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Ritzer: Contemporary Sociological Theory Book Cover
Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics
George Ritzer, University of Maryland


Glossary

accounting  The process by which people offer accounts in order to make sense of the world. (ethnomethodology)
accounting practices  The ways in which one person offers an account and another person accepts or rejects that account. (ethnomethodology)
accounts  The ways in which actors explain (describe, criticize, and idealize) specific situations. (ethnomethodology)
act  The basic concept in Mead's theory, involving an impulse, perception of stimuli, taking action involving the object perceived, and using the object to satisfy the initial impulse.
action  Things that people do that are the result of conscious processes.
actual social identity  What a person actually is. (Goffman)
adaptation  One of Parsons's four functional imperatives. A system must adjust to its environment and adjust the environment to its needs. More specifically, a system must cope with external situational dangers and contingencies.
affectivity-affective neutrality  The pattern variable involving the issue of how much emotion (or affect) to invest in a social phenomenon. (Parsons)
affectual action  Nonrational action that is the result of emotion. (Weber)
agency  Actions that are perpetrated by actors; what occurs would not have occurred in that way were it not for the fact that the actor intervened and took the action in question.
agents  Actors who have the ability to make a difference in the social world; they have power.
alienation  The breakdown of, the separation from, the natural interconnection between people and their productive activities, the products they produce, the fellow workers with whom they produce those things, and with what they are potentially capable of becoming. (Marx)
anomie  A sense, associated with organic solidarity, of not knowing what one is expected to do; of being adrift in society without any clear and secure moorings. (Durkheim)
anomie  To Merton, a situation in which there is a serious disconnection between social structure and culture; between structurally created abilities of people to act in accord with cultural norms and goals and the norms and goals themselves.
appearance  The way the actor looks to the audience; especially those items that indicate the performer's social status. (Goffman)
ascription-achievement  The pattern variable where the issue is whether we judge a social phenomenon by what it is endowed with or by what it achieves. (Parsons)
association  The relationships among people, or interaction. (Simmel)
autopoietic systems  Systems that produce their own basic elements, establish their own boundaries and structures, are self-referential, and are closed. (Luhmann)
back stage  Where facts suppressed in the front stage or various kinds of informal actions may appear. A back stage is usually adjacent to the front stage, but it is also cut off from it. Performers can reliably expect no members of their front audience to appear in the back. (Goffman)
base  To Marx, the economy, which conditions, if not determines, the nature of everything else in society.
because motives  Retrospective glances backward, after an action has occurred, at the factors (e.g., personal background, individual psyche, environment) that caused individuals to behave as they did. (Schutz)
behavior  Things that people do that require little or no thought.
behavioral organism  One of Parsons's action systems, responsible for handling the adaptation function by adjusting to and transforming the external world.
behaviorism  The study, largely associated with psychology, of behavior.
bifurcated consciousness  A type of consciousness characteristic of women that reflects the fact that, for them, everyday life is divided into two realities: the reality of their actual, lived, reflected-on experience and the reality of social typifications.
breaching experiments  Experiments in which social reality is violated in order to shed light on the methods by which people construct social reality. (ethnomethodology)
bureaucracy  A modern type of organization in which the behavior of officers is rule-bound; each office has a specified sphere of competence and has obligations to perform specific functions, the authority to carry them out, and the means of compulsion to get the job done; the offices are organized into a hierarchical system; technical training is needed for each office; those things needed to do the job belong to the office and not the officer; the position is part of the organization and cannot be appropriated by an officer; and much of what goes on in the bureaucracy (acts, decisions, rules) is in writing. (Weber)
business  A pecuniary approach to economic processes in which the dominant interests are acquisition, money, and profitability rather than production and the interests of the larger community. (Veblen)
calculability  The emphasis on quantity, often to the detriment of quality. (Ritzer)
capitalism  An economic system composed mainly of capitalists and the proletariat, in which one class (capitalists) exploits the other (proletariat). (Marx)
capitalist patriarchy  A term that indicates that the oppression of women is traceable to a combination of capitalism and patriarchy.
capitalists  Those who own the means of production under capitalism and are therefore in a position to exploit workers. (Marx)
carceral archipelago  An image of society that results from the idea that discipline is swarming through society. This means that the process affects some parts of society and not others, or it may affect some parts at one time and other parts at another time. Thus, it creates a patchwork of centers of discipline amidst a world in which other settings are less affected or unaffected by the spread of the disciplinary society. (Foucault)
center-periphery differentiation  Differentiation between the core of a system and its peripheral elements. (Wallerstein)
charisma  The definition by others that a person has extraordinary qualities. A person need not actually have such qualities in order to be so-defined. (Weber)
charismatic authority  Authority legitimated by a belief by the followers in the exceptional sanctity, heroism, or exemplary character of the charismatic leader. (Weber)
civilizing process  The long-term change in the West in manners as they relate to daily behavior. Everyday behaviors that were at one time acceptable have, over time, become increasingly unacceptable. We are more likely to observe the everyday behaviors of others, to be sensitive to them, to understand them better and, perhaps most importantly, to find an increasing number of them embarrassing. What we once found quite acceptable now embarrasses us enormously. As a result, what was once quite open is now hidden from view. (Elias)
class consciousness  The ability of a class, in particular the proletariat, to overcome false consciousness and attain an accurate understanding of the capitalist system. (Marx)
code  A way of distinguishing elements of a system from elements that do not belong to the system; the basic language of a functional system.
