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Polity - social science and humanities glossary
Category: People and society > social science and humanities
Date & country: 04/10/2007, UK
Words: 482

Features of social life that challenge or create tensions in a social system.

The development of technologies that generate economic growth, but which do so at minimal cost to the environment.

Ecological modernization
Economic growth and development that incorporate positive policies for the environment. Supporters of ecological modernization believe that industrial development and ecological protection are not incompatible.

Economic interdependence
The outcome of specialization and the division of labour, when self-sufficiency is superseded and individuals depend on others to produce many or most of the goods they need to sustain their lives.

The system of production and exchange which provides for the material needs of individuals living in a given society. Economic institutions are of key importance in all social orders. What goes on in the economy usually influences many other aspects of social life. Modern economies differ very substantially from traditional ones, because the majority of the population is no longer engaged in agricultural production.

The transmission of knowledge from one generation to another bymeans of direct instruction. Although educational processes exist in all societies, it is only in the modern period that mass education has taken the form of schooling â€` that is, instruction in specialized educational environments in which individuals spend several years of their lives.

According to Piaget, the characteristic quality of a child during the early years of her life. Egocentric thinking involves understanding objects and events in the environment solely in terms of the child`s own position.

Elaborated code
A form of speech involving the deliberate and constructed use of words to designate precise meanings, and adaptable to various cultural settings.

Embourgeoisement thesis
The process by which bourgeois aspirations, and a bourgeois standard and style of life, becomes institutionalized in the working class. Marxists have argued that this phenomenon undermines working class consciousness and frustrates working class attempts to create social change.

The movement of people out of one country in order to settle in another.

Emotional intelligence
The ability of individuals to use their emotions to develop qualities such as empathy, self-control, enthusiasm and persistence.

Emphasized femininity
A term associated with R. W. Connell`s writings on the gender hierarchy in society. Emphasized femininity forms an important complement to hegemonic masculinity, because it is oriented to accommodating the interests and needs of men. Many representations of women in the media and advertising embody emphasized femininity.

Empirical investigation
Factual inquiry carried out in any given area of sociological study.

A meeting between two or more individuals in a situation of face-to-face interaction. Our day-to-day lives can be seen as a series of different encounters strung out across the course of the day. In modern societies, many of the encounters we have with others involve strangers rather than people we know well.

The forbidding of marriage or sexual relations outside one`s social group.

Environmental ecology
A concern with preserving the integrity of the physical environment in the face of the impact of modern industry and technology.

The study of the distribution and incidence of disease and illness within the population.

A form of stratification involving inequalities between groups of individuals established by law.

Ethical religions
Religions which depend on the ethical appeal of a ‘great teacher` (like Buddha or Confucius), rather than on a belief in supernatural beings.

Ethnic cleansing
The creation of ethnically homogeneous territories through the mass expulsion of other ethnic populations.

Cultural values and norms which distinguish the members of a given group from others. An ethnic group is one whose members share a distinct awareness of a common cultural identity, separating them from other groups around them. In virtually all societies ethnic differences are associated withvariations in power and material wealth. Where ethnic differences are also regarded as racial, such divisions are sometimes especially pronounced.

A term used by Anthony Smith to describe a group that shares ideas of common ancestry, a common cultural identity and a link with a specific homeland.

Understanding the ideas or practices of another culture in terms of those of one`s own culture. Ethnocentric judgements fail to recognize the true qualities of other cultures. An ethnocentric individual is someone who is unable, or unwilling, to look at other cultures in their own terms.

The study of people at firsthand using participant observation or interviewing.

The study of how people make sense of what others say and do in the course of day-to-day social interaction. Ethnomethodology is concerned with the ‘ethnomethods` by means of which human beings sustain meaningful interchanges with one another.

A form of Protestantism characterized by a belief in spiritual rebirth (being ‘born again`).

A research method in which a hypothesis can be tested in a controlled and systematic way, either in an artificial situation constructed by the researcher, or in naturally occurring settings.

A social or institutional relationship in which one party benefits at the expense of the other through an imbalance in power.

Extended family
A family group consisting of close relatives extending beyond a couple and their children living either within the same household or in a close and continuous relationship with one another.

External risk
Dangers that spring from the natural world and are unrelated to the actions of humans. Examples of external risk include droughts, earthquakes, famines and storms. Anthony Giddens — Sociology, 5th Edition

Factual questions
Questions that raise issues concerning matters of fact (rather than theoretical or moral issues).

A group of individuals related to one another by blood ties, marriage or adoption, who form an economic unit, the adult members of which are responsible for the upbringing of children. All known societies involve some form of family system, although the nature of family relationships is widely variable. While in modern societies the main family form is the nuclear family, a variety of extended family relationships are also often found.

Family capitalism
Capitalistic enterprise owned and administered by entrepreneurial families.

