature of their work, develop distinctive life styles and social attitudes and political beliefs.

All communication with others is symbolic and involves the use of language, sound, bodily gesture and expression.

A sociological perspective that stresses the way societies are created through the interactions of individuals. Unlike both the consensus (structural functionalist) and conflict perspectives, it does not stress the idea of a social system possessing structure and regularity, but focuses on the way that individuals, through their interpretations of social situations and behavioural negotiation with others, give meaning to social interaction. George H. Mead (1863-1931), a founder of symbolic interactionism, saw interaction as creating and recreating the patterns and structures that bring society to life, but more recently there has been a tendency to argue that society has no objective reality aside from individual interaction. This latter view has been criticized for ignoring the role of culture and social structure in giving shape, direction and meaning to social interaction. See: MICRO-PERSPECTIVE / .

A political doctrine advocating worker's ownership and control of the productive resources of a society. Syndicalism emerges in France in the late 19th century and was influential in much of Europe. Syndicalism ( ‘syndicat’ is a Latin-French term for ‘union’) was founded on the idea that organizations of workers within any particular industry or service provided the organizational basis for the direction and administration of the means of production on collective and co-operative principles. Syndicalists envisaged a revolutionary, but largely non-violent, overthrow of private property and the workers seizing ownership and control. The resulting power structure would be highly decentralized with each industry and service being owned and directed by the workers involved within it. Syndicalism envisaged social revolution being achieved by the complete unification of workers within each sector of the economy and thus they opposed the craft-specific structure of traditional labour unions and advocated industrial unionism that would bring all workers within each industry into a one collective organization . See: CRAFT UNIONS / ONE BIG UNION / .

The systemic and empirical approach is a theoretical and methodological framework for the study of culture including several fields such as comparative cultural studies, cultural studies, comparative literature, literature, anthropology, ethnography, audience studies, and cognitive sciences. The main question is what happens to products of culture and how: It is produced, published, distributed, read/listened to/seen (etc.), imitated, assessed, discussed, studied, censored, etc. The systemic and empirical study of culture originates as a reaction to, and an attempt at, solving the problematics of hermeneutics. The approach and methodology(ies) of the framework are built on the theory of constructivism (radical, cognitive, etc.), in turn based on the thesis that the subject largely construes its empirical world itself. The consequence of this line of thought -- as seen in the work of scholars in Germany, Holland, Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Canada, the USA and elsewhere in several fields and areas of study -- is the replacement of (metaphorical) interpretation with the study of culture products and the processes of the products as based on radical constructivism, systems theories, and the empirical (observation and knowledge-based argumentation). The system of culture and actions within are observed from the outside -- not experienced -- and roughly characterized as depending on two conventions (hypotheses) that are tested continually. These conventions are the aesthetic convention (as opposed to the convention of facts in the daily language of reference) and the polyvalence convention (as opposed to the monovalency in the daily empirical world). Thus, the object of study of the systemic and empirical study of culture is not only the text in itself, but roles of action within the system(s) of culture, namely, the production, distribution, reception, and the processing of culture products. The methods used are primarily taken from the social sciences, systems theories, reception theory, cognitive science, psychology, etc. In general, the steps to be taken in systemic and empirical research are the formation of a hypothesis, putting it into practice, testing, and evaluation.

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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