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and Notes on Jargon

by Phil Bartle, PhD


"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean ─neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is" said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master ─that is all."
Lewis Carroll..............

These are mostly notes about the listed words ─ how they are used in sociology ─ not dictionary definitions. Also see dictionary definitions of them and compare.



Secondary socialisation. Learning culture; learning how to operate in society. When we must learn to adapt to a new society or to a changing society. Compare with enculturation. Acculturation. WP



Headless. A simple society below the band level of complexity, where there are no permanent chiefs. Acephalous. WP.



Changing in order to survive or cope with changes in the environment. WP.


Aesthetics-Values Dimension.

One of the six dimensions of culture and community. Three axes: good versus bad, beautiful versus ugly, and right versus wrong. To be human is to have values. Aesthetics-Values Dimension.



A family relationship based upon marriage or extensions beyond that marriage (brother-in-law, for example). WP.



A process reflecting the passage of time. People get older, and they gain and lose physical characteristics as a result. While ageing is a physical process, humans add various social attributes to it, so they also gain and lose social roles as they get older. WP.



An attitude like racism and sexism, where people have different physical and biological and physical characteristics, but other persons attribute various social characteristics to them, and behave in often bigoted and prejudicial ways that reflect their attitudes to persons with those age characteristics. WP.


Agricultural Revolution

A major transformation in the technology of obtaining food. Prior to adopting agriculture, people relied on gathering and hunting, later herding. The agricultural revolution, 20,000 to 10,000 years ago, produced a food surplus that permitted new classes of people to form, people who did not grow their own food. Like other changes in technology, gathering, hunting and herding did not completely disappear, and even agriculture continues today after the industrial revolution, although it is increasingly being carried out in an industrial manner.


Agricultural Surplus

As a new technology of food production expanded, agriculture, it allowed the production of food beyond the amount needed to feed only the farmers. That food surplus was needed to form cities then city states then empires, as it was used to feed non farmers such as the aristocracy, the scribes, the military the traders and the artisans.



A technology that combines horticulture (growing plants) and herding (growing animals) in the production of food and other farm products.



A language and cultural group of West Africa, mainly now in southern Ghana and Eastern Côte d’Ivoire, in the rain forest. Many different states were Akan, including the best known, Asante (Ashanti), as well as Fante, Akuapem, Akyem, Kwawu and Bono. They are characterised by matrilineal descent (inheritance and succession) and a political system based upon the confederation of matrilineages and matriclans (corporate descent groups), in an elaborate hierarchy well designed for military success in the rain forest. Akan Studies.



A feeling of being separated or disconnected from nearby persons.



An attitude of generosity and sacrifice. The concept is borrowed from biology where some individuals are sacrificed for the benefit of the group and the reproduction of the species. When hunting, herding and agricultural communities sacrificed animals to their gods, it symbolised their willingness to give up something valuable for the benefit of the whole community. In horticultural societies animal sacrifice was replaced by setting aside some of the crop in order to plant for the next growing season, which was the forerunner to investment in capitalist societies. Altruism.



From the Greek word, "anima," meaning soul, life, fire or movement. Social animation means to move a community or to activate it; put some life into it. Animation



Again from "anima," this is a belief system that attributes spirits or other supernatural life forms to natural objects such as trees, rivers, mountains, caves or the ocean. Similar to Pantheism.



From the Latin for "unknown" or "without name." It implies a feeling of being anonymous to one’s family and community –– disconnected. It was used by Durkheim to describe a condition that raised the rate of suicide for those who had it.



Attributing human characteristics to non human things. Anthropomorphism.



One of the "big five" factors of poverty. An attitude of thinking it does not matter to act, because conditions are not in one’s control. Often associated with the idea that everything is "God’s will," and therefore none of our business. Apathy


Applied Sociology

Whereas pure sociology simply intends to find things out (what is), applied sociology seeks to take that knowledge and use it for some public benefit or private profit. Applied Sociology



One of the major matrilineal states of West Africa in the rain forest. In its largest and most powerful era, late eighteenth century, it included an Empire that stretched from Ghana west into half of what is now Côte d’Ivoire, north to Ouagadougou in what is now Burkina Faso, and East to what is now Benin. The British fought seven wars in the nineteenth century with the Asante (whom they called Ashanti), but not until they introduced the Gatling gun (a type of machine gun) did they finally win, in 1901, during the Sagranti (Sir Garnet Wolseley) war, the year Queen Victoria died.



A simplistic view of society as composed only of a collection of individuals, without reference to any social process or structure that holds them together. The concept is discarded by this book and by most sociologists.



Based upon hearing. Compare with "oral." Aural Method



Political power that is recognised as legitimate.
A form of knowing based upon being told something is true by persons who are respected and recognised as knowing. Contrasted with belief, logic or observation. Authority



A fancy way of saying "native." Once used when "aboriginal" was considered to be offensive.



A level of political complexity lower than tribe. Often without chiefs. In Canadian legal terminology, however, complex communities are called "bands" even though they have chiefs, elders and other characteristics of political complexity above the band level.



A method of distributing wealth without using money or any currency. Trading.



Thoughts by humans, expressed in their language, reflecting their conviction in some truths, such the existence of a Supreme Being. A belief is contrasted with other forms of knowing, such as by observing, by logic, or by authority.


Belief-Worldview (Dimension)

One of the six dimensions of culture. It includes religious beliefs and more: all we believe is true about how the universe operates. It includes atheism. Not the same as religious institutions, which belong to the institutional or interactional dimension of culture. Belief



A characteristic of having two cultures. Canada is bicultural and bilingual: French and English.



