General key Concepts Sociology

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  • Created on: 17-02-15 17:44
Action Theories
see individuals as having free will, and the power to create society through their actions and interactions, rather than being shaped by society. e.g Interactionism
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When an individual or group feels socially isolated because they lack the power to control their lives and realise their potential. e.g Marx's description of workers in capitalist society - alienated because they are exploited and lack control
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Normlessness. Durkheim argues anomie arises when there is rapid social change because existing norms become unclear/outdated, that is a cause of suicide.
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Abstinence. Before calvinism, Christian aseticism was 'other-worldly' and mean renouncing everyday life to join a convent. Calvinism applied this idea to everyday life e.g working long hours, shunning luxury
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Capitalism Class. owners of the means of production. Marx argued owning the means of production gave the capitalist class political and ideological power
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Case Study
Research that examines a single case or example, such as a single school, family or workplace.
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Chivalry Thesis
View that the criminal justice system is biased in favour of women, so they are less likely than men to be charged/punished. it is argued this results from a male dominated police force, court and prosecuting authority basing their actions on stereot
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large bureaucratic organisation, often with millions of members, run by a formal hierarchy that claim a monopoly of truth. They tend to attract the higher classes because they are more consservative
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Civil Religion
A belief system that attaches sacred qualities to society itself and make the nation-state the object of religious worship. civil religion is seen as promoting social solidarity, expressed through rituals and symbols
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Collective conscience
Refers to shared norms, values, beliefs and knowledge. In Durkheim's view, the collective conscience is represented in society's sacred symbols e.g totems in Australian aborigines. Gives people a sense of belonging to something greater than themselve
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Comparative Method
Research method that compares two social groups that are alike apart from one social factor. Durkheim compared two groups that were identical apart from religion to find the effect of religion on suicide rates.
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According to Stark & Bainbridge, when real rewards are scarce, religion compensates us by promising supernatural ones. They argue only religion can offer these compensators, religious ideologies e.g humanism cannot.
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Content analysis
method of analysing the content of documents and media output to find out how often and in what ways different types of people or events appear.
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Control Group
In experiments, scientists compare a control group and an experimental group that are identical in all respects. Unlike the experimental group, the control group is not exposed to the variable under investigation and so provides a baseline
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When two or more factors/variables vary together; e.g. there is a correlation between low social class and low educational achievement. However it doesn't mean one causes another
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Critical Criminology
neo-Marxist approach. Combines ideas from traditional Marxism and labelling theory to explain crime in capitalist society. See W/C crime as conscious and often a political act of resistance against capitalism
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Small religious groups with similar interests. They lack a sharply defines belief system and are tolerant of other beliefs. Lead by 'practitioners' or 'therapists'
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Cultural Defence
Where religion provides a focal point for the defence of national, ethnic, local or other group identity in a struggle against an external force e.g hostile foreign power
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Cultural Transition
The process of moving from one culture to another. Bruce argues religion provides an important role in cultural transition for minority ethnic groups who find themselves in a new culture, by providing support and sense of community
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All the things that are learn't and shared by a society or group and transmitted from generation to generation through socilalisation. e.g. norms and values
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religious organisations that lie midway between churches and sects. e.g. Methodism. They broadly accept society's values but are not linked to the state. They can impose restrictions on their members but arent as demanding as sects.
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Dependency Culture
people assume the state will support them, rather than relying on their own efforts and taking responsibility. New Right see the welfare state as over-generous, encouraging people to remain unemployed.
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Idea that humans have no free will and that their thoughts and behaviour are shaped by factors outside themselves. Marxism is often accused of economic determinism.
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Behaviour that does not conform to the norms of society. Deviance is a social construction - it is defined by social groups. Deviance is relative - what counts as deviant varies between groups. Interactionists distinguish between primary&secondary
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Primary deviance
refers to deviant acts that have not been publicly labelled and usually have little significance for the individuals status
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Secondary Deviance
results from societal reaction (labelling) and may lead to the individual taking on a deviant master status, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy and deviant career.
