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behavior, captures the sense in which individuals

are attributed with an autonomy previously

denied both by lack of resources and by the weight

of group or community conventions.

In tandem came a reorientation in the ethical

evaluation of consumption. Beginning in the

1980s in European sociology and cultural studies,

the moral condemnation of consumer behavior

was increasingly contested. (The USA had earlier,

from the late nineteenth century but particularly

from the 1930s, a much more optimistic

understanding of the cycle of economic growth

and increased consumption.) The view of the consumer

as a passive victim of processes associated

with mass production, of which advertising was

the epitome, was countered by demonstrations of

how people actively and creatively engaged with

goods, appropriating them for their own purposes.

The importance of consumer social movements

and associations, mobilizing in the name of

“the consumer” was also increasingly appreciated.

And as they flourish, governments claim more

frequently to speak and act on behalf of

consumption consumption


“consumers,” rather than of, say, classes, the

nation, or citizens, and political discussion

increasingly refers to consumer sovereignty, consumer

choice, and consumer rights. The discourse

of neo-classical economics takes prominence in

contemporary practical and ideological understanding

of consumption. ALAN WARDE

consumption cleavages

– see consumption.

consumption function

Rarely used in sociology, this term was central to

the macro-economics of J. M. Keynes, who was

concerned with the relationship between expenditure

for consumption and saving (and thus capital

investment) in fluctuations in capitalist economic

growth. The consumption function describes the

relationship between consumption and income,

proposing that, all things being equal, consumption

increases in proportion to income, though

not necessarily instantaneously. Indeed, many

conditions must be met for this relationship to

hold; stability of prices, rate of replacement of

durables, availability of credit, and level of inflation

all affect the decision about when and

whether to consume. The proportion of income

devoted to saving also increases with rise in

income; the poor being less able to afford to

save, and poor countries therefore having less resources

for investment. Subsequent work modifies

the Keynesian account. One alternative argues

that the relationship holds only in relation to

permanent income: if income fluctuates from

year to year, expenditure levels will be set in anticipation

of long-run and predictable levels

of income. This is the permanent income hypothesis

associated with Milton Friedman (1912– ). Another

alternative, the life-cycle hypothesis,

maintains that the age of consumers affects their

expenditure, with the young and the old spending

a larger part of their income on consumption,

less on saving, than those in middle age. Such

accounts aim to estimate aggregate levels of expenditure

and the savings ratio, indicators important

to national macro-level economic

management but of limited relevance to understanding

the social and cultural dimensions of

consumption. ALAN WARDE

control group

This term relates to classic experimental design,

such as the pretest–posttest control group design,

which may be diagrammed like this:

For a somewhat facetious example, let’s say

that a researcher suspects that cigarette smoking

causes health problems. She or he recruits 10,000

young children, and randomly divides them into 2

groups of 5,000 each. The experimental group is

required gradually to take up smoking in childhood,

with the amount of cigarettes gradually

rising to between 15 and 35 per day. The other

5,000, the control group, are never allowed to

smoke. The researcher then monitors the health

of the two groups over the decades. If the experimental

group tends to develop more medical conditions

such as emphysema, lung and throat

cancer, and heart disease than the control group,

the researcher can conclude that smoking causes

disease and lowered life expectancy. The experimental

and control groups are the same beforehand,

during the course of the experiment the

only difference is that the experimental group is

exposed to the “experimental stimulus” (in this

case, smoking), so that any difference in the end

must be due to (caused by) the experimental


The control group is the group in an experimental

design that does not receive the experimental

stimulus and hence provides the essential comparator

for the experimental group.

The essence of the true experiment is control –

the researcher controls everything except the

experimental stimulus so that any difference

between the experimental and control groups

must arise from the experimental stimulus. The

main advantage of the randomized experiment is

that, if it is carried out correctly, the researcher

can infer causality.



Identifying a tendency for societies to become

more alike, in principle on any institutional dimension,

the term “convergence” has most usually

been applied to macro-economic and political

trends, most notably in the work of Clark Kerr,

John T. Dunlop, Frederick Harbison, and Charles

Myers in Industrialism and Industrial Man (1960).