Two spouses. Bigamy.



Speaking and acting towards categories of persons in ways that are demeaning, disrespectful, unsympathetic and unfair. Often applied to racism, ageism and sexism.



Having two languages. Canada is officially bilingual, English and French, even though a very small minority of individuals can speak and read both languages.



The owners of capital. Derives from the same origin as burgers, the shopkeepers of a town. Bourgeoisie



Derived from "bureau," meaning office, and "cracy," meaning power. A formal organisation where the power is vested in the office. Bureaucracy



A story from Genesis in the old testament of the bible, two children of Adam, one a tiller, the other a herder. The herder, Abel, sacrifices an animal to God who is pleased. Cain, the tiller who has only vegetables, is jealous and kills his brother. It is argued in this book that this story symbolizes the ancient animosity between farmers and herders.



Named after John Calvin, often used as an equivalent of Protestant Christianity.



Ability. An organisation or community is said to have more capacity when it has more ability to reach its goals. Strength. Measuring Capacity


Capacity building

The notion that an outside agency can build the capacity, strength or power of an organisation or community.


Capacity Development

The notion that increased strength or capacity of an organisation or community can only come from within itself, that it grows as a living cultural organism.



Wealth that is generated or produced not for immediate consumption but for increased future production. Tools. A factor of production, the price of which is measured as interest.



Social and economic organisation in which capital (tools, factories) is an important factor of production, where the owners of capital are the rulers and decision makers.



Where a change in an identified independent variable is necessary and sufficient for the change in an identified dependent variable. Cause



Giving or transferring of wealth to people or organisations in need, based upon generosity rather than an expectation of an immediate or delayed return of wealth. Gifts. In the community empowerment methodology, the "Charity Methodology" is seen to contribute to dependence and sustained poverty by training the recipients to become dependent upon, and to expect further, charity. Charity



A human settlement characterised by large population, high population density, division of labour, high rates of anonymous interactions by roles, anonymity, anomie, and gesellschaft. City



A concept developed by Karl Marx in which people are categorised by their relations to the means of production. Later sociologists developed it into social class, where people are categorised by their levels of prestige, power, and wealth. Class Conflict.
A group of students and a teacher in a classroom during a designated time period for the purposes of the students learning some designated material.


Class (Working)

A social class in which the members relation to the means of production is that they provide labour for pay. Marx called them the "proletariat."



A non technical term implying the world is becoming more culturally homogenized as a result of the relentless spread of multinational corporations. The big global corporations have annual budgets far exceeding those of many nations, and are seen as a new political force in the world.



A group or category of individuals who start some designated process at the same time, or the same year. All members of the class of 2005 belong to the same cohort.



When light vibrates at different frequencies, we "see" the variations as different colours. Colours are not intrinsic to the things we see, but is a response in ourselves to the frequency of light bouncing off them. Differences in colours are within our optical and nervous systems. We have no way of knowing that what you see as "red" is what I see as "red" even when we describe the same item by the same colour name (red). Three Souls.
Skin colour is often used to distinguish visible minorities which are then called "races." Highly unscientific. There are no biological categories of race or colour. There is more variation in skin colour on a single person than between the colours of persons designated in indifferent races. Race and colour are social categories.
Different languages put different boundaries around colours. Observations of variations in colour naming systems led to the development of the Sapir-Whorf hypotheses that states we learn to perceive and understand reality by the language we learn.



The sociology of who eats with whom.


Common Sense

Many of the things to learn from sociology demonstrate that our common sense calculations and assumptions do not stand the test of scientific investigation.


Common Values

When people of an organisation or community share common values, the community or organisation has more strength. Where they differ, tolerance of each others’ values will give strength. Common Values.



Belonging to the commune or community.


Communal Services

A community has some facilities which are available to all, such as roads, public latrines, water supply, market place, sometimes schools and clinics, where they are not privately owned and operated. These provide services which are communal. Communal Services.



In many European countries, the "commune" is the legal structure of the community (municipality, district).
In North America, a commune is a constructed family or community of a group of persons who have chosen to live together, share domestic duties and responsibilities, and to share their resources equally.



The system and hardware for communicating information, not the information itself. It includes technical aids such as radio, telephones, TV, intercoms, letters, memos and protocols (rules and accepted manners of communicating). Communication.



An ideology and system of social organising and distributing wealth, the main feature being expressed in the phrase, "From each according to his ability; to each according to his need." Associated with the writing of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.


Communist Manifesto

A thin little blue book which sets out the main tenets of Communism. Written by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels.



The social organisation of a settlement or association of people. Community.


Community Empowerment

The strengthening or increase of capacity of a community. A web site dedicated to training field workers to strengthen communities. www.cec.vcn.bc.ca.


Community Participation

Where all members of a community participate in decision making about choices that affect the community. Usually it requires the services of a skilled mobiliser who intervenes and stimulates and guides the participation. Not to be confused with consultation where members of an outside agency confer with a few members of the community. Not to be confused with community contribution where members of a community contribute (donate) in cash or kind to the community. Community Participation.



Not simple. The direction of social change is usually from simple to complex.
In Psychology, a complex is a set of mental problems.



An attitude of optimism in which a person does not fear failure. Confidence.



A situation where two or more parties (individuals or groups) compete for resources, where they disagree in ideas (objectives, values, beliefs), and which may progress into violence.