code  A system of rules that allows us to understand signs and, more importantly, how they relate to one another.
collective conscience  The ideas shared by the members of a collectivity such as a group, a tribe, or a society. (Durkheim)
colonization of the life world  As the system and its structures grow increasingly differentiated, complex, and self-sufficient, their power grows and with it their ability to direct and control what transpires in the lifeworld. (Habermas)
communism  The social system that permits, for the first time, the expression of full human potential. (Marx)
conflict group  A group that actually engages in group conflict. (Dahrendorf)
conspicuous consumption  The consumption of a variety of goods, not for subsistence but for higher status for those who consume them and thereby to create the basis for invidious distinctions between people. (Veblen)
conspicuous leisure  The consumption of leisure; the nonproductive use of time; the waste of time as a way of creating an invidious distinction between people and elevating the social status of those able to use their time in this way. (Veblen)
constructivist perspective  The view that schemes of perception, thought, and action create structures. (Bourdieu)
consummation  Final stage of the act involving the taking of action that satisfies the original impulse. (Mead)
control  Domination by technologies over employees and customers. (Ritzer)
conversation of gestures  Gestures by one party that mindlessly elicit responding gestures from the other party. (Mead)
core  The geographical area that dominates the capitalist world-economy and exploits the rest of the system. (Wallerstein)
cost  Rewards lost in adopting a specific action and, as a result, in forgoing alternative lines of action.
creative destruction  The idea that older structures are destroyed to make way for newer ones that function more effectively. (Schumpeter)
cultural capital  The various kinds of legitimate knowledge possessed by an actor. (Bourdieu)
cultural feminism  A feminist theory of difference that extols the positive aspects of women.
cultural materialism  The many ways that state policies, social ideologies, and mass media messages interact with human subjectivity, both patterning and controlling thought and being repatterned by it.
cultural system  The Parsonsian action system that performs the latency function by providing actors with the norms and values that motivate them for action.
culture industry  To the critical theorists, industries such a movies and radio that were serving to make culture a more important factor in society than the economy.
debunking  Looking beyond stated intentions to real effects. (Berger)
definition of the situation  The idea that if people define situations as real, then those definitions are real in their consequences. (Thomas and Thomas)
deinstitutionalization  The process, begun in the 1960s and made possible by new drug treatments, involving the closing of many psychiatric institutions and the release of the vast majority of patients who were left to their own devices to survive in the larger society.
dependence  The potential cost that an actor will be willing to tolerate within a relationship. (exchange theory)
dependency chains  The chain of relationships involving those people a person is dependent on as well as those people's dependency on the person. (Elias)
difference  An alternate explanation of consumption favored by postmodernists. We consume not because of needs but in order to be different from other people; such differences are defined by what and how we consume.
differentiation  The system copying within itself the difference between it and the environment (Luhmann).
disciplinary society  A society in which control over people is pervasive. (Foucault)
discreditable stigma  The stigma is neither known by audience members nor discernible by them. (Goffman)
discredited stigma  The actor assumes that the stigma is known by the audience members or is evident to them. (Goffman)
discrimination  The tendency to manifest behavior only under the specific circumstances that proved successful in the past.
discursive consciousness  The ability to describe our actions in words. (Giddens)
distanciation  The tendency for various components of the modern juggernaut to grow quite distant from us in space and time. (Giddens)
domination  To oppression theorists, any relationship in which one party (individual or collective) - the dominant - succeeds in making the other party (individual or collective) - the subordinate - an instrument of the dominant's will, and refuses to recognize the subordinate's independent subjectivity.
double hermeneutic  The social scientist's understanding of the social world may have an impact on the understandings of the actors being studied, with the result that social researchers can alter the world they are studying and thus lead to distorted findings and conclusions. (Giddens)
dramaturgy  A view of social life as a series of dramatic performances akin to those that take place in the theater. (Goffman)
dream world  Similar to the concept of phantasmagoria, but more specifically refers to the use of things like decor to lure customers to means of consumption and to make the goods and services being purveyed seem glamorous, romantic, and therefore appealing to consumers. The goal is to inflame the desires and feelings of consumers. (Williams)
dromology  A focal concern with the crucial importance of speed. (Virilio)
dualism  Structure (and culture) and agency can be distinguished for analytic purposes, although they are intertwined in social life. (Giddens, Archer)
duality  All social action involves structure, and all structure involves social action. Agency and structure are inextricably interwoven in ongoing human activity or practice. (Giddens, Archer)
dyad  A two-person group. (Simmel)
dynamic density  The number of people and their frequency of interaction. An increase in dynamic density leads to the transformation from mechanical to organic solidarity. (Durkheim)
dysfunction  Observable consequences that have an adverse effect on the ability of a particular system to adapt or adjust. (Merton)
economic capital  The economic resources possessed by an actor. (Bourdieu)
economy  To Parsons, the subsystem of society that performs the function of adapting to the environment.