Their convergence thesis, an account of social

development much debated in the 1960s and

1970s, maintained that there was a tendency for

industrializing countries to develop similar

consumption cleavages convergence


institutional arrangements. They argued that “industrial

systems, regardless of the cultural background

out of which they emerge and the path

they originally follow, tend to become more alike

over an extended period of time” and that they

move towards a “pluralistic industrialism” where

power is shared between state, firms, and individuals.

Consciously in opposition to Marxist and

conflict theoretical accounts of social structure,

the convergence thesis envisaged greater harmony

and consensus as industrialization progressed

(see industrial society). Driven by the

so-called “logic of Industrial Society industrialism,”

causal priority was given to technology and

the requirements of the industrial system. It was

anticipated that industrialization would produce

similar patterns of division of labor and industrial

relations, the separation of households from

work, urbanization, with rationalization spreading

from the economic sphere into other realms of

social life. Hence, the social and cultural differences

between pre-industrial societies would

reduce. In many ways, this amounted to a prediction

that all countries would eventually converge

on a pattern established by the modern societies

of the western world. This quasi-evolutionary account

has not stood the test of time. It has been

criticized for inadequacies of theoretical explanation;

for its propensity to economic and technological

determinism; for the implication that

there is only one possible direction for the path

to economic development, that taken in Europe

and North America; and for lack of clarity as to

whether it is industrialism rather than capitalism

that has the effects detected. Empirically,

while industrial societies do have features in

common, they still exhibit very considerable variation

in their economic, social, and political arrangements.

It is currently more common to

consider instead varieties of capitalism, seeing

the prior institutional arrangements of countries

as laying down different paths of development.

Nor does it appear that material inequalities between

countries are diminishing, another condition

which would have to be met in order to

achieve convergence. Though the convergence

thesis is no longer invoked, some accounts of the

effects of globalization make similar projections

regarding the homogenization of culture, based

on the worldwide diffusion of the production

activities of large corporations. ALAN WARDE

conversation analysis

A field of study concerned with the norms, practices,

and competences underlying the organization

of social interaction, conversation analysis

(CA), notwithstanding the name, is concerned

with all forms of spoken interaction, including

not only everyday conversations between friends

and acquaintances, but also interactions in medical,

educational, mass media, and sociolegal contexts,

“monologic” interactions such as lecturing

or speech-making, and technologically complex

interactions such as web-based multiparty communication.

Originating within sociology in the

1960s and then developing with the privately circulated

lectures of Harvey Sacks in 1992, CA has

grown into a field of research that is practiced


CA emerged from two intellectual streams in

sociology. The first is based on E´mile Durkheim

and derives most proximately from the work of

Erving Goffman, who argued that social interaction

constitutes a distinct institutional order

comprising normative rights and obligations that

regulate interaction, and that function in broad

independence from the social, psychological,

and motivational characteristics of persons. The

second is Harold Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology.

This stresses the contingent and socially

constructed nature both of action and of the

understanding of action, and the role of shared

methods in the production, recognition, and

shared understanding of joint activities. The CA

perspective was formed from a fusion of these

two perspectives by H. Sacks and Emmanuel

Schegloff, who were in direct contact with their

originators. Within CA, the Goffmanian interaction

order structures the production, recognition,

and analysis of action as it unfolds in real

time, through the use of shared methods or practices.

This process (and its analysis) are possible

because participants reflexively display their analyses

of one another’s conduct in each successive

contribution to interaction. Correlative to this, CA

starts from the perspective that (contra both Noam

Chomsky and Talcott Parsons) the details of conduct

in interaction are highly organized and orderly

and, indeed, that the specificity of meaning

and understanding in interaction would be impossible

without this orderliness.

CA research centers on the analysis of audio- or

video-recorded naturally occurring interaction.

Recording is essential because no other form of

data retrieval is sufficiently detailed and accurate.