Conflict (Culture)

A situation where two or more groups, or factions within a community, having different cultures, are in conflict.


Conflict Perspective

An important classical approach in sociology, where different factions are identified, and seen to be in competition for control over scarce resources. The perspective follows the writings of Karl Marx, although not identified or created by him. Conflict theory.



Something that is consciously built. It is contrasted with things that grow naturally. See "Social Construct."


Constructed Community

An association of persons with similar interests, in contrast to a natural or orthodox community which has a geographic base, relatively easy to identify boundaries, and containing people who were born or immigrated into it rather than who chose to belong.


Context (Political-Administrative)

The political and administrative environment is composed of all the rules, regulations and practices that affect the operations of an organisation or community. One of the sixteen elements of organisational or community strength. Context.



A process of deciding size as numbers of discrete objects. Contrast with measuring. We use "fewer" when counting in contrast to "less" when measuring.


Cultural Dimension

A "Dimension" of culture is one of six logical categories, not intrinsic to culture itself, along which we identify various cultural variables. It is a way or ordering a large number of sometimes contradictory theories and observations in anthropology and sociology. The categories include technological, economic, political, interactional, value and belief dimensions of culture. Dimension



Everything we learn. Culture. Preserving culture.


Culture (High)

Sophisticated and elite art and entertainment, such as ballet, symphony, and the visual art usually found in galleries. When called only "culture" it can be confused with the social science definition of culture (everything we learn)..


Culture Lag

Culture is always changing. When some change occurs, we can expect compensatory changes in other aspects and dimensions in culture. When some of those are slow in coming, we call it culture lag. Language is often one of the slowest parts of culture to change, and lags behind much of the rest.



Putting boundaries around the meanings of symbols. Making them better understood.



From the Latin words, "demo" (people) and "cracy" (power); thus "power to the people." There are several types of democracy, which allow varying amounts of power to the people of a community or society. Democracy.


Democracy (Participatory)

A type of democracy in which all members of the group, community or society participate in the decision making of the whole. It is a slow and awkward method of making decisions.


Democracy (Representational)

A type of democracy in which all members of a group, community, or society vote for representatives, who make decisions on their behalf. It is faster than participatory democracy, but slower than decision making in an autocracy (kingdom, dictatorship).



From the Latin words, "demo" (people) and "graphy" (quantitative study of). A science of counting people and comparing the results with various other variables.



In Physics, density is the ratio of number of items per volume.
In Demography, density is the ratio of people per area of land.



An attitude and belief of people that they can not take care of themselves or determine their own destiny. A factor of poverty. Dependency Syndrome.



A kinship relationship based on birth and its extensions. Matrilineal Descent



Something that describes how it is, in contrast with something that says how it should be. Science, in this way, is descriptive rather than prescriptive.



Variation from the norm (social or statistical)



A person labelled as behaving outside the norms acceptable by a society. There are no universal characteristics of a deviant, each community is different.



Another word for deviant. Often associated with sexual deviations.



A process of change, from the writings of Hegel. Everything has inside it the seeds of its own destruction, but from the ashes of that destruction will arise a new (possibly better) form.


Dimension (Cultural)

One of six categories of culture that are constructed to order information: technological, economic, political interactional, value and belief dimensions. Dimensions.


Dimension (Culture)

Dimensions of culture can also be called cultural dimensions. Dimension.



Hindering or forbidding persons access to desired situations (renting a residence, job recruitment, promotions) on the basis of some arbitrary and unfair characteristic.



Medically unwell; from "dis" (not) at ease. One of the major five factors of poverty as a social problem.



Actions which are not honest. One of the five major factors of poverty. Dishonesty.


Division of Labour

An ordered situation where different individuals or groups are responsible for different tasks, which are interdependent and making up a more efficient or productive whole.



Public or social recognition of the end of a marriage.



Anything written. One of the sources of information for social research.


Economic Dimension

A dimension of culture where the focus is on the distribution of wealth. Unlike the day to day concept of the economy, being market driven and based on money, wealth may be distributed in many ways (with or without money) as part of the economic dimension. See "wealth." Economic Dimension.



Moving out of an arda, location, community or society.



Political domination of one nation over any number of others. The product of imperialism.



Based on observations through any of the five senses.



Strengthening. When applied to an organisation or community, it also means capacity development. The "power" in empowerment is not only political power, but the ability to do anything that the community or organisation wants. Empowerment.



Primary socialisation. The process of making an animal, the human baby, into a human being. Humanization. Differs from "acculturation" or resocialisation. Some American sociologists reverse the "em" and "ac." Enculturation.



Marriage rules that allow one to marry only inside a specified group of which the individual is a member. Castes are usually endogamous. From "gamy" meaning marriage, and "endo" meaning within. Contrast with exogamy. Endogamy.



Social mechanisms intended to force individuals to conform to activities within allowed ranges or boundaries. Usually negative sanctions against those who do not conform. These can include the work of police officers, courts and prisons.



The physical environment or the ecology within which the people of a community or society are situated.
The political and administrative environment includes the laws, regulations and official practices in which an organisation or community may operate.



The study of how we know. Although philosophical, it is an important consideration of research in all sciences. Knowing.



A very rare condition in nature. An ideal in political ideology; likely impossible. Equalitarian.



Generalizing community characteristics on the basis of a limited number of objectives.


Esteem (Public)

High respect (prestige) for a person or group.


Esteem (Self)

The degree to which an individual respects his or her self.



Belonging to an identifiable community whit specific cultural characteristics.