A measure of the number of children that it is biologically possible for a woman to produce.

Feminist theories
A sociological perspective which emphasizes the centrality of gender in analysing the social world, and particularly the uniqueness of the experience of women. There are many strands of feminist theory, but they all share in common the desire to explain gender inequalities in society and to work to overcome them.

The average number of live-born children produced by women of childbearing age in a particular society.

First World
The group of nation-states that possesses mature industrialized economies, based on capitalistic production.

Flexible production
Process in which computers design customized products for a mass market.

Focused interaction
Interaction between individuals engaged in a common activity or a direct conversation with one another.

The system pioneered by Henry Ford, involving the introduction of the moving assembly line, and crucially linking methods of mass production to the cultivation of a mass market for the goods produced â€` in Ford`s case particularly his famous Model T Ford car.

Formal operational stage
According to Piaget`s theory, a stage of cognitive development at which the growing child becomes capable of handling abstract concepts and hypothetical situations.

Formal relations
Relations which exist in groups and organizations laid down by the norms or rules of the ‘official` system of authority.

Front region
A setting of social activity in which individuals seek to put on a definite ‘performance` for others.

A theoretical perspective based on the notion that social events can best be explained in terms of the functions they perform â€` that is, the contributions they make to the continuity of a society â€` and on a view of society as a complex system whose various parts work in a relationship to each other in a way that needs to be understood.

A belief in returning to the literal meanings of scriptural texts. Fundamentalism may arise as a response to modernization and rationalization, insisting on faith-based answers, and defending tradition byusing traditional grounds.

Social expectations about behaviour regarded as appropriate for the members of each sex. Gender does not refer to the physical attributes in terms of which men and women differ, but to socially formed traits of masculinity and femininity. The study of gender relations has become one of the most important areas of sociology in recent years, although for a long time they received little attention.

Gender inequality
The differences in the status, power and prestige women and men have in groups, collectivities and societies.

Gender order
A term associated with the writings of R. W. Connell, the gender order represents patterns of power relations between masculinities and femininities that are widespread throughout society.

Gender regime
The configuration of gender relations within a particular setting, such as a school, a family or a neighbourhood.

Gender relations
The societally patterned interactions between men and women.

Gender roles
Social roles assigned to each sex and labelled as masculine or feminine.

Gender socialization
How individuals develop different gender characteristics in the course of socialization processes.

Generalized other
A concept in the theory of George Herbert Mead, according to which the individual takes over the general values of a given group or society during the socialization process.

Genetically modified organisms
GMOs are plants or crops that have been produced through manipulation of the genes that compose them.

The systematic, planned destruction of a racial, political or cultural group.

A concept applied in media studies to refer to a distinct type of media product or cultural item. In the world of television, for example, different genres include soap opera, comedy, news programmes, sport and drama.

A process of urban renewal in which older, decaying housing is refurbished by affluent people moving into the area.

Global city
A city, such as London, New York or Tokyo, which has become an organizing centre of the new global economy.

Global commodity chains
A worldwide network of labour and production processes yielding a finished product.

Global governance
The framework of rules needed to tackle global problems, and the diverse set of institutions (including both international governmental organizations and national governments) needed to guarantee this framework of rules.

Global village
A notion associated with the Canadian writer Marshall McLuhan, who saw the spread of electronic communication as binding the world into a small community. Thus, people in many different parts of the world follow the same news events through television programming.

Global warming
The gradual increase in temperature of the earth`s atmosphere. Global warming, or the ‘greenhouse effect`, occurs as built-up carbon dioxide traps the sun`s rays and heats up the earth. The effects of global warming are potentially devastating, including floods, droughts and other changes to the world climate.

Growing interdependence between different peoples, regions and countries in the world as social and economic relationships come to stretch worldwide.

The regular enactment of policies, decisions and matters of state by officials within a political apparatus. We can speak of ‘government` as a process, or the government to refer to the political authorities overseeing the implementation of their policies by officials. While in the past virtually all governments were headed by monarchs or emperors, in most modern societies the political authorities are elected and their officials are appointed on the basis of expertise and qualifications.

Greenhouse effect
The build-up of heattrapping greenhouse gases within the earth`s atmosphere. While a ‘natural` greenhouse effect keeps the earth`s temperatures at a comfortable level, the build-up of high concentrations of greenhouse gases through human activities has been linked to global warming.

A term used to indicate that an increasing proportion of a society`s population is becoming elderly.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
All the goods and services on record as being produced by a country`s economy in a particular year, regardless of who owns these factors.

Gross National Income (GNI)
Gross Domestic Product plus net property income (interest, rent, dividends andprofits) from abroad. (The term GNI is now used in preference to a Gross National Product, or GNP, an older but similar measure.)

