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Key Sociological Concepts


Accommodation: acceptance of their relative positions in a social situation by both the minority and dominant groups. [top]


Acculturation: acceptance of dominant group's values by minority-group members. [top]


Alienation: feelings of powerlessness, meaninglessness, and social isolation associated with certain social relationships. [top]


Ascribed Status: a social position that is assigned to persons by society or by birth, such as age, sex, or race. [top]


Assimilation: the process by which an entire culture is altered in important respects so as to conform to a dominant culture. Gradual loss of distinctiveness of minority groups absorbed into dominant population. The process by which minority groups are absorbed into dominant population. The process by which minority groups acquire the sociocultural patterns of the dominant group, which involves both cultural assimilation--the learning of day to day norms of a dominant group by minority group members and their internationalization of the dominant group's values, beliefs and ideas. [top]


Beliefs: conceptions or ideas about the world and about human life that center on the meaning of human experience or the character of the supernatural world. [top]


Bureaucracy: an organization with an extensive hierarchy and division of labor governed by explicit rules. [top]


Caste: a social category with membership ascribed or determined at birth. [top]


Caste System: a social stratification system in which no or almost no mobility from social category (caste) is possible. [top]


Closed System: a system that does not interact with its environment. [top]


Conflict Theory: a theoretical orientation emphasizing the opposition among individuals, groups, or social structures. [top]


Culture: 1. A blueprint or design for living in society; 2. A system of expectations and goals widely shared within society; 3. A system of norms and values. [top]


Cultural Pluralism: a pattern of ethnic group relations in which each ethnic group retains its fundamental values and norms incorporated from elements from the others. [top]


Deviant Behavior: behavior falling outside the acceptable range according to societal or group norms and values. [top]


Discrimination: overt, unequal, and unfair treatment of people based on their group membership. [top]


Ethnocentrism: the attitude that one's own culture is superior to others, that one's own beliefs, values, and behavior are more correct than others; and that other people and cultures can be evaluated in terms of one's own culture. A tendency to understand the world only from the viewpoint of one's own culture. [top]


Extended Family: two or more nuclear families and three or more generations generally living together. [top]


False Consciousness: a lack of awareness that there is a stratification system in society and the inability to realize that one is in the same position in the stratification system as others like oneself. [top]


Folkways: norms generally regarded as useful, but not essential for society; violation of these norms may bring about only mild censure or punishment. [top]


Identity: a commitment to normative standards that allow observers to place us in relation to others and to expect certain behaviors from us. [top]


Institution: a social structure built around certain values and tending to persist over time. Labeling: the public stamping, typing or categorizing of a person as deviant. [top]


Laws: norms formally chosen to be backed up by punishments for failure to conform to them, with particular social agencies designated to do the enforcing. [top]


Mores: norms generally regarded as essential for the welfare of society and associated with strong feelings of right or wrong, violations of which inspire intense reaction and some type of punishment. [top]


Norm: rules or expectations defining acceptable or required behaviors of individuals in social situations; norms are recognized by group members as essential to group maintenance. [top]


Nuclear Family: a family made up of parents and their children. [top]


Paternalistic Relationships (patriarchy): relationships in which one group (male-dominated) is subservient to another, given little responsibility, and has its basic needs provided for. [top]


Power: the ability to achieve desired ends despite opposition. Ability to get others to do something that they wouldn't ordinarily do. [top]


Prejudice: negative beliefs or expectations and feelings directed against member of an ethnic group. [top]


Primary Socialization: the initial socialization, which is primarily responsible for the formation of personality and the transmission of culture. [top]


Racism: a forms of discrimination based on characteristics of race and existing either as individual racism, which originates in the racist beliefs of a single person, or institutional racism, which occurs when racist ideas and practices are embodied in the folkways, mores and norms. [top]


Sexism: the belief that one's sex is innately superior to the other. [top]


Sexual Orientation: the manner in which people experience sexual arousal and sexual pleasure. [top]


Social Change: transformation of culture and social institutions over time. [top]


Social Conflict: a framework for building theory based on the assumption that society is a complex system characterized by inequality and conflict that generate social change. [top]


Social Control: attempts by society to regulate thoughts behaviors of individuals. [top]


Sociology: scientific study of human social activity. [top]


Social Structure: any relatively pattern of social behavior. [top]


Socialization: the life long social experience by which individuals develop their human potential and learn their culture. [top]


Social Mobility: a change of position in a stratification system. [top]


Social Movement: an organized effort to encourage or oppose some dimension of change. [top]


Structural Functionalism: a framework for building theory based on the assumption that society is a complex system whose parts work together to promote stability. [top]


Stigma: a powerful negative label that radically changes a person's self concept and social identity. [top]


Subculture: cultural patterns that distinguish some segment of societies population. [top]


Symbol: anything that carries a particular meaning recognized by people who share culture. [top]


Symbolic Interactionism: a framework for building theory based on the view that society is the product of the everyday interactions of individuals. [top]


Thomas Theorem: the assertion that situations that are defined as real become real in their consequences. [top]


Transsexuals: people who feel they are one sex, though biologically they are another. [top]


Values: culturally defined standards of desirability, goodness, and beauty that serve as broad guidelines for social life. [top]


Victimless Crimes: violation of law in which there is no readily apparent victim. [top]

Last updated 03/31/2004 . Copyright 2000 by Elaine Leeder and US2 Design. All rights reserved.