Putting the value system of your own ethnic group at the centre of how you view the world. It means judging other groups by your standards, even when the other groups may have different standards. This approach is popular with those who believe there are universal standards and that they have them. Contrast with cultural relativity.



An ethnography is an anthropological study and report of a community or culture.



A rule of marriage that says a person must marry outside a defined group in which that person is a member. Very often lineages are exogamous, as an ideological extension of the incest taboo, but they allow and often prefer cross cousin marriages because cross cousins are outside each others’ lineages. Contrast with endogamy. Exogamy.



A scientific research method in which the scientist or observer inserts some item and sees what effects result.



A variable which has the effect of maintaining a situation. Not quite the same thing as a cause (independent variable), in that the result is already existing.


Factors of Production

In classical economics, factors of production include land, labour and capital.



One for the four elementary ways (in epistemology) that we know something. It is based upon our beliefs.



A social organisation based on a group of people, related by affinity and/or descent, and/or adoption.



Characteristics of the female gender.



An ideology seeking increased power, prestige, respect and wealth for females. It is based on the observation that they are generally distributed unevenly.


Feminist Sociology

A branch of sociology concerned with the inequalities and inequities faced by females. Feminist theory.


First Nations

Descendants of the people occupying North America when the Europeans arrived. Elsewhere sometimes called "natives," "autochthons," "Aboriginals," or "Indians.


Formal Organisation

An organisation which has a recognised structure. Often contrasted with the family.


Freedom Fighter




A condition of supporting the sustaining of an institution. Functional analysis.



Formerly meaning happy and joyful. Currently also meaning homosexual.



Characteristics of communities: small, informal, face to face knowing of persons as whole persons. From the German word meaning community.



A concept borrowed from grammar. Social characteristics of being masculine or feminine, in contrast to sex which is biological and distinguishes between male and female. Gender.



Biological carriers of information which determine the physical characteristics of living things. DNA.



From the German word for society. Characteristics of society contrasted with those of community. Implies formality, regularized rules, cold and impersonal social organisation.



A transfer of wealth by means other than exchange. When something is given to another person with no expectation of return.


Glass Ceiling

An invisible social barrier that prevents women from getting job promotions to higher levels of responsibility and pay.



World wide. Beyond national borders.



Informal discussion, usually relating unacceptable behaviour.



Place of residence. For humans, these include hamlets, villages, towns and cities.


Hegemony (Cultural)

Informal cultural influence from one community or society to another. Cultural hegemony is a concept borrowed from the political concept of hegemony.


Hegemony (Political)

Informal power and influence from one community or society to another.



Mixed. Not uniform. A community may be heterogeneous when it has in it many languages, separate social classes, different ethnic groups, various religious groups, variations in income and wealth, and a high division of labour.



An arrangement of power in a group or organisation, shaped usually like a pyramid with a small number at the top wielding much power and a wide base of persons at the bottom with little of no power.



Something more than a residence. A word not often with equivalents in other languages. It implies many elements of gemeinschaft and sentimentality.



Blended. Consistent in composition. A community is homogeneous where there is very little variation in social classes, wealth, languages, religions or ethnicity, and a minimal division of labour.



A fear of homosexuals or of homosexuality. The fear is suggested to be a result of the observation that we all have at least little bit of latent homosexuality, and we fear that in ourselves.



A person who is attracted sexually to persons of the same sex.



A building (constructiom) containing a residence.



A group of people sharing the same residence, and who cook and eat together as a unit.



The characteristic that makes us, as a biological species, human. It is cultural and therefore acquired as we acquire culture.



A concept that begins as part of our thoughts, but can also be then written and communicated. One of the two essential elements, along with our actions, that comprise culture and society, in contrast to the individuals that carry it.



A symbol of something that makes it possible for us to recognise it.
Many human beings believe that they are separate individual entities and that they have free will. Those who do are socialised to believe this.



One of the six dimensions of culture is composed of our values. Ideology is a set of values applied to what we think would be best for how we govern our society or community. Ideological Dimension



Not knowing. One of the five factors of poverty as a social problem. Do not confuse ignorance with stupidity or foolishness. Ignorance.



Migrating in to a community or society.



A set of social structures, beliefs and practices that support an empire. Colonialism. Where one country exercises formal (political and economic) control over another.



Sexual intercourse between mother and son, between father and daughter and between brother and sister. Do not confuse this with child sexual molestation.


Incest Taboo

The widespread (perhaps universal) fear and loathing people have for the act of incest.



Wealth coming in to an individual or to a family. Income.


Income Generation

From the word "generation" (related to genesis, creation) where wealth is created, not merely transferred from one group or person to another. Wealth must have value by being useful and scarce. Not necessarily money. Income Generation.


Industrial Revolution

The world wide technological transformation from a dependence upon agriculture as the main source of wealth, to the dependence upon capital (tools, factories) in industry to produce wealth. The revolution is still not complete in many countries, and yet some other societies have gone beyond industrialisation to a post industrial industry of information technology.



A relentless progression in societies, with an increase of factories, monetary capital and factory production.



Industry strictly means work. It is now applied to each sector of production in a society. The owners and managers have captured the word and use it to mean themselves, excluding labour in their usage.



Indirect power.



The content of a communication process. Composed of symbols to which humans attach meaning. One of the sixteen elements of organisational capacity and community strength. Information.



Material lacking life. Chemicals outside carbon, hydrogen and oxygen combinations. A level of organisation below organic and superorganic.


Institution (Social)

A social institution is an identifiable pattern of social interaction.