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Deviance amplification spiral
process whereby attempts to control deviance actually produce an increase in deviance. e.g. in a moral panic - a folk devil is identified as a threat, the media call for a crackdown on the problem, resulting in an increase in the scale of the problem
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Process whereby magical and religious ways of thinking are replaced by a rational mode of thought.
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Social, cultural or religious diversity exists where people differ from one another in terms of occupations, lifestyles, beliefs etc.
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public documents are produced by organisations such as governments, media etc; e.g. acts of parliament, school prospectuses, news articles. Personal documents e.g diaries are produced by individuals and are 1st hand accounts
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Dramaturgical model
Developed by Goffman, interactionist approach uses analogies with drama as a framework for analysing social interaction. The model sees us actively constructing the self through impression management to manipulate others perception of us
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An understanding of how another person feels by putting yourself in their place. Action theorists use qualitative methods such as participant obs. as a way of achieving empathetic understanding
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Environmental Crime Prevention
A crime reduction strategy associated with Wilson & King, It sees serious crime as arising out of disorder and advocates cracking down on all neighborhood crime through environmental improvement and zero tolerance policing. Linked to realism
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Issues of right and wrong; moral principles or guidelines. There are ethical objections to research which harms its participants or doesn't gain fully informed consent
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Interpretivist approach developed by Garfinkel. Sees society as a social construct. Society's members use commonsense knowledge to achieve a sense of order (reflexivity)
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Existential security theory
feeling that survival is secure enough that it can be taken for granted. Theory is based view that religion arises where people lack economic security. Religion declined in affluent societies, but remains popular in poorer societies.
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Lab exp. carried out in controlled conditions in an artificial setting to establish a cause and effect relationship. A field exp. has the same aim but is carried out in a natural setting, researcher has less control.
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Paying workers less than the value of their labour. Acc. to Marxists, it's the process whereby the bourgeoisie extract surplus value or profit from the proletariat.
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Defining characteristic of scientific knowledge, which consists of statements that can be falsified by an experiment, unlike the knowledge claims of religion, tradition or theories.
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Focuses on women's oppression and the struggle to end it. They examine women's experiences and study society from a female perspective.
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Type of production based on detailed division of labour, using closely supervised, low skilled workers and an assembly line to mass produce goods. Named after manufacturing techniques used in the 20th century by Ford Motor Company
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The idea that a part of society makes to the stability or well-being of society as a whole. e.g. a function of religion may be to give individuals a sense of belonging and thus integrate them into society. See Merton.
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Manifest function
intended consequences of an institution or practice
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Latent function
unintended or hidden consequences of an institution or practice
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Functional Alternatives
institutions that perform the same function as another institution. e.g. some secular beliefs(political ideologies) may perform the same function as religious ones in maintaining social solidarity
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Consensus perspective that sees society as based on shared values into which members are socialised. It sees society as like an organism, each part performing the functions to maintain the system as a whole; e.g. religion, family, education
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Religion based on an unquestioning belief in the literal truth of a sacred text. Fundamentalists believe that there is only one true view of the world, which is revealed in a sacred text, not gained through scientific inquiry.
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Idea that the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and barriers are disappearing. Mnay see it as creating new risks, uncertainties and choices, and increased rate of social change.
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Green Crimes
Crimes against the environment and the human and non-human animals within it.
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Primary Green crimes
Involves the destruction and degradation of the earth's resources including crimes of air and water pollution, deforestation, species decline and animal rights.
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Secondary Green crime
Involves the breaking of laws aimed at preventing or regulating environmental disasters, such as illegal dumping or hazardous waste by organised crime
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Hawthorne Effect
Subjects of research know they are being studied and begin to behave differently as a result, thereby undermining the study's validity.
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Marxist concept developed by Gramsci to explain how the RC hold the ideological and moral leadership of society, using ideas and values to prevent revolution by winning the consent of the subordinate classes to it's rule.
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Untested theory or explanation, expressed as a statement. Sociologists seek to prove or disprove hypotheses by testing them against the evidence.
