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Chapter 1 Cambridge AS/A Level Sociological Terms
Culture • The way of life of a particular group. This is normally defined in terms of material culture, or the objects people produce, and nonmaterial culture—the ideas and beliefs they create
Beliefs • Ideas that are accepted as true, whether or not they are supported by evidence.
Social order • The behavioral patterns and regularities established by societies that make social action possible
Scientific method • A way of generating knowledge about the world through objective, systematic and controlled research. The hypothico-deductive model is an example of a scientific method.
Positivism • A methodology based on the principle that it is possible and desirable to study the social world in broadly the same way that natural scientists study the natural world.
Capitalism • An economic system bases on the pursuit of private profit. Capitalism’s defining relations is between employer and employee (owner and non-owner).
Social change • On a macro level, social change involves a major shift in the political, economic or cultural order (such as the change from feudalism to capitalism or pre-modern to modern society). • On a micro level it can refer to everyday changes in political, economic or cultural relationships.
Weberian theory • A sociological perspective, deriving from the work of Max Weber, focused on understanding and explaining social action. Contemporary forms of Weberian sociology are usually expressed as interactionist sociology.
Value consensus • Agreement about the things a society, and by extension individuals within that society, thinks are important
Traditional society • Type of society in which behavior is characterized by and based on long-standing customs, habits and traditions.
Mechanical solidarity • Type of social solidarity characteristic of pre-industrial/tribal societies, in which people are bound together by who they are rather than what they do.
Organic solidarity • Type of social solidarity characteristic of industrial societies, in which people are bound together by what they do.
Hypothetico-deductive method • Positivist research design based on the development and systematic testing of hypotheses.
Hypothesis • Statement or question that can be systematically tested.
Falsification • The principle that scientific theories should be framed in such a way that can be disproved (falsified).
Researcher bias • Condition in which the presence or behaviour of the researcher introduces uncontrolled variables into the research, making it unreliable or invalid.
Interpretivism • Methodology based on the principle that social behavior can only be understood subjectively, by understanding how people interpret situations and, by so doing, give them meaning. Participant observation is a classic interpretivist method.
Value-freedom • General principle that the conducts and findings of the research process should not be influenced by the values of the reasearcher.
Postmodernism • Microsociological perspective that rejects the modernist claim that the social world can be understood rationally and empirically. Focus is on understanding how people construct personal narratives (stories), through which they make sense of the world.
Objectivity • Freedom from personal or institutional bias.
Respondent • A person who is the subject of a research process or who responds to the research.
Feminism • A broad range of approaches dealing with male-female relationships from the perspective of the latter.
Gender • The social characteristics different societies assign to individuals based on an understanding of their biological or social differences. Where biological sex refers to ideas like male and female, gender refers to ideas about masculinity and femininity.
Social policy • A set of ideas and actions pursued by government to meet a particular social objective. A housing policy, for example, sets out the various criteria required to solve a perceived social problem.
Social Problem • Behaviour seen to cause public friction and/or private misery’, usually involving some form of ‘public outcry or call for action’ (Stanley, 2004). A social problem is always defined from the perspective of the powerful.
Social control • The various mechanisms, such as rewards and punishments, that individuals and societies use to maintain order.
Modern industrial society • Type of society characterised by particular forms of political, economic (mass productions, manufacturing) and cultural (science, reason) beliefs and practices.
Functions, manifest and latent • Manifest functions are intended consequences of an action; latent functions are the hidden or sometimes unintended consequences of that same actions.
Globalisation • Various processes- economic, political and cultural – that occur on a worldwide basis.
Functionalist theory • Major, if dated, sociological theory that argues that consensus is the overriding principle on which societies are based. Focus is on institutional relationships and the functions they preform for the individual and society.
Marxist theory • Philosophy or social theory based on the ideas of Karl Marx.
Structuralist • Form of sociology, such as functionalism and Marxism, that focuses on analysing society in terms of its institutional relationship and their effect on individual beliefs and behaviours.
Macrosociology • Large-scale sociological approach where the focus is on social structures and institutions.
Determinism • The claim that human behaviour is shaped by forces beyond the immediate control of individuals, such as social structures or ‘society’
Economic determinism • Idea that the form taken by economic relationships (such as master, and serf in feudal is the most significant relationship in any society. This determined the form taken by all other political and cultural relationships.
Relations of productions • In Marxist theory, the social relationships into which people must enter in the order to survive, to produce and reproduce their means of life. In capitalist society, the main relations of production involve owners and non-owners.
Forces of production • In Marxist theory, this refers to how everything-from raw materials, through labour power to machinery – is organized in the productive process.
Ideology • A system of related beliefs.
Liberal feminism • Type of feminism that promotes gender equality.
Marxist feminism • Type of feminism that focuses on challenging capitalism as a route to freeing women from oppression and inequality.
Radical feminism • Form of feminism that sees female oppression in terms of patriarchal relationships.