efficiency  The effort to discover the best possible means to whatever end is desired. (Ritzer)
endocolonization  Technology being used to colonize the human body. (Virilio)
ethnomethodology  The study of ordinary members of society in the everyday situations in which they find themselves and the ways in which they use commonsense knowledge, procedures, and considerations to gain an understanding of, navigate in, and act on those situations.
evolution  The process of selection from variation. (Luhmann)
examination  A way of observing subordinates and judging what they are doing. It involves checking up on subordinates and assessing what they have done. It is employed in a given setting by those in authority who make normalizing judgments about what is and is not an adequate score. (Foucault)
exchange network  A web of social relationships involving a number of either individual or collective actors and the various actors have a variety of valued resources as well as exchange opportunities and exchange relations with one another. A number of these exchange relations exist and interrelate with one another to form a single network structure. (Emerson)
explanatory theories  Feminist theories that locate the causes of gender difference in biology, in institutional roles, in socialization, and in social interaction.
exploitation  In capitalism, the capitalists get the lion's share of the rewards and the proletariat get enough to subsist even though, based on the labor theory of value, the situation should be reversed. (Marx)
false consciousness  In capitalism, both the proletariat and the capitalists have an inaccurate sense of themselves, their relationship to one another, and the way in which capitalism operates. (Marx)
feminist theory  A generalized, wide-ranging system of ideas about social life and human experience developed from a woman-centered perspective.
fiduciary system  To Parsons, the subsystem of society that handles the pattern maintenance and latency function by transmitting culture (norms and values) to actors and seeing to it that it is internalized by them.
field  A network of relations among the objective positions. (Bourdieu)
fieldwork  A methodology used by symbolic interactionists and other sociologists that involves venturing into the field (the day-to-day social world) to observe and collect relevant data.
figurations  Social processes involving the interweaving of people who are seen as open and interdependent. Power is central to social figurations; they are constantly in flux. Figurations emerge and develop, but in largely unseen and unplanned ways. (Elias)
Fordism  The ideas, principles, and systems spawned by Henry Ford in the early 20th century and embodied in the creation of the automobile assembly line and the resulting mass production of automobiles. The success of Ford's innovations led many other industries to adapt the assembly line to their production needs and to the mass production of their products.
formal rationality  The choice of the most expedient action is based on rules, regulations, and laws that apply to everyone. This form of rationality is distinctive to the modern West. (Weber)
forms  Patterns imposed on the bewildering array of events, actions, and interactions in the social world both by people in their everyday lives and by social theorists. (Simmel)
front stage  That part of a dramaturgical performance that generally functions in rather fixed and general ways to define the situation for those who observe the performance. (Goffman)
functional differentiation  The most complex form of differentiation and the form that dominates modern society. Every function within a system is ascribed to a particular unit. (Luhmann)
functions  Consequences that can be observed and that help a particular system adapt or adjust. (Merton)
game stage  The second stage in the genesis of the self: instead of taking the role of discrete others, the child takes the role of everyone involved in a game. Each of these others plays a specific role in the overall game. (Mead)
gender  Socially constructed male and female roles, relations, and identities.
generalization  The tendency to extend behavior to similar circumstances.
generalized other  The attitude of the entire community or of any collectivity in which the actor is involved. (Mead)
genetic structuralism  Bourdieu's approach, which involves the study of objective structures that cannot be separated from mental structures that, themselves, involve the internalization of objective structures.
gestures  Movements by one party (person or animal) that serve as stimuli to another party. (Mead)
globalization  Processes that affect a multitude of nations throughout the world, but which are independent of any specific nation-state.
glocalization  The complex interplay of the global and the local in any given setting.
goal attainment  The second of Parsons's functional imperatives, involving the need for a system to define and achieve its primary goals.
governmentalities  The practices and techniques by which control is exercised over people. (Foucault)
grand theory  A vast, highly ambitious effort to tell the story of a great stretch of human history.
habitus  The mental or cognitive structures through which people deal with the social world. (Bourdieu)
hierarchical observation  The ability of officials at or near the top of an organization to oversee all that they control with a single gaze. (Foucault)
historical materialism  The Marxian idea that the material conditions of human life, inclusive of the activities and relationships that produce those conditions, are the key factors that pattern human experience, personality, ideas, and social arrangements; that those conditions change over time because of dynamics immanent within them; and that history is a record of the changes in the material conditions of a group's life and of the correlative changes in experiences, personality, ideas, and social arrangements.