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Individuals sense of self, influenced by socialisation. Postmodernists see identity as a choice that individuals make from among different identity sources such as gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality
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Marxist idea meaning a set of beliefs that serve the dominant group by justifying their privileged position. The term usually implies that the beliefs are false or only partially true
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Idea that the individual is more important than the group. In modern and postmodern society, individualism becomes mroe important than in traditional society and individual's actions are influenced more by calculations of self interest than obligatio
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Shift from an agricultural economy to one based on factory production. In Britain, industrialisation occurred from the late 18th C to mid 19thC.
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Informed consent
Where those taking part in a study have agreed to do so and understand the purpose of the study, the uses to which its findings may be put, and its possible effects.
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Perspective focusing on small-scale interactions between individuals and groups, rather than on the large-scale workings of society. Interactionists seeks to understand the meanings social actors give to actions and situations.
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Covers a range of approaches inc; social action theory, phenomenology and ethnomethodology. They focus on how we construct our social worlds through the meanings we attach to events, actions and situations. See humans as having free will and choice
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Interview schedule
List of questions to be asked in an interview. It is useful because it allows some standardisation of the interviewing process, since all the interviewers will use the same questions
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Method of gathering info by asking questions orally, either face to face or by telephone
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Structured interview
use pre-set, standardised, usually closed ended questions producing quantitative data
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Unstructured interview
are more like a guided conversation and use open-ended questions producing qualitative data.
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Knowledge claim
A claim amde by a belief system to know about the world, what it is like and how it ought to be and how we ought to act. e.g. science, political ideologies and religions make knowledge claims. However science does not make ought claims.
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Process of attaching a definition or meaning to an individual or group; e.g. police officers may label a youth as a 'troublemaker'. Often the label is a stereotype.
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Labelling theory
uses concepts such as definition of the situation, looking glass self and career to explain how individuals' actions and identities are shaped through the labels that are applied to them
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Left realism
Regards crime as a real problem, particularly for disadvantaged groups, who are more likely to be victims. They see relative deprivation and the marginalisation of the poor as producing criminal subcultures whose members victimise other poor people.
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Justifying something by making it seem fair and natural. This is the main function of ideology. Marxists argue that institutions in capitalist society such as education, the media and religion are ideological state apparatuses
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Longitudinal Study
Study of a sample of people in which information is collected at regular intervals over an extended period of time
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Theories such as Marxism and Functionalism that focus on the large scale, i.e. on the socail structure as a whole or on the relationships between institutions. These theories see the individual as shaped by society.
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Conflict perspective. Sees society as divided into two classes the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
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theories such as interactionism that focus on small-scale, face-to-face interaction, e.g. between teachers and pupils in a classroom. These theories see the individuals as constructing society through their interactions.
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e.g. Func. Marx and Positivism. Believe that society is clear cut, predictable and it is possible to gain true and certain scientific knowledge of how society functions, This knowledge can be used to achieve progress to a better society
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Enlightenment project
The modernist notion of progress through the application of rational knowledge to social problems
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Modernity/Modern Society
Began with the industrial revolution. Chracterised by rapid social change, scientific developments, secularization, the decline of tradition etc. Modernist perspectives seek to explain society's development.
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Neutralisation techniques
used by delinquents to justify their deviant behaviour e.g. by claiming that the victim deserved it. Cohen argues that states also use such techniques to justify crimes they commit e,g. massacres, torture.
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New Age spirituality
reject external authority & traditional sources of religion. The new age holds the view that we can discover the truth ourselves through experience, by following a spiritual path and exploring ones inner self
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New Right
Conservative political perspective who believe in self-reliance and individual choice, rather than dependence on the state. Argue welfare encourages an underclass
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New religious movements
e.g. Moonies, Scientology & Krishna Consciousness. Wallis distinguishes between 3 types of NRM depending on whether their attitudes to society are world rejecting, world accepting or world accommodating.
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News Values
Criteria by which journalists decide whether a story is newsworthy enough, News values include criteria such as; immediacy, dramatisation, personalisation, risk & violence. Crime often fits this criteria.