Institution (Total)

A total institution is a formal organisation in which prisoners or patients are kept. Includes mental institutions and prisons.


Institutional Dimension

One of the six dimensions of culture. In includes social interaction and patterns of communication. Institutional Dimension.



Human behaviour in which individuals consider the meaning of their actions, the assumptions and expectations of other persons’ interpretations of the action, and in response to other persons’ behaviour. The way we behave in the presence of others. More than action. Interaction.


Interactional Dimension

The institutional dimension of culture.



Marriage between persons of different groups.



An action taken by a person or agency intended to correct a dysfunction or to change a person or group. Intervention



An attitude of not accepting some persons or categories of persons as they are.



Within itself. A characteristic of an object that is in the object itself rather than in the mind of the observer. Currency, for example, has no intrinsic value but has value because of the faith we have in what it symbolizes.



A level of political complexity and organisation above tribe and below nation state.



Bland and uncontroversial. Television and other entertainment programming aimed at cutting across social categories such as class or ethnicity. Not demanding much intelligence or effort to understand.



Skills and knowledge. The ability to do or achieve something. A recognised job requisite.



Knowing persons of influence. Having patrons in an organisation who can help one get a job or a promotion. An unrecognized job requisite.



A factor of production made up of the time, effort and skills of individuals. Its price is measured by wages.
Organised labour; the unions and their political influence.



A factor of production made up of space on farms or inside factories. It price is measured by rent.



A system of communication. Composed of symbols.



Rules, usually those that prohibit specific activities, made up and approved officially by the state.



A characteristic of being able to lead people.



A process of learning information. Most learning is learning of culture, and is composed of symbols. It can also include learning characteristics without words, non cultural, such as learning that a metal object is hot.



A method of knowing based upon argument. It is contrasted with belief, observation and authority.



A strong emotion or feeling of affection and compassion. Once love, marriage, sex and child bearing were necessarily linked together but, with the advent of improved birth control and fertility technology, there is less necessity of socially linking them.



A class of people located below the working class, in the analysis of Marx. People who today might be called "street people."



Analysis and observations at the widespread community or national level. In sociology, the analysis of whole societies or communities. Contrast with micro-level.



An analogy borrowed from the physics of rivers. The mainstream is the major flow of a river, and the main culture of a society, excluding sub-cultures and ethnic minorities.



A disease, potentially fatal, carried by anopheles mosquitoes. The major killer of children, ages 0-5, world wide. An indicator of poverty.



A contractual arrangement between two persons, recognised by a community or society or by their members. The arrangement usually includes rights to cohabitation and sexual intercourse. It may also include a purpose or responsibility of having and raising children. Marriage Terminology.



A word borrowed from grammar to indicate social characteristics of maleness. Includes costumes and behaviour. What is considered masculine varies from community to community. Contrast with feminine.



An ideology or assumption that material elements (technological and economic) are prime, in relation to other dimensions of cultures.


Mean (Arithmetic)

One of several types of mathematical average. Composed of the sum of all values divided by the number of values.


Mean (Personality)

A person who is unkind and not generous. Originally a word indicating someone who holds on tightly to her or his money. (Short arms and deep pockets). Scrooge at the beginning of the story.



A way of reckoning size of things that vary continuously. Contrast with counting which requires discrete objects. Measured things can be less (like water) or smaller (in size), but not fewer.



A word borrowed from physics which refers to a social arrangement or institution which achieves some objective.



Another mathematical form of average. Here you list all the items in order of size, and find the one which half way along the list. Its size is the median.


Melting Pot

A process defined as social changes when people migrate to a society, in which both the immigrants and the host society members change to produce some common or compromise set of characteristics which reflects both, and which all share in sameness.


Micro Credit

Various income generating schemes in which the amount of capital loaned is very small, intended to introduce participants to creating and running their own small enterprises. Building a credit organization.


Micro Enterprise

Coupled with micro-credit and training, various schemes intended to train and support individuals in setting up their own small businesses.



Sociological investigation and analysis in which interaction between two or a few more individuals is the focus. Contrasted with macro level.



A one way move in which a person or small group changes location from one community to another. Differs from nomadic wandering.


Minority (Visible)

Any ethnic group which can be identified by looking at their members. Usually the identifying features are the biological or physical features of the individuals, but sometimes can be the clothing, accessories or accoutrements.


Mobility (Geographic)

Moving from one location to another, Includes migrations and nomadic herding.


Mobility (Social)

Moving from one social class to another. Rarely: – moving from one ethnic group to another.



A picture that represents a reality that may not be easily seen.


Molestation (Sexual)

Sexual predation, where an adult has sex with a vulnerable individual. Sometimes miscalled "incest."



A system of symbols for the measure, storage and exchange of wealth.



To observe. Monitoring a project or activity means to compare its outputs to its objectives (planned and desired outputs).



Marriage to one spouse only. From "gamy" meaning marriage. Monogamy.



A single model or design thought to be the only one applicable. In sociology, the notion of a monolithic family is seen as misleading, ideal and without reference to the observed facts.



Belief in a single God. Attributed to Moses, but practised in Persia long before by the followers of Zarathustra (Zoroaster). When Moses introduced monotheism, changing Jove to Jehovah, the other gods in the pantheon had to be transformed, so they became angels.



A picture or design, often composed of tiny tiles, stones or pieces of glass, which is multi coloured. In sociology, applied sometimes to multiculturalism.



An ideology which suggests we should respect our different cultural origins and languages, to make up a tolerant and varied society.