Group closure
The means whereby a group establishes a clear boundary for itself and thereby separates itself from other groups.

Group production
Production organized by means of small groups rather than individuals.

Health transition
The shift from acute, infectious diseases to chronic noninfectious diseases as the main cause of death in a society. In industrialized societies which have undergone the health transition, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera and malaria have been practically eradicated and chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease have become the most common cause of death.

Hegemonic masculinity
A term first introduced by R. W. Connell, hegemonic masculinity refers to the dominant form of masculinity within the gender hierarchy. Although hegemonic masculinity subordinates other masculinities and femininities, it can be challenged by them. In most Western societies today, hegemonic masculinity is associated with whiteness, heterosexuality, marriage, authority and physical toughness.

An orientation in sexual activity or feelings towards people of the opposite sex.

Hidden curriculum
Traits of behaviour or attitudes that are learned at school, but which are not included within the formal curriculum. The hidden curriculum is the ‘unstated agenda` involved in schooling â€` conveying, for example, aspects of gender differences.

High-trust systems
Organizations, or work settings, in which individuals are permitted a great deal of autonomy and control over the work task.

Higher education
Education beyond school level, in colleges or universities.

People who have no place to sleep and either stay in free shelters or sleep in public places not meant for habitation.

An irrational fear or disdain of homosexuals.

Homosexual masculinity
According to R. W. Connell`s model of gender relations, homosexual masculinity is stigmatized and located at the bottom of the gender hierarchy for men. In the prevailing gender order, homosexuals are seen as the opposite of the ‘real man` embodied by hegemonic masculinity.

An orientation of sexual activities or feelings towards others of the same sex.

Housework (domestic labour)
Unpaid work carried on, usually by women, in the home; domestic chores such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping.

Human resource management
A branch of management theory that regards employee enthusiasm and commitment as essential to economic competitiveness. The human resource management (HRM) approach seeks to develop in workers the sense that they have an investment in company products and in the work process itself.

Hunting and gathering societies
Societies whose mode of subsistence is gained from hunting animals, fishing and gathering edible plants.

An idea associated with the French author Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard argues that, as a result of thespread of electronic communication, there is no longer a separate ‘reality` to which TV programmes and other cultural products refer. Instead, what we take to be ‘reality` is structured by such communication itself. So the items reported on the news are not just about a separate series of events, but actually themselves define and construct what those events are.

An idea, or an educated guess, about a given state of affairs, put forward as a basis for empirical testing.

Ideal type
A ‘pure type`, constructed by emphasizing certain traits of a given social item into an analytical model which does not necessarily exist anywhere in reality. The traits are defining, not necessarily desirable, ones. An example is Max Weber`s ideal type of bureaucratic organization.

The distinctive characteristics of a person`s character or the character of a group which relate to who they are and what is meaningful to them. Some of the main sources of identity include gender, sexual orientation, nationality or ethnicity, and social class. An important marker of an individual`s identity is his or her name, and naming is also important for group identity.

Shared ideas or beliefs which serve to justify the interests of dominant groups. Ideologies are found in all societies in which there are systematic and ingrained inequalities between groups. The concept of ideology has a close connection with that of power, since ideological systems serve to legitimize the differential power held by groups.

The movement of people into one country from another for the purpose of settlement.

Impression management
An idea associated with the American sociologist Erving Goffman. People ‘manage` or control the impressions others have of them by choosing what to conceal and what to reveal when they meet other people.

Sexual activity between close family members.

Independent variable
A variable, or factor, that causally influences another (the dependent variable).

Individual model of disability
A theory that holds that individual limitations are the main cause of the problems experienced by disabled people: bodily ‘abnormality` is seen as causing some degree of ‘disability` or functional limitation. This functional limitation is seen as the basis for a wider classification of an individual as ‘an invalid`. The individual model of disability has been criticized by supporters of the social model of disability.

Industrial Revolution
The broad spectrum of social and economic transformations that surrounded the development of modern forms of industry. The Industrial Revolution launched the process of industrialization.

Industrial societies
Societies in which the vast majority of the labour force works in industrial production.

The development of modern forms of industry â€` factories, machines and large-scale production processes. Industrialization has been one of the main sets of processes influencing the social world over the past two centuries. Those societies which are industrialized have characteristics quite different from those of the less developed countries. For instance, with the advance of industrialization only a tiny proportion of the population works in agriculture â€` a major contrast with pre-industrial countries.

Infant mortality rate
The number of infants who die during the first year of life, per thousand live births.

Informal economy
Economic transactions carried on outside the sphere of orthodox paid employment.

Informal relations
Relations which exist in groups and organizations developed on the basis of personal connections; ways of doing things that depart from formally recognized modes of procedure.

Information poverty
The ‘information poor` are people who have little or no access to information technology, such as computers.