hyperconsumption  An extraordinary level of consumption associated with the contemporary world. (Ritzer)
hyperreal  Entirely simulated and, as a result, more real than real, more beautiful than beautiful, truer than true, and so on. (Baudrillard)
hysteresis  The condition that results from having a habitus that is not appropriate for the situation in which one lives. (Bourdieu)
I  The immediate response of the self to others; the incalculable, unpredictable, and creative aspect of the self. (Mead)
ideal type  A one-sided, exaggerated concept, usually an exaggeration of the rationality of a given phenomenon, used to analyze the social world in all its historical and contemporary variation. The ideal type is a measuring rod to be used in comparing various specific examples of a social phenomenon either cross-culturally or over time. (Weber)
ideology  An intricate web of beliefs about reality and social life that is institutionalized as public knowledge and disseminated throughout society so effectively that it becomes taken-for-granted knowledge for all social groups. (Marx)
imperatively coordinated associations  Associations of people controlled by a hierarchy of authority positions. (Dahrendorf)
implosion  The decline of boundaries and the collapse of various things into each other; dedifferentiation as opposed to differentiation. (Baudrillard)
impression management  The techniques actors use to maintain certain impressions in the face of problems they are likely to encounter and the methods they use to cope with these problems. (Goffman)
impulse  First stage of the act in which the actor reacts to some external stimulus and feels the need to do something about it. (Mead)
individual culture  The capacity of the individual to produce, absorb, and control the elements of objective culture. (Simmel)
industry  The understanding and productive use, primarily by the working classes, of a wide variety of mechanized processes on a large scale. (Veblen)
in-order-to motives  The subjective reasons that actors undertake actions. (Schutz)
integration  The third of Parsons's functional imperatives, this one requiring that a system seek to regulate the interrelationship of its component parts. Integration also involves the management of the relationship among the other three functional imperatives (AGL).
interest group  Unlike quasi groups, interest groups are true groups in the sociological sense of the term, possessing not only common interests but also a structure, a goal, and personnel. Interest groups have the capacity to engage in group conflict. (Dahrendorf)
interests  Concerns, usually shared by groups of people. (Dahrendorf)
intersectionality theory  The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity.
intersubjectivity  In the everyday world, the consciousness of one actor visualizes what is taking place in the consciousness of another at the same time that the same thing is occurring in the other actor's consciousness. (Schutz)
irrationality of rationality  Various unreasonable things associated with rationality (and McDonaldization), especially dehumanization in which employees are forced to work in dehumanizing jobs and customers are forced to eat in dehumanizing settings and circumstances. (Ritzer)
juggernaut  Giddens's metaphor for the modern world as a massive force that moves forward inexorably, riding roughshod over everything in its path. People steer the juggernaut, but it always has the possibility of careening out of control.
knowledge industry  To the critical theorists, those entities in society concerned with knowledge production and dissemination, especially research institutes and universities. Like the culture industry, these settings achieved a large measure of autonomy within society, which allowed them to redefine themselves. Instead of serving the interests of society as a whole, they have come to focus on their own interests; this means that they are intent on expanding their influence over society.
labor theory of value  Marx's theory that all value comes from labor and is therefore traceable, in capitalism, to the proletariat.
latency  One aspect of Parsons's fourth functional imperative involving the need for a system to furnish, maintain, and renew the motivation of individuals.
latent functions  Unintended positive consequences. (Merton)
latent interests  Unconscious interests that translate, for Dahrendorf, into objective role expectations.
levels of functional analysis  Functional analysis can be performed on any standardized repetitive social phenomenon ranging from society as a whole to organizations, institutions, and groups. (Merton)
liberal feminism  A feminist theory of inequality that argues that women may claim equality with men on the basis of an essential human capacity for reasoned moral agency, that gender inequality is the result of a patriarchal and sexist patterning of the division of labor, and that gender equality can be produced by transforming the division of labor through the repatterning of key institutions - law, work, family, education, and media.
lie  A form of interaction in which a person intentionally hides the truth from others. (Simmel)
lifeworld  To Schutz, the commonsense world, the world of everyday life, the mundane world; that world in which intersubjectivity takes place. Habermas is more concerned with interpersonal communication in the lifeworld.
life world  The commonsense world, the world of everyday life, the mundane world, that world in which intersubjectivity takes place. (Schutz)
local actualities of lived experience  The places where actual people act and live their lives.