Multinational Corporation

A large commercial organisation which has legitimate branches in many countries. A corporation has only one ethic, to make a profit, so it can engage in activity which may be alien or deviant in some of the countries where it operates.



The biological universe.



A human nomadic group in Europe which appeared around 230,000 years ago, co-existed with modern humans from 100,000 years ago then disappeared or changed about 28,000 years ago.



Making contacts, acquaintances and friends.



A word coined by George Orwell to describe what we now call spin doctoring, where the government takes concepts that are socially unacceptable and gives them new words with opposite meanings that reduce the negativity of the original words.


Norm (Social)

A set of values relating to acceptable behaviour.


Norm (Statistical)

A form of mathematical average which categorizes values into those inside and those outside.



Pertaining to the part of an atom that is at the centre, including protons and neutrons. Used as an adjective to refer to the science and technology of tearing apart or fusing nuclei to produce large amounts of energy.


Nuclear Family

Considered the centre of an extended family, composed of father-husband, wife-mother, and their offspring. Based on publicly recognised monogamous heterosexual relations. A model promoted by social and religious conservatives.



Verbal. Using the mouth. Communication that is contrasted with written communication. Compare to "aural" (by ear).



Having life, from the word "organ". A level of complexity above inorganic and below superorganic.



A set of social interactions that comprise a recognisable structure. Where there is division of labour, each function is compared to an "organ" in a biological system.


Organisation Formal

A constructed and designed social organisation based on rationalisation, where logic and deliberate design are employed in its construction.



Arranged in such a way that the different parts have different functions and contribute to a greater effectiveness as a whole. Having organs.



A living entity that is complex enough to have organs specialising in different functions. If applied to cultural and social arrangements, where it is composed of symbols instead of living cells, sometimes called superorganism.



A belief system that sees all (pan) gods, nature and the universe as one. See polytheism and animism.


Participant Observation

A method of social science research where the observer lives among those being observed, and who records his or her own responses as well as those of those being observed.



Taking part in the activities. Doing. Not relying only on observing. A recommended way to train and teach people.


Participatory Appraisal

A method of assessment or observation where those being assessed participate centrally in the assessment process.


Participatory Measurement

The application of methods of participatory appraisal to the measurement of strength, or changes in strength, of a community or organisation.



The study of how we learn, and the various effects of methods of teaching.



A collection of persons, so that the word is singular.
The biological organisms, or living entities who make up a society, as distinct from society, being their ideas and actions.



Individual human beings.



A way of looking at something. When there is more than one perspective, the thing observed does not change, only the observers.


Political Dimension

A dimension of culture and community concerned with the allocation and exercise of power, including influence and authority.


Political Power

The ability to control or influence other people or groups of people.



More than one spouse. Bigamy is two spouses. Polygyny is more than one wife. Polyandry is more than one husband.



The belief in several gods, each with distinct personalities and characteristics. From "poly" meaning many.



The total number of people in a society or community, plus their demographic characteristics.
The larger group which is being studied, when a sample is taken for observation in research.



A social problem that is not merely the lack of cash, but where a community or society is low in spirit, cannot see its own strengths and resources, and does not have any hope of becoming stronger or more wealthy.


Poverty (Factors)

The "big five" factors of poverty are disease, apathy, dependency, dishonesty, and ignorance. To end poverty it is necessary to attack factors rather than symptoms of poverty.


Poverty (War)

The war on poverty is a global movement aimed at eradicating, not alleviating, poverty. It avoids the charity approach, which ultimately increases poverty. It aims at making the poor stronger to fight their own war, and is opposed to those who wage war against the poor.



Strength. The ability to move something. In social organisations, capacity.



A short sighted and intolerant way of thinking that involves making judgements prior to having all the relevant information.


Prescribed Norms

Behaviour that is recommended or required.



Statements that tell you what to do. As a science, Sociology is seen as "descriptive rather than prescriptive."



Preparing or conditioning something so that it will not change. Includes pickling and canning. Usually results in the death or demise of that which is being preserved.



A value judgement about the worth or importance of a person. One of the three elements of social class.



Any animal that belongs to the same biological family which includes monkeys, baboons, chimpanzees, gorillas, mangabeys, colobus, and human beings.



Any series of changes that are linked together.



A process of taking factors (land, labour and capital) and adding or creating value by combining them in a manner that makes something more useful and scarce.


Production Factors

Factors of production are the inputs needed for economic production. Land can mean any space (but once meant farm land when production was agricultural). Capital includes all the tools. Labour means energy, skills and knowledge provided by humans.






Behaviour which is forbidden or discouraged. See Norms.


Protestant Reformation

A social and religious movement in Europe which was a response to the corruption, decadence and hypocrisy of the western Christian Church (not including Eastern orthodox churches) of the time. The result was to create several protestant churches, leaving the original western church to be called Catholic.



Discomfort, pain or ill at ease administered as retribution to someone who has been found to commit a crime.


Qualitative (Interviews)

A method of social science research in which questions are asked that do not require short answers.



A set of social categories based upon a range of biological variations. There is no biological base for racial categories, although it is widely believed to be so.



Attitudes of prejudice, intolerance and bigotry based upon the illusion of racial categories.



When light passes through a prism (triangular shaped) of glass or water it becomes separated into a range of frequencies. Those different frequencies are perceived by our eyes as different colours. When the sun passes through raindrops in the air, the illusion of a rainbow appears in the sky. Colours do not exist as such in nature; what we see as colours of things are the variations in light frequencies bounced of the objects that appear so coloured.