Naturally occurring interaction is essential because

other forms of interaction – for example,

scripted theatre, role playing, or interaction in

experimental contexts – are designed in terms of

the designer’s beliefs about interaction which

conversation analysis conversation analysis


bear an unknown relationship to the interaction

order itself. Accordingly, CA practitioners regard

naturally occurring interaction as the basic data

for the analysis of interactional structure and


CA proceeds at several analytic levels. At the

most basic level, CA looks for patterns in social

interaction for evidence of practices of conduct

that evidence systematic design. To be identified

as a practice, particular elements of conduct must

be recurrent, specifically situated, and attract responses

that discriminate them from related or

similar practices. A central feature of this procedure

is that the analysis of the practices used to

perform a social action (for example, prefacing an

answer to a question with “oh,” or identifying a

co-interactant by name in the course of a turn) can

be validated through the examination of others’


Second, CA focuses on sequences of actions. In

performing some current action, participants normally

project (empirically) and require (normatively)

the production of a “next” action, or range

of possible “next” actions, to be done by another

participant. Moreover, in constructing a turn

at talk, they normally address themselves to

immediately preceding talk, and design their

contributions in ways that exploit this basic positioning.

By the production of next actions, participants

show an understanding of a prior action and

do so at a multiplicity of levels – for example, by an

“acceptance,” an actor can show an understanding

that the prior turn was possibly complete, that it

was addressed to them, that it was an action of a

particular type (e.g. an invitation), and so on.

Within this framework, the grasp of a “next”

action within a stream of interactional projects,

the production of that action, and its interpretation

by the previous speaker are the products of

a common set of socially shared practices. CA analyses

are thus simultaneously analyses of action,

context management, and intersubjectivity, because

all three of these features are simultaneously,

if tacitly, the objects of the actors’ actions.

At a third level, practices cohere at various

levels of systemic organization. For example, the

turn-taking system for conversation is composed

of sets of practices for turn construction and turn

allocation. The question–answer pair is organized

by a large number of practices that structure the

timing and internal organization of responses to

maximize social solidarity. Evaluations of states of

affairs are structured by a range of practices

through which people manage the relative priority

of their rights to evaluate them, and so on.

Based on this framework, CA has developed as

an empirical discipline focused on a range of

domains of interactional conduct, including

turn-taking (the allocation of opportunities to

speak among participants), the organization of

conversational sequences, the internal structuring

of turns at talk and the formation of actions,

the organization of repair (dealing with difficulties

in speaking, hearing, and understanding talk),

story-telling and narrative, prosody, and body


Implicit in CA’s sequential perspective is the

idea that social action is both context-shaped and

context-renewing, and that social context is not a

simple “container” of social interaction, but

rather something that is dynamically created, sustained,

and altered across an interaction’s course.

Similar conclusions hold for the relevant social

identities of the participants, which are also activated,

sustained, or adjusted on a temporally contingent

basis. This perspective has generated a

growing CA research presence in the analysis of

social institutions. Some of this research has investigated

practices, sequences, and organizations

that are earmarks of particular institutions or

their tasks. Much of this work has been descriptive

and naturalistic, but it has also been used in

explanatory or predictive multivariate models. Because

these analyses are internally valid in an

“emic” sense, they have proved to be robust predictors

of conduct, attitudes, and social outcomes,

and this use of CA is likely to grow in the future.


Cooley, Charles Horton (1864–1929)

Rooted near his birthplace by the University of

Michigan campus, Cooley led an uneventful life

as an eccentric, renowned professor. A student of

John Dewey, he helped introduce pragmatist ideas

into American sociology.

Cooley’s Human Nature and the Social Order (1902)

set forth his famous notion of the “looking-glass

self ” – that the individual’s sense of self is

“mirrored” through others. He propounded this

against prevailing utilitarian assumptions of the

self as a natural given. His view of the self as a

social product – that individual and society are

not separable, but different aspects of the same

thing – became a key stimulus, along with ideas of

George Herbert Mead, to symbolic interactionism.