looking-glass self  The idea that we form our sense of ourselves by using others, and their reactions to us, as mirrors to assess who we are and how we are doing. (Cooley)
lumpenproletariat  The mass of people who stand below even the proletariat in the capitalist system. (Marx)
manifest functions  Positive consequences that are brought about consciously and purposely. (Merton)
manifest interests  Latent interests of which people have become conscious. (Dahrendorf)
manipulation  Third stage of the act involving manipulating the object, once it has been perceived. (Mead)
manner  The way an actor conducts himself; it tells the audience what sort of role the actor expects to play in the situation. (Goffman)
mass culture  The culture (e.g., radio quiz shows) that had been made available to, and popular among, the masses. (Critical Theory)
material social facts  Social facts that take a material form in the external social world (e.g., architecture). (Durkheim)
McDonaldism  The continuing existence of many characteristics of Fordism in industries like fast food: homogeneous products, rigid technologies, standardized work routines, deskilling, and homogenization of workers and consumers. (Ritzer)
McDonaldization  The process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society, as well as the rest of the world. Its five basic dimensions are efficiency, calculability, predictability, control through the substitution of technology for people, and, paradoxically, the irrationality of rationality. (Ritzer)
me  The individual's adoption and perception of the generalized other; the conformist aspect of the self.
meaning  How actors determine what aspects of the social world are important to them. What is meaningful is a result of our own independent mental construction of reality; we define certain components of reality as meaningful. (Schutz)
means-ends rational action  The pursuit of ends that the actor has chosen for himself; that choice is affected by the actor's view of the environment in which he finds himself, including the behavior of people and objects in it. (Weber)
means of consumption  To Marx, these are simply consumer goods, but to Ritzer, paralleling Marx's sense of the means of production, these are the things that make consumption possible. Just as the factory makes production possible, the shopping mall enables the consumer and consumption.
means of production  Those things that are needed for production to take place (including tools, machinery, raw materials, and factories). (Marx)
mechanical solidarity  In Durkheimian theory, the idea that primitive society is held together by the fact there is little division of labor and, as a result, virtually everyone does essentially the same things.
methodological holists  Those social scientists who focus on the macro-level and view it as determining the micro-level.
methodological individualists  Those social scientists who focus on the micro-level and see it as determining the macro-level.
methodological relationists  Those social scientists who focus on the relationship between macro- and micro-level phenomena.
microphysics of power  The idea that power exists at the micro-level and involves both efforts to exercise it and efforts to contest its exercise. (Foucault)
middle-range theories  Theories that seek a middle ground between trying to explain the entirety of the social world and a very minute portion of that world. (Merton)
mind  To Mead, the conversations that people have with themselves using language.
motives  The reasons people do what they do. (Schutz)
mystification  An effort by actors to confound their audience by restricting the contact between themselves and the audience, concealing the mundane things that go into their performance. (Goffman)
natural attitude  The attitude we adopt in the lifeworld; we take it for granted, we don't reflect much on it, and we don't doubt its reality or existence. (Schutz)
need-dispositions  To Parsons, drives that are shaped by the social setting.
needs  Those things that people require in order to survive and to function at a minimal level in the contemporary world. Often used to explain why we consume what we do.
neotribalism  A postmodern development characterized by the coming of age of a wide array of communities that are refuges for strangers and, more specifically, for ethnic, religious, and political groups.
net balance  The relative weight of functions and dysfunctions. (Merton)
new means of consumption  The set of consumption sites that came into existence largely after 1950 in the United States and that served to revolutionize consumption. (Ritzer)
nonfunctions  Consequences that are irrelevant to the system under consideration. (Merton)
nonmaterial social facts  Social facts that are external and coercive, but which do not take a material form; they are nonmaterial (e.g., norms and values). (Durkheim)
normalizing judgments  Those in power can decide what is normal and what is abnormal on a variety of dimensions. Those who violate the norms, who are judged abnormal, can then be punished by officials or their agents. (Foucault)
objective culture  The objects that people produce - art, science, philosophy, and so on - that become part of culture. (Simmel)
observation  A methodology closely related to fieldwork, in which the symbolic interactionist (and other sociologists) studies the social world by observing what is transpiring in it. In the case of symbolic interactionism, this enabled researchers to engage in sympathetic introspection and put themselves in the place of actors in order to understand meanings and motives and to observe the various actions that people take.
one-dimensional society  To Herbert Marcuse, the breakdown in the dialectical relationship between people and the larger structures so that people are largely controlled by such structures. Lost is the ability of people to create and to be actively involved in those structures. Gradually, individual freedom and creativity dwindle away into nothingness, and people lose the capacity to think critically and negatively about the structures that control and oppress them.
operant conditioning  The learning process by which the consequences of behavior serve to modify that behavior.
opportunity costs  The costs of forgoing the next-most-attractive action when an actor chooses an action aimed at achieving a given end.
organic solidarity  To Durkheim, the idea that because of the substantial division of labor in modern society, solidarity comes from differences; that is, people need the contributions of an increasing number of people in order to function and even to survive.
othering  An act of definition within a subordinated group to establish that a group member is unacceptable, an "other," by some criterion; this erodes the potential for coalition and resistance.
outside  Neither front nor back; literally outside the realm of the performance. (Goffman)
outsider within, the  The frequent experience of group members when they move from the home group into the larger society.
panopticon  A structure that allows someone in power (e.g., a prison officer) the possibility of complete observation of a group of people (e.g., prisoners).
patriarchy  A system in which men subjugate women. It is universal, pervasive in its social organization, durable over time and space, and triumphantly maintained in the face of occasional challenge.