Rainbow Coalition

Coined by Jesse Jackson in his Operation Breadbasket in South Side Chicago, the rainbow coalition implied that it was composed of people of all colours. Later Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu picked up the term to describe South Africa as multi coloured after the Apartheid era.



A process of becoming more based upon logic and reason. Weber said rationalisation was expressed in bureaucracy and the formation of organisations based on reason rather than on tradition or other standards.



Rate at which convicted criminals return to committing crimes after finishing their sentences.



The mistake of seeking explanation of a higher level of complexity by referring to variables at lower levels of complexity. Durkheim said we should not seek to explain social variables or social facts by psychological or biological facts.



The idea that there are no absolutes, but only things that have characteristics which are relative to others. Cultural relativity says there are no absolute values, but only those which are in each community or society, and those vary.



A formal organisation which is based upon a set of beliefs.



Pertaining to theological beliefs or to organisations based upon them.


Reproduction (Cultural)

The process by which culture in all its dimensions, based upon ideas and actions, is able to continue even when its carriers (humans) may come and go, be born or die.


Reproduction (Sexual)

A process of biological reproduction of plants and animals which require the union of a male and female semi cell to produce a new cell that will grow to become a new individual plant or animal.


Reproduction (Social)

The process by which society and its institutions, based upon ideas and actions, is able to continue even when its carriers (humans) may come and go, be born or die.



Investigation. The observing of facts so as to test a scientific theory. The search for written or other material about a specified topic.


Research (Community)

Research about the nature and operation of communities as social organisations. Sociology research.



A sheltered location for an individual or a group to rest, sleep and eat.


Restorative (Justice)

Legal process where the objective is not punishment of perpetrators, but to restore the moral "balance" of the victims. Restorative Justice.



An event where subject peoples, using force or persuasion, seek to remove their leaders.



In physics, the moving full circle (180 degrees) of a wheel or any rotating object.
A major transformation in all aspects of a society, such as the agricultural revolution or industrial revolution.



The set of expected actions and responsibilities that apply to a named social position.



A response to an action that may be positive (rewards) or negative (punishment).



A theory first proposed by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf that learning a language influences how we perceive reality. Sapir Whorf.



Relatively not available. One of two factors that give value to goods and services and make them wealth.



A huge divide. A social schism is some barrier dividing different categories or groups in a community.



From Yiddish. Chicken fat.



A method of discovery and the body of knowledge accumulated by it.


Secondary Analysis

A research method that takes the discovered information of other observers and analyses them in a new way.



An habitat of human beings: city, town, village, hamlet.



Plants (or parts of plants) and animals are divided into two categories, male and female, both of which are usually needed for reproduction. Genetically, there are other arrangements of X and Y chromosomes, so a few individuals are neither male or female or both. Compare with gender.
A word often used meaning sexual intercourse.



A form of bigotry, intolerance, prejudice and discrimination based upon sexual differences between individuals, which are biological, and their social extrapolations, which are called gender. Similar to ageism and racism in concept (physical differences; social extrapolations).



Brother or sister.



Not complex. The general direction of change in the biomass and in society, is from simple to complex.



Abilities, attained by training, of individuals to achieve things.



A social status of an individual who is considered the property of another person considered to be the owner of the slave. Ownership confers the rights of sale and purchase.



Pertaining to society.


Social Problem

A social problem is qualitatively different from an individual problem. What makes it social is that the problem is “systemic” meaning that it is a problem in the system, not merely an anomaly. The “system” here is society itself. It may be possible to alleviate specific manifestations of the problem, but to solve the whole problem requires social change, and that implies the need for social intervention.



A process, based upon learning the meanings of symbols, wherein the biological entity of a new human begins and continues to learn culture.
A means of society and culture in reproducing itself and continuing after its carriers, humans, are removed.



An ideology in which society is seen as having more importance than individuals.



An individual who supports the ideology of socialism.



The patterns of ideas and action of human beings, often seen as a system that behaves as if it is outside the individuals which carry it.


Sociological Perspective

The ability to perceive and understand society. Sociological Perspective



The scientific study of society.


Sociology (Applied)

The application of the knowledge obtained by society, for practical purposes.


Sociology (Pure)

The use of the scientific method to obtain information about society, discovered so as to advance knowledge rather than for practical purposes.


Solidarity (Mechanical)

A concept presented by Durkheim suggesting that the "glue" holding simple communities and societies together was based upon the similarities of members.


Solidarity (Organic)

A concept presented by Durkheim suggesting that the "glue" holding complex communities and societies together was based upon division of labour and interdependence.



A "wise moron." Common name for a second year college student. From "soph" meaning wise, and "more" meaning stupid, ignorant or foolish.


Spin Doctoring

Taking an unpleasant or embarrassing event and using different words to make it look better. See Newspeak.


Spirit (Community)

The idea that a community or association can have optimism, loyalty, anima, and a positive attitude, as if, but not scientifically confirmed, the community has a spirit in it.



The government, and all its institutions, of a nation.



The attributes, including the degree to which it is respected, of a social role.



A set of over simplified characteristics that describe person in a category, often those which exaggerate faults or turn assets into liabilities. Often applied to visible minorities, some age groups and to all individuals in a particular gender.



The process of making assumptions about persons based on stereotypes (see above) of their category.


Strange Fish

Most fish do not exit water, so do not have the absence of water to compare with it, thus do not know what water is. Sociologists use as a metaphor this to describe individuals who can not know the existence of culture, because they can not compare it with its absence.