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Non-participant observation
A primary research method where the observer records events without taking part in them e.g. a sociologist may observe how gender roles influence children's play without taking part.
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Social rules, expectations or standards that govern the behaviour expected in particular situations. Norms may be formal (written) or informal. Each culture has different detailed norms governing behaviour.
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The absence of bias. It implies that we look at things as they really are and we get the truth, without opinions getting in the way. Positivists believe sociology can achieve objectivity by modelling itself on the natural sciences.
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Official Statistics
quantitative data collected by the government. They can be gathered by registration, official surveys, or from administrative records
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Closed belief systems
make knowledge claims that cannot be disproved. According to Popper, religion & Marxism are closed systems because when challenged by contradictory evidence, they reject the evidence and reinforce existing beliefs.
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Open Belief systems
Make knowledge claims that are open to criticism and can in principle be falsified by testing. Popper describes science as an open belief system
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Open ended question
Questions that allow respondents to answer as they wish, in their own words. Answers are harder to analyse because they cannot be pre-coded
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Process of turning a sociological concept or theory into something measurable. e.h. a sociologist studying the effect of social class on ed. achievement might use parental occupation to measure the concept of 'social class'
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Kuhn. Defines what 'normal science' is, providing them with a shared framework of basic assumptions within which to work. It tells them what nature is like, which aspects to study, the methods/questions to ask, and even the answers they should find.
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Participant observation
Primary research method in which as sociologist studies a group by taking a role within it and participating in its activities. It may be overt or covert.
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Rule by father. feminists use the term to describe a society based on male domination; a system or ideology of male power over women.
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Interpretivist approach. Schutz argues we can make sense of the world through shared categories called 'typification's' meanings are potentaily unclear, but typifications clarity them, allowing us to communicate and cooperate.
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Pilot Study
A small-scale trial run, usually of a social survey conducted before the main study. Its basic aim is to iron out problems, clarify questions and their wording, give interviewers practice etc. so changes can be made before actual study
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Pluralistic society is one with many different cultures, religions or political parties.
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Process that results in the creation of two opposite extremes. Marx describes how in capitalist society the class structure becomes polarised into wealthy bourgeoisie and impoverished proletariat
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All the members of the group being studied.
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Belief that society is made up of 'social facts' that can be studied scientifically to discover cause and effect. e.g. Durkheim's study on suicide. With such knowledge, positivists believe we can find solutions to social problems.
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Type of industrial production. A highly skilled, adaptable workforce, combined with computerised technology, means that production takes the form of 'flexible specialisation', able to respond quickly to demand.
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PM society is so unstable and diverse that it is now impossible to produce any absolute explanations. No one theory is truer than another. Theories are merely meta-narratives or viewpoints
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Postmodernity/Postmodern Society
They argue society is globalised, media-saturated in which signs become 'hyper real' with no reference to external reality. Culture is unstable and forever changing, individuals change identities through consumption of brands.
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Primary Data
Information collected first hand by sociologists themselves, for their own research purposes. Methods such as participant obs, social surveys and experiments are sources of primary data.
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Separation of an aspect of social life from the rest of society or the loss of it's public role. Some would argue religion is privatised as it used to play a role in education and the law, now it is a matter of personal preference
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The Working class in capitalist society. They own no means of production and are 'wage slaves', forced to sell their labour to the bourgeoisie in order to survive
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Performs various functions. Incl. deterrence, rehabilitation, and incapacitation. Punishment may also be a from of retribution, in which society expresses outrage and seeks vengeance against the criminal.
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qualitative data
Information usually expressed in words. Obtained from qualitative methods e.g. participant obs, interviews, diaries and letters. aims to give an insight into what its like to be in another persons shoes.
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quantitative data
information in numerical form. e.g. official stats, results of social surveys
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List of questions. Used in large scale social surveys. tend to be closed ended questions for easy analysis.
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Process by which rational and scientific thinking replaces religious ones. Weber argues the protestant reformation in the 16th C started a process of rationalisation in the west which undermined the medieval religious worldview.