pattern maintenance  The second aspect of Parsons's fourth functional imperative involving the need to furnish, maintain, and renew the cultural patterns that create and sustain individual motivation.
pattern variables  In Parsonsian theory, five dichotomous choices that actors must make in every situation.
perception  Second stage of the act, in which the actor consciously searches for and reacts to stimuli that relate to the impulse and the ways of dealing with it. (Mead)
periphery  Those areas of the capitalist world-economy that provide raw materials to the core and are heavily exploited by it. (Wallerstein)
personal front  Those items of expressive equipment that the audience identifies with the performers and expects them to carry with them into the setting. (Goffman)
personality  To Parsons, the individual actor's organized system of orientation to, and motivation for, action.
personality system  The Parsonsian action system responsible for performing the goal-attainment function by defining system goals and mobilizing resources to attain them.
phantasmagoria  The fantastic immaterial effects produced by physical structures such as arcades as well as the newer means of consumption. (Benjamin)
phenomenology  A school of philosophy concerned with the study of the mind.
play stage  The first stage in the genesis of the self, in which the child plays at being someone else. (Mead)
polity  To Parsons, the subsystem of society that performs the function of goal attainment by pursuing societal objectives and mobilizing actors and resources to that end.
portraits of the social world  More static descriptions of the social world at a particular point in time. These could also be thought of as snapshots of the social world.
post-Fordism  In contrast to Fordism, a system for the production of heterogeneous, even customized, products that requires more flexible technologies and more flexible and skilled workers, and that leads to greater heterogeneity of consumption.
postindustrial society  A society characterized by the provision of services rather than goods; professional and technical work rather than blue-collar, manual work; theoretical knowledge rather than practical know-how; the creation and monitoring of new technologies; and new intellectual technologies to handle such assessment and control.
postmodern sociology  A type of sociology that is heavily influenced by postmodern ideas and that would adopt an irrational approach to the study of society.
poststructuralist  A theorist, like Bourdieu, who has been influenced by a structuralist perspective but who has moved beyond it to synthesize it with other theoretical ideas and perspectives.
power  To Emerson, the potential cost that one actor can induce another to accept.
practical consciousness  Involves actions that the actors take for granted, without being able to express in words what they are doing. (Giddens)
practical rationality  On a day-to-day basis, we deal with whatever difficulties exist and find the most expedient way of attaining our goal of getting from one point to another. (Weber)
practice  To Bourdieu, actions that are the outcome of the dialectical relationship between structure and agency. Practices are not objectively determined, nor are they the product of free will.
praxis  The idea that people, especially the proletariat, must take concrete action in order to overcome capitalism. (Marx)
predictability  The idea that goods or services will be essentially the same from one time or place to another. (Ritzer)
primary group  An intimate face-to-face group that plays a crucial role in linking the individual to the larger society. Of special importance are the primary groups of the young, mainly the family and friendship groups. (Cooley)
profit  The greater number of rewards gained over costs incurred in social exchange.
proletariat  Those who, because they do not own means of production, must sell their labor time to the capitalists in order to gain access to those means (Marx).
Protestant ethic  Because of their belief in predestination, the Calvinists could not know whether they were going to heaven or hell or directly affect their fate. However, it was possible for them to discern "signs" that they were either saved or damned, and one of the major signs of salvation was success in business. (Weber)
psychoanalytic feminism  An effort to explain patriarchy through the use of reformulated theories of Freud and his successors in psychoanalytic theory.
punishments  Actions with negative values; an increase in such actions means that the actor is less likely to manifest undesired behaviors.
quasi group  A number of individuals who occupy positions that have the same role interests. (Dahrendorf)
radical feminism  A theory of social organization, gender oppression, and strategies for change that affirms the positive value of women and argues that they are everywhere oppressed by violence or the threat of violence.
rationalization  To Giddens, this means the development of routines that not only give actors a sense of security but enable them to deal efficiently with their social lives.
rational-legal authority  A type of authority in which the legitimacy of leaders is derived from the fact that there are a series of codified rules and regulations, and leaders hold their positions as a result of those rules. (Weber)
reason  People assess the choice of means to ends in terms of ultimate human values such as justice, freedom, and happiness.
recipes  Standardized ways of handling various situations. (Schutz)
recursive  The idea that social practices are neither created mentally (or any other way) by actors, nor are they created by the structural social conditions in which actors find themselves. Rather, as people are expressing themselves as human actors, they are creating their consciousness and the structural conditions that make these practices possible; practices, consciousness, and structure are created simultaneously by the actor. (Giddens)
reflexive sociology  The use by sociologists of their own theoretical and empirical tools to better understand their discipline. (Bourdieu)
reflexivity  The ability to put ourselves in others' places: think as they think, act as they act. (Giddens)
reify  To endow social structures, which are created by people, with a separate and real existence. (Marx)
relations of ruling  The complex, nonmonolithic but intricately connected social activities that attempt to control human social production.
