Home >> Basic Concepts >> Terms of Sociology - A

Terms of Sociology

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M
N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

Accommodation
The process of adjustment in the social relations among essentially antagonistic groups whereby certain mutually tolerable working arrangements arise which diminish for overt expressions of the underlying antagonisms among them.

Acculturation
The process whereby new culture traits are adopted and incorporated into an existing culture. The process of mutual modification of two or more different cultures which are in contact with each other without much sign of their fusing into a single homogeneous culture.

Achievement Motivation
According to D.C McClelland ,the need to perform well or achievement motivation significantly determines a person's effort in reaching some given standard of excellence in comparison with competitors. It is a major determinant of entrepreneurial activity and a cause of rapid economic growth when widely dispersed in a society. McClelland's views have been criticized as providing an explanation in terms of characteristics of individuals while neglecting social structural factors.

Action Theory
It distinguishes action from mere behavior in that action involves meanings or intentions. Action theory is an analysis of action starting with the individual actor. Analysis proceeds in terms of typical actors in typical situations by identifying actor's goals, expectations and values. The means of achieving these goals the nature of the situation and the actor's knowledge of the situation.Talcott Parsons refers to these elements as action frame of reference. Action theory can be traced to the works of Max Weber inspired by Weber two forms of action theories have been developed one form of action theory is reflected in the works of Alfred Schultz and subsequently Harold Garfinkel.Here priority is given to the meaningfulness of the action. The other form of action theory found in the works of Talcott Parsons in which the idea of meaningfulness is subordinated is the concept of social structure.

Agnation
The practice of reckoning descent and kinship exclusively through the male line.

Agnosticism
The point of view that the existence of God cannot be scientifically proved.

Agrarian movement
A social movement in which the farmers of a country seek not only to recognize the agricultural economy but to change the relative importance of agriculture in the total economy of the country and to improve their own social,economic,educational and political status.

Agrarian socialism
The political and economic ideology which justifies collectivization in agriculture.

Ahimsa
In politics it refers to non-violent opposition to civil authority. In Jainism the religious doctrine which considers all life sacred.

Alien
A person living in a country who was born elsewhere and who is not a citizen of his country of residence.

Alimony
The support payments made to a divorced spouse as ordered by the court of law.

Alienation
It denotes the state of estrangement of individuals from themselves and others. Karl Marx is responsible for popularizing this concept and for giving it a sociological meaning. The basis of allegation for Marx lies in the private ownership of means of production. Marx identified four particular manifestations of alienation- The worker is alienated from the product of his labour since what he produces is appropriated by others and he has no control over it.
The worker is alienated from the act of production.
The worker is alienated from his human nature because the first two aspects of alienation deprives him from his productive activity.
The worker is alienated from other men since capitalism transforms social relations into market relations and people are judged by their position in the market relations rather than their human qualities.
Weber found manifestation of alienation in the bureaucratic organization of social life in modern industrial societies.M Seeman has attempted to provide a more comprehensive definition of alienation by incorporating various social and psychological states within the scope of this concept.

Amalgamation
The process of a genetic mixing of races.

Amulet
A small object believed to contain supernatural power worn for protection against evil.

Ancestor worship
The religious ritual that is based on the belief that the ghosts of deceased can mystically intercede on behalf of their living descendents.

Annales School
An influential group of French social historians including L Febvar,M Bloch and F Braudel etc.

Animism
One of the basic concepts of 18th century evolutionary theory of religion popularized by R.B Taylor in his primitive culture. Even Spencer supported the idea that animism was the universal and earliest form of religion practice. Taylor explained the prevalence of animistic beliefs by conjecturing that belief in animism among the primitive people provides an explanation for such phenomena as death, hearing the echo, seeing one's image in water etc.

Animistic theory of religion
The view that preliterate men personified every thing and therefore spirits were elevated to the status of powerful Gods. At that point religion as a human institution came into existence.

Anomie
This is a social condition characterized by the breakdown of norms governing social interaction. This may happen either due to existence of contradictory norms or due to inadequacy of norms. Durkheim used this concept to describe abnormal forms of division of labor and also in his typology of suicide. Later Merton adapted this concept to explain deviance in American Society. According to him Anomie situation arisen when there is lack of coordination between culturally defined goals and the legitimate institutional means of achieving these goals. Individual adaptations to such an anomie situation leads to deviant behavior.

Anthropology
The study of the origins of the human beings, human racial variability and the development of human cultures.

Applied sociology
The use of the sociological knowledge in solving or reducing social problems.

Assimilation
The process by which the people of two or more cultures who have come into contact with each other lose their unique cultural identities and become fused into a single homogeneous cultural unit which is different from any of the original component cultural units.

Association
The process of interaction. The process where new groups are formed or group cohesion is strengthened .A number of formally organized people who are bound together by the fact they are seeking some objectives.

Atheism
The point of view which denies the existence of God

Abstraction
Abstraction said to take place when we select from the phenomenon we study and whose character we wish to describe, such traits as would form a basis of their classification. In social sciences as well as natural sciences there are many varieties which can be neglected because they are less relevant to the phenomena being studied. To the extend that knowledge is possessed of the condition under which the neglected variables are or not significant the more powerful is the theory.

Acephalous
Headless or stateless societies are acephalous societies. In such societies positions of authority within kinship or domestic group provide a means of control together with institutionalized behavior relating to lineages, tribes and tribal segments.

Ambilateral
Refers to kinship system in which one is free to identify with maternal or paternal kin group according to his will.

Alliance theory
Associated with Levi Strauss this theory argues that in kinship systems, inheritance and the continuation of the vertical line i.e. descent is less important as compared to the horizontal links i.e. alliance. Thus the relationship of reciprocity and exchange brought by marriage is more important.

Ambivalence
The coexistence in one person of opposing emotions in sociology the dual consciousness posits a class which holds apparently inconsistent beliefs and values, resulting in an ambivalent attitude to some of the central institutions in society.

Atomism
Atomism views the world as composed of discrete atomistic elements and reduces knowledge to observation of the smallest indivisible elements such as human beings-not social structures and social institutions.

Anthromorphism
Organic analogy in sociology attribution of human characteristics to that which is not human.

Asiatic mode of production
Found in least developed societies according to Marx for example in India. According to Marx Asiatic mode of production explains the stagnation of oriental societies. Basic features of society having Asiatic mode of production are absence of private property, self-sufficient village economy, control of public works by state, absence of class and thus class- struggle which causes a stagnant society in absence of social change.

Androgyny
In this type of society social roles are not assigned on the basis of sex or concept of masculinity or feminity.

Agnate
An agnate is one related by descent through males only.

Anascopic
A theory which starts from individual and looks upward to contract a conception of society eg.theory of humans.

Authoritarian Personality
The concept indicates the way in which the structure of personality can be predisposed to the acceptance of anti-democratic political beliefs.Adorno in his study of the Authoritarian Personality states that hierarchically and authoritarian parent child relationships atomized view of social relationships leading to the formation of stereotypes,conventionality,exploitative dependency, rigid and repressive denial during socialization culminate in a personality with a social philosophy which worships the strong and disdain the weak. Such type personality are predisposed to the acceptance of authoritarian group.

Automation
A series of individual computer-controlled or robotic machine tools with electro-mechanical link operations replacing transfer by hand. Automation displaces human labor and skill to maintenance, planning, distribution and ancillary work.

Avoidance
When one party avoids the other a man avoids his wife's mother in some societies.

Avanculate
Term used to describe mother's brother authority over sisters children in a matrilineal society and sometimes used to describe the privileged joking relationships between maternal uncle and nephew.