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The view that science deals with unobservable underlying structures (class), in contrast to the positivist view that it only deals with observable phenomena.
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Used by Giddens to describe the situation in late or high modern society where tradition no longer governs our actions. As a result we are forced to become more reflexive- to constantly monitor, reflect and modify our actions in the light of informat
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The view that knowledge claims are not absolutely true or false, but merely true for those who believe them.
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Opposite of relativism. The idea that only one set of beliefs is true and all others are totally wrong. Religious fundamentalists take an absolutist view that they have access to the truth
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Research is reliable if it produced the same results when repeated using identical methods and procedures. e.g. experiments and questionnaires
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Religious market thoery
Compares religious organisations with businesses competing for customers. Less popular religions decline, while others row by offering people what they want. However the overall demand remains as people are naturally religious in this view.
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Typical; cross-section. A researcher may choose to study a sample of a larger group. if the sample is representative then those in it are typical of the larger group
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Reserve army of labour
Marxist concept describing who can be brought into the workforce when there is a labour shortage as the capitalist economy expands in a boom, and discarded when it contracts.
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Response rate
The proportion of those people included in a social survey who actually respond to the questions asked. A high response rate is essential to ensure findings are representative
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Right realism
See crime as a real problem. They favour a tougher approach to crime. They see crime as a rational choice, where criminals weigh up the risks and rewards. Right realists focus on situational and environmental crime prevention stratergies
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Risk Society
Beck - in late modernity the risks facing humankind are increasingly manmade or manufactured, rather than risks posed by nature. These risks are increasingly global e.g. climate change
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How someone who occupies a particular status in expected to act
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A smaller group selected from the larger survey population to take part in a study. It may be too costly or time consuming to study the whole population, so we choose a sample instead
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The process of selecting a sample. the aim is usually to select a sample that is representative, so as to allow the results to be generalised. Types of sampling; Random, stratified random, quota & ***********
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Sampling frame
The list of people from which a sample for a study is collected
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Secondary data
Information collected not by sociologists themselves, but by other people or organisations for non-sociological purposes. it is often free, readily available, and covers large numbers. e.g official stats, the media and personal documents
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small exclusive religious groups that expect strong commitment from their members. Often hostile to wider society and draw members from the poor and oppressed. many are lead by a charismatic leader, who claims a monopoly of religious truth
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The decline of religion; the process by which religious beliefs, practices and institutions loose their importance and influence
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Self-fulfilling prophecy
A prediction made about a person or group come true by the virtue of it having been made. It is a form of labelling and works by changing the individuals self concept to bring it in line with the expectations that others have for him/her
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Self report studies
Ask individuals to disclose the crimes or anti-social behaviour for which they have been responsible. They are often used as a corrective to official police statistics, since they can include crimes committed of which the police were unaware.
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A radical feminist idea that women should organise to live independently of men as a way to free themselves of patriarchal oppression
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Situational crime prevention
reduces opportunity for crime. It aims to manage the immediate environment of specific crimes i.e. burglary, so as to increase the effort and risks and reduce the rewards of commiting crime. It involves 'target hardening' (CCTV/Locks) to deter crimin
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Social Class
Social groupings based on differences in wealth, income ore occupation.
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Social construction
Where something is created by social processes, rather than simply occurring naturally. e.g interpretivists argue official crime stats are socially constructed through the interactions of police and suspects.
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Social Control
The means by which society tries to ensure that its members behave as others expect them to. It can be formal or informal. Negative and positive sanctions may be used to encourage individuals to conform to norms
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Social integration
Where individuals are bound together by shared beliefs and practices. e.g. shared religious rules remind individuals that they are part of a community to which they owe their loyalty.
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Process by which an individual learns or internalises the culture of society.
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Social policy
The actions, plans and programmes of government bodies and agencies that aim to deal with a problem or achieve a goal. e.g. preventing crime
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Social survey
Any research method that involves systematically collecting information from a group of people by asking them questions.
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Spiritual shopping
found in late modern/postmodern society, where there is a spiritual market in which individual consumers 'pick and choose' from different religious and spiritual beliefs, practices and institutions
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State apparatuses
From a Marxist perspective, Althusser distinguishes between repressive and ideological state apparatuses.