Relatedly, Cooley called on sociologists to employ

an empirical method he called sympathetic

introspection – investigating the consciousness

of actors by putting oneself in their place. This

formulation anticipated by generations the

conversation analysis Cooley, Charles Horton (1864–1929)


late psychoanalytic catchword of “empathic


In Social Organization: A Study of the Larger Mind

(1909), Cooley elaborated another key concept,

the primary group, a core process at the heart of

institutions where close, intimate, face-to-face

interactions establish common symbols and

meanings. His Social Process (1918) emphasized

how human plasticity leads to social change as a

never-ending but fragile process of reciprocal

change in self, primary group, and social definitions.

His pragmatist conception of the creative

potential of social disorganization held that social

dissolution of traditions generates virtues as well

as vices.

Other works include Life and the Student: Roadside

Notes on Human Nature, Society, and Letters (1927) and

posthumous papers, Sociological Theory and Social

Research (1930). A volume of selected writings, On

Self and Social Organization (1998), was edited by

Hans-Joachim Schubert, who wrote an authoritative

intellectual biography. DONALD LEVINE

corporate crime

– see crime.


Used in a number of more or less precisely defined

senses in sociology, in its loosest sense, this means

that two variables are related. So, if we state that

longevity is positively correlated with social

status, then we are saying that higher-status

people in any society live longer than lower-status

individuals. A negative or inverse correlation

would mean that as one variable increases,

the other decreases. So, cigarette smoking and

longevity are negatively correlated.

In its stricter sense, correlation is defined as a

statistical test to determine whether two variables

are related. There are a number of different

classes of statistic, and the choice of the appropriate

type of correlation to calculate is determined

by the nature of the data, and whether it is

parametric or non-parametric.

Knowing that two things are correlated is itself

interesting, but usually social scientists want to

go beyond simple correlation and investigate

cause before they can really state that they have

started to understand the relationship between

two variables. Just the fact that two variables are

correlated tells us little about the causal relationships

between them. For instance, there is a correlation

between the affluence of a country and

the proportion of lawyers in the population. Is this

because people like the services of lawyers, so as

they get richer they can afford more of the good

things in life like ice cream and lawyers? Or is it

because lawyers make an economy operate more

efficiently, so that countries with more lawyers

become richer? Or is the relationship spurious,

and both lawyers and affluence are by-products

of a certain type of capitalism? We would need

some more complex form of analysis than simply

calculating the correlation to be able to understand


Coser, Lewis A. (1913–2003)

Born Ludwig Cohen in Berlin, Coser left for Paris

in 1913, where he studied comparative literature

and sociology. He was arrested by the French

government in 1940, but eventually escaped,

emigrating to the United States in 1941, where

he changed his family name to Coser. Under the

guidance of Robert Merton and Paul Lazarsfeld,

he obtained his doctorate from Columbia University.

In the postwar period, he became a member

of the circle of New York intellectuals and published

critical articles in Partisan Review, Commentary,

and the Nation, and with Irving Howe and

others he founded Dissent, for which he served as

co-editor. He founded the sociology department at

Brandeis University and taught there for fifteen

years, before moving to the University of New

York – Stony Brook, where he remained until his

retirement. He was the President of the Society for

the Study of Social Problems in 1967–8. He was

President of the American Sociological Association

in 1975. Coser received an honorary degree

from the Humboldt University in Berlin in 1994.

Coser is well known for his contributions to

the history of sociological theory, including Men

of Ideas (1970) and Masters of Sociological Thought.

Ideas in Historical and Social Context (1971). He

edited, with Bernard Rosenberg, Sociological Theory

(1957). He contributed to the study of social conflict

in The Functions of Social Conflict (1956). The

principal influences behind Coser’s sociology

were Max Weber and Georg Simmel who inspired

his approach to classical sociological theory, but it

was Simmel in particular who shaped his study of

social conflict. Coser was concerned by the process

of professionalization in American sociology,

which had to some extent undermined the importance

of sociology as social criticism. He feared

that the dominance of empiricism and methods

would erode the substance and significance of

sociological investigation. Coser was an influential

teacher of sociology, as illustrated in his

Sociology Through Literature (1963).


corporate crime Coser, Lewis A. (1913–2003)


cosmopolitan sociology

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