Stratification (Social)

Layers of social classes where members of society in each layer have about the same level of power, prestige and wealth.



Power. Ability to achieve a desired objective.



A model of a social institution which sees it as frame on which behaviour between its members is attached.



A variation in culture found in a sub category or a group within a society or community.


Suicide (act)

A very personal act based upon what might be the ultimate of freedom of choice, ending one’s own life. It is very difficult to interview those who are successful to ask why, because they tend to be deceased. Interviewing those who are not successful does not guarantee that they have the same motivations and reasoning of the successful ones.


Suicide (Rate)

Durkheim argued that a rate of suicide among a specified social category or group was a social fact, and should not be explained by psychological variables.



When discussing culture lag, and pointing out that our languages is often reflecting an old concept that is no longer accepted, we use "sunup" as an example, When we say the sun comes up on the morning, or down in the evening, we are using language that dates to a time in the past when we thought the world was flat and the centre of the universe. Now astronomy tells us that the world is like a globe, and rotating on its axis, giving the illusion of the sun rising.



In the three levels of complexity in the universe, inorganic, lifeless, is at the bottom, most simple. Organic is in the middle, based on but transcending the inorganic, having enough complexity to support life. Superorganic is the highest level of complexity, based on but transcending the organic, as humans carry culture, but it is composed of symbols.



One of the popular methods of doing sociological research. Useful for finding a small amount of information about a large number of persons.



To survive means to continue living after some condition or experience which might threaten that living.
If something can survive, it will be able to reproduce itself. This applies to organic life forms and superorganic social forms.



To be sustainable in the environmental sense means that a social institution can continue to survive without destroying its physical environment.
To be sustainable in the development assistance sense is to establish a project which will continue after the outside funding is ended.



Anything which can stand for something else, having meaning.

Symbolic Interaction

One of the three classical perspectives in Sociology, where the meanings of our actions is important, and where we look at the way people behave in response to their assumptions about how other people will interpret the behaviour.



A proscription where social values forbid the doing of something. Often applied to eating specified foods.


Taboo (Incest)

The strong negative judgement and feeling of horror at sexual incest. Apparently one of our longest standing institutions and perhaps the basis of human family systems.


Technological Dimension

The dimension of culture that includes tools, our ability to create them, modify them, use them, and to communicate their design and use to others. The interface between society and the physical environment. Capital. Technology



Our system of tools. Ranging from large complex systems such as agriculture or industry, to individual tools or sets of tools, as found in a plumber’s box or a doctor’s bag.



A person who uses violence to frighten others in pursuit of a political objective. A freedom fighter.



The process that goes on in our minds, based on symbols that we use in communicating with each other.



Goods that are not immediately consumed, but produced in order to increase further production. Capital.



A symbol usually of an animal or other entity in nature, which is used to label and identify a social group such as a family or clan. Very often there is a food prohibition against members of that group eating the identified animal.


Totem Pole

Totem poles used by West Coast First Nations often tell stories, and do not represent totemic symbols.



A human settlement or habitat smaller than a city and larger than a village.



To go beyond. Used originally in a theological sense, in sociology it is used to describe how culture, while carried by individual humans, goes beyond the individuals in how it behaves.


Tribal People or Tribals

A term used to describe people in India, often located in marginalised areas, who do not belong to the standard caste system.



A technical term in political anthropology meaning a level of political complexity above a band but below a kingdom.
Misused as a term of prejudice to identify ethnic groups remaining from pre colonial political states.



To have an attitude that someone will keep his or her promises and be reliable.
One of the sixteen elements of organisational and community strength, earned though honest and transparent behaviour. Trust.



A variable in communities indicting the level to which members will work together, respect each others differences, and heal over social schisms.


Unobtrusive Measures

A characteristic of some social science research where the persons being observed are not aware of the observation. It often uses books such as telephone books and newspapers to make the observations.



Social change in the direction of greater populations in settlements, greater population density, increased social complexity, and greater resemblance to cities.



An ideology and life style of acceptance and support of the values and social organisation of cities.



Usefulness. One of the two elements of wealth, which gives value to goods and services identified as wealth.



An imaginary society, like Erehwon, where everything is perfect.


Value-Aesthetic Dimension

A cultural dimension in which the judgements of people are made about right versus wrong, good versus bad and beautiful versus ugly. Values.



A characteristic of wealth, any good or service, if it is relatively useful and relatively scarce.



The shared judgements of people in communities.



From German, the meaning that people put towards their actions, thoughts and symbols. Weber said that an understanding of the nature of society required an understanding of the meanings people have.



A human settlement or habitat which is smaller than a town but larger than a hamlet. Village.


Visible Minority

An ethnic group in which the members, by their biological or physical characteristics, sometimes by their costumes and behaviour – eg Jews and Palestinians, are easily identified by looking at them.



Wealth is what is distributed in any economic system. It is any goods or services – ultimately goods because of the services they provide – characterised by relative utility and relative scarcity. Wealth.


Wealth Generation

Sometimes called income generation, where there is a genuine creation (generation) of wealth by a value added process, and not merely a transfer of cash. Income generation.



The notion that learning a language contains in it the perception of reality. See Sapir-Whorf.



People who provide (sell) their labour for surviving.


Working Class

In a stratification system, those people who work for a living. Karl Marx called them the "proletariat."

It will be interesting and informative to also look at the Key Words list. They are notes used for training community workers. Also see: Wilkipedia.


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Last update: 2012.11.12

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