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Repressive state apparatuses (RSA's)
armed bodies of men, such as police, prisons, the army etc, whose role is to coerce the W/C into submission.
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Ideological state apparatuses (ISA's)
include institutions such as the media, religion and education, whose role is to persuade the W/C to accept the capitalist rule as legitimate
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State crimes
Crimes committed by, on behalf of, or with the complicity of governments or state agencies. including; genocide, war crimes, torture.
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A position in society. Ascribed status occurs where our social position is determined by fixed characteristics. Achieved status is a result of an individuals effort and ability
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A simplifies, one sided and often negative image of a group or individual which assumes that all members of that group share the same characteristics
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A negative label, or mark of disapproval attached to a person, group or characteristic. The stigma is used to justify social exclusion of individuals from normal social interaction.
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The division of society into a hierarchy of unequal groups. The inequalities may be of wealth, power and/or status
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Structural differentiation
A process of specialisation where separate institutions develop to carry out functions that were previously performed by a single institution.
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Structural theories
deterministic theories that see individuals as entirely shaped by the way society is structured or organised e.g. functionalism sees society as socialising individuals into shared norms and values that dictate how they will behave.
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group of people in society who share norms, values, beliefs and attitudes that are in some ways different to the mainstream culture.
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Bias or lack of objectivity, where the individuals own viewpoint or values influences their perception or judgement. Interpretivists believe sociology is subjective, since it involves understanding other humans by seeing the world through their eyes
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use of two or more sources of data so that they compliment eachother, the strengths of one counteracting the weaknesses of the other.
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Lowest level of the class structure, they have a separate, deviant subculture and lifestyle including a high rate of lone parent families, male unemployment and criminality
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Capacity of a research method to measure what it sets out to measure; a true genuine picture of what something is really like. Participant obs that produce qualitative data are seen as valid
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Value consensus
Agreement among society's members about what values are important; a shared culture. According to func. it integrates individuals into society by giving them a sense of solidarity.
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Value freedom
the idea that values can and should be kept out of research. Modern positivists favour value freedom, but others argue that is is not possible since values are necessary for selecting a research topic and interpreting findings.
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ideas or beliefs about general principles or goals. They tell society's members what is good or important in life and what to aim for, they underlie more detailed norms of conduct.
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Any factor that can change, such as age, gender, occupation or income. Sociologists seek to discover correlations between variables e.g. social class and achievement
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Study of victims. There is positivist and critical victimology
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Positivist victimology
aims to explain patterns in victimisation. It focuses on interpersonal violent crime, especially how victims contribute to their own victimisation,
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Critical victimology
sees victimisation as a form of powerlessness. It focuses on the role of structural factors such as poverty that place powerless groups at a greater risk of victimisation, and on the states role in denying the label of victim to them.
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Victim surveys
ask individuals what crimes they have been victims of. The best known of theses is the British crime survey. They are often used as corrective to official police stats, because they can reveal crimes that have not been reported to the police.
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The idea that humans have free will and can exercise choice in how they act, rather than their behaviour being determined or shaped by external forces such as the social structure.
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'the study of harms'. In criminology, it is concerned with why some harms come to be defines as crimes and others do not, even when they cause more damage than do many crimes. e.g. environmental pollution is legal.
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Card 2


When an individual or group feels socially isolated because they lack the power to control their lives and realise their potential. e.g Marx's description of workers in capitalist society - alienated because they are exploited and lack control



Card 3


Normlessness. Durkheim argues anomie arises when there is rapid social change because existing norms become unclear/outdated, that is a cause of suicide.


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Card 4


Abstinence. Before calvinism, Christian aseticism was 'other-worldly' and mean renouncing everyday life to join a convent. Calvinism applied this idea to everyday life e.g working long hours, shunning luxury


Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5


Capitalism Class. owners of the means of production. Marx argued owning the means of production gave the capitalist class political and ideological power


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