repressive law  Characteristic of mechanical solidarity, this is a form of law in which offenders are likely to be severely punished for any action that is seen by the tightly integrated community as an offense against the powerful collective conscience. (Durkheim)
restitutive law  Characteristic of organic solidarity and its weakened collective conscience. In this form of law, offenders are likely simply to be asked to comply with the law or to repay (make restitution to) those who have been harmed by their actions. (Durkheim)
rewards  Actions with positive values; an increase in such actions is more likely to elicit the desired behavior.
role  What an actor does in a status, seen in the context of its functional significance for the larger system.
role distance  The degree to which individuals separate themselves from the roles they are in. (Goffman)
routinization of charisma  Efforts by disciples to recast the extraordinary and revolutionary characteristics of the charismatic leader so that they are better able to handle mundane matters. This is also done in order to prepare for the day when the charismatic leader passes from the scene and to allow the disciples to remain in power. (Weber)
secrecy  As defined by Simmel, the condition in which one person has the intention of hiding something while the other is seeking to reveal what is being hidden.
segmentary differentiation  The division of parts of the system on the basis of the need to fulfill identical functions over and over. (Luhmann)
self  The ability to take oneself as an object.
self  To Goffman, a sense of who one is that is a dramatic effect emerging from the immediate dramaturgical scene that is being presented.
self-collectivity  The pattern variable involving the choice between pursuing our own self-interests or those shared with the collectivity. (Parsons)
semiperiphery  A residual category in the capitalist world-economy that encompasses a set of regions somewhere between the exploiting and the exploited. (Wallerstein)
setting  The physical scene that ordinarily must be there if the actors are to engage in a dramaturgical performance. (Goffman)
significant gestures  Gestures that require thought before a response is made; only humans are capable of this. (Mead)
significant symbols  Symbols that arouse in the person expressing them the same kind of response (it need not be identical) as they are designed to elicit from those to whom they are addressed. (Mead)
simulations  Fakes; to Baudrillard, the contemporary world is becoming increasingly dominated by the inauthentic.
sneakerization  Just as there are now a great variety of sneaker types available to consumers, post-Fordist society is characterized by similar heterogeneity in many areas of consumption.
social capital  The extent of the valued social relations possessed by an actor. (Bourdieu)
social facts  To Durkheim, social facts are the subject matter of sociology. They are to be treated as things that are external to, and coercive over, individuals, and they are to be studied empirically.
socialist feminism  An effort to develop a unified theory that focuses on the role of capitalism and patriarchy in creating a large-scale structure that oppresses women.
social stratification  To the structural functionalist, a structure involving a hierarchy of positions that has the function of leading those people with the needed skills and abilities to do what is necessary to move into the high-ranking positions that are most important to society's functioning and survival.
social system  The Parsonsian action system responsible for coping with the integration function by controlling its component parts; a number of human actors who interact with one another in a situation with a physical or environmental context.
social systems  To Giddens, reproduced social practices, or relations between actors or collectivities, that are reproduced, becoming regular social practices.
societal community  To Parsons, the subsystem of society that performs the integration function, coordinating the various components of society.
societal functionalism  A variety of structural functionalism that focuses on the large-scale social structures and institutions of society, their interrelationships, and their constraining effects on actors.
society  To Parsons, a relatively self-sufficient collectivity.
sociological theory  A set of interrelated ideas that allow for the systematization of knowledge of the social world, the explanation of that world, and predictions about the future of the social world.
sociology of postmodernity  A type of sociology that is continuous with modern sociology by being characterized by rational and systematic discourse and by an effort to develop a model of postmodern society. However, the sociology of postmodernity accepts postmodern society as a distinctive and unique type and does not see it as an aberrant form of modern society. (Bauman)
specificity-diffuseness  The pattern variable in which the issue is whether to orient oneself to part or all of a social phenomenon. (Parsons)
spirit of capitalism  In the West, unlike any other area of the world, people were motivated to be economically successful, not by greed but by an ethical system that emphasized the ceaseless pursuit of economic success. The spirit of capitalism had a number of components, including the seeking of profits rationally and systematically, frugality, punctuality, fairness, and the earning of money as a legitimate end in itself. (Weber)
standpoint  The perspective of embodied actors within groups that are differentially located in social structure.
status  A structural position within the social system.
stigma  A gap between virtual and actual social identity. (Goffman)
stranger  One of Simmel's social types defined by distance: one who is neither too close nor too far.
stratificatory differentiation  Vertical differentiation according to rank or status in a system conceived as a hierarchy. (Luhmann)
structural functionalism  A sociological theory that focuses on the structures of society and their functional significance (positive or negative consequences) for other structures.
structuralist perspective  The view that there are hidden or underlying structures that determine what transpires in the social world.
structuration  Agents and structures are interrelated to such an extent that at the moment that they produce action, people produce and reproduce the structures in which they exist; the dialectical relationship between structure and agency. Structure and agency are a duality; neither can exist without the other. (Giddens)
structure  To Giddens, the structuring properties (specifically, rules and resources) that give similar social practices a systemic form.
structures  In society, patterned social interaction and persistent social relationships.
subsistence wage  The wage paid by the capitalist to the proletariat which is just enough for the worker to survive and to have a family and children so that when the worker falters, he can be replaced by one of his children. (Marx)
substantive rationality  The choice of the most expedient action is guided by larger values rather than by daily experiences and practical thinking. (Weber)
superstructure  To Marx, secondary social phenomena (e.g., the state and culture) that are erected on an economic base that serves to define them. Most extremely, the economy determines the superstructure.
symbolic capital  The amount of honor and prestige possessed by an actor. (Bourdieu)
symbolic exchange  A reversible process of giving and receiving; a cyclical exchange of gifts and counter-gifts, associated with primitive society. (Baudrillard)
symbolic interaction  The distinctive human ability to relate to one another not only through gestures but also through significant symbols.
symbolic interactionism  The school of sociology that, following Mead, focuses on symbolic interaction.
symbolic violence  A soft form of violence (the agent against whom it is practiced is complicit in its practice) that is practiced indirectly, largely through cultural mechanisms. (Bourdieu)
sympathetic introspection  The methodology of putting oneself in the places and the minds of those being studied. Researchers do so in a way that is sympathetic to who others are and what they are thinking, and they try to understand the meanings and the motives that lie at the base of people's behavior.
system  To Habermas, the structures (such as the family, the legal system, the state, and the economy) that have their source within the lifeworld, but which come to develop their own distinctive existence and to grow increasingly distant and separated from the lifeworld.
team  Any set of individuals who cooperate in staging a single performance. (Goffman)
technocratic thinking  Concern with being efficient, with simply finding the best means to an end without reflecting on either the means or the end.
theoretical rationality  An effort to master reality cognitively through the development of increasingly abstract concepts. The goal is to attain a rational understanding of the world rather than to take rational action within it. (Weber)
theories of everyday life  Theories that focus on such everyday and seemingly mundane activities as individual thought and action, the interaction of two or more people, and the small groups that emerge from such interaction.
they-relations  The realm of their lives in which people relate purely to types of people (or larger structures in which such types exist) rather than directly experiencing other humans. (Schutz)
traditional action  Action taken on the basis of the ways things have been done habitually or customarily. (Weber)
traditional authority  Authority based on the belief by followers that certain people (based on their family, tribe, or lineage) have exercised sovereignty since time immemorial. The leaders claim, and the followers believe in, the sanctity of age-old rules and powers. (Weber)
tragedy of culture  Stems from the fact that, over time, objective culture grows exponentially while individual culture, and the ability to produce it, grows only marginally. Our meager individual capacities cannot keep pace with our cultural products. As a result, we are doomed to having increasingly less understanding of the world we have created and to being increasingly controlled by that world. (Simmel)
triad  A three-person group. (Simmel)
types  Patterns imposed on a wide range of actors by both laypeople and social scientists in order to combine a number of them into a limited number of categories. (Schutz)
typifications  A limited number of categories that we use to try to pigeonhole people, at least initially and provisionally. (Schutz)
unanticipated (unintended) consequences  Unexpected positive, negative, and irrelevant consequences.
unanticipated (unintended) consequences  Unexpected positive and negative consequences.
unit act  The basic component of Parsons's action theory involving an actor, an end, a situation, and norms and values. The actor chooses means to ends within a situation; that choice is shaped by conditions in the situation as well as by norms and values.
universalism-particularism  The pattern variable where the issue is whether you judge a social phenomenon by general standards that apply to all such phenomena or by more specific, emotional standards. (Parsons)
utilities  Actor's preferences, or values.
value-rational action  Action that occurs when an actor's choice of the best means to an end is chosen on the basis of the actor's belief in some larger set of values. This may not be the optimal choice, but it is rational from the point of view of the value system in which the actor finds herself. (Weber)
vectors of oppression and privilege  The varied intersections of a number of arrangements of social inequality (gender, class, race, global location, sexual preference, and age) that serve to oppress women differentially. Variation in these intersections qualitatively alters the experience of being a woman.
verstehen  A methodological technique involving an effort to understand the thought processes of the actor, the actor's meanings and motives, and how these factors led to the action (or interaction) under study. (Weber)
virtual social identity  What a person ought to be. (Goffman)
webbed accounts  Accounts woven together by reporting all the various actors' or standpoint groups' knowledge of an experience and describing the situations, including the dynamics of power, out of which the actors or groups came to create these versions.
we-relations  The realm of our daily lives in which we are aware of others' presence, directly experience them on a face-to-face basis, and experience one another intersubjectively. (Schutz)
world-system  A broad economic entity with a division of labor that is not circumscribed by political or cultural boundaries. It is a social system, composed internally of a variety of social structures and member groups, that is largely self-contained, has a set of boundaries, and has a definable life span. (Wallerstein)