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matriarchal descent patterns is that of Judaism, in

which it is the mother who confers the status of

Jew on her children. It is, however, not the case

that matriarchy can be read as the opposite to

patriarchy, since many matriarchal systems do

not confer on women the same authority, nor

access to property, as patriarchal systems do on

men. It is also the case that matriarchy can exist

in certain contexts within patriarchal societies;

the most obvious and well-known example would

be the matriarchal household, in which women

dominate the social and personal arrangements

of the domestic space, but in which power outside

the household belongs exclusively to men. As

is the case with the term patriarchy, matriarchy

is often used in a more general sense to denote a

pattern of female control and authority.


Mauss, Marcel (1872–1951)

Mauss was born in Epinal, also the birthplace of

mile Durkheim, who was his uncle and became

his teacher and mentor. Mauss led, so to speak,

the anthropological wing of the Durkheim school,

at any rate after the death in World War I of other

anthropologists (or ethnographers, as they generally

called themselves) associated with it. His numerous

and significant contributions derived

their data chiefly from the study of pre-literate

society but on Durkheim’s death he took over

the editorship of the Anne´e Sociologique, and in

1931 he was called to a chair in sociology at the

Colle`ge de France. With his uncle he wrote a seminal

essay on Primitive Classification (1903 [trans.

1963]); with H. Hubert, a “Sketch of a General

Theory of Magic”; with H. Beuchat, a very successful

“Essay on Seasonal Variations within Eskimo

Societies.” The latter two essays were published as

Sociologie et anthropologie (1906). Some of Mauss’s

other writings addressed classical anthropological

themes, such as sacrifice, myth, and ritual. Others,

however, owed their impact to the novelty of their

themes, such as laughter and tears, the “techniques

of the body,” and, most especially, the

gift. Mauss addressed the latter phenomenon, in

The Gift (1924 [trans. 1954]), as a major instance

of what he called “a total social phenomenon,”

that is one comprising at the same time juridical,

economic, religious, and aesthetical aspects,

none of which should be studied in isolation

from the others. His sophisticated handling of all

these topics constituted a major inspiration for

the development of structuralism, especially in

matriarchy Mauss, Marcel (1872–1951)


anthropology as practiced and theorized chiefly

by Claude Le´vi-Strauss after Mauss’s own death.



This term was successfully deployed by George Ritzer

in his book The McDonaldization of Society, first

published in 1993, and promoted in several other

volumes by the same author. He defines McDonaldization

as “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 of the rest of the world.” He continues by maintaining

that this process affects “not only the restaurant

business, but also education, work, health

care, travel, leisure, dieting, politics, the family,

and virtually every other aspect of society.” The

practices of the McDonalds restaurant chain are

thus used metaphorically to describe and illustrate

more general societal tendencies. According

to Ritzer, McDonalds operates in accordance with

four basic principles: efficiency, calculation, predictability,

and control. These principles, being

applied to workers and work organization and to

customers, account for the company’s success.

Their single-minded pursuit in a business organization

have had some detrimental consequences for

personnel, work, and their products. Work is

boring, and their goods are uniform just as they

were in factories engaged in the industrial production

of standardized commodities. Applied to other

domains of existence, like education or personal

care, the principles often have irrational effects,

damaging to the social relationships between

providers and recipients. The concept is primarily

a rhetorical device for redescribing processes

which in earlier sociological literature would be

described as rationalization. ALAN WARDE

McLuhan, Marshall (1911–1980)

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLuhan was read as one

of the most influential media theorists of our time

and is once again becoming widely discussed and

debated in the computer era. His 1964 work Understanding

Media dramatized the importance of

television and electronic broadcasting and entertainment

media on contemporary society. The

eventual decline of influence of McLuhan’s work

perhaps resulted in part from his exaggeration of

the role of television and electronic culture in

effecting a break from the print era and producing

a new electronic age. Yet, in retrospect,

McLuhan anticipated the rise and importance

of computer culture and the dramatic emergence

and effects of personal computers and the

internet that provide even more substance to

McLuhan’s claim that contemporary society is

undergoing a fundamental rupture with the past.

Indeed, McLuhan can be read in the light of

classical social theory as a major theorist of modernity,

with an original and penetrating analysis

of the origins, nature, and trajectory of the

modern world. Furthermore, he can be read in

retrospect as a major anticipator of theories of a

postmodern break, of a rupture with modernity,

of leaving behind the previous print–industrial–

urban-mechanical era and entering a new postmodern

society with novel forms of culture and

society. McLuhan’s work proposes that a major

new medium of communication changes the ratio

of the senses, the patterns of everyday life, modes

of social interaction and communication, and

many other aspects of social and individual life

that are often not perceived. “Understanding

media,” thus, for McLuhan, requires understanding

the form of the media and its structural

effects on the psyche, culture, and social life.

McLuhan’s analyses of book and print technology,

newspapers, roads, modern industry and mechanization,

war, radio and television, computers, and

other modern technologies and phenomena all illuminate

the constitution of the modern world

and provide new insights into modernity and the

emergence of a postmodern era. His description of

specific technologies and how they produced the

modern era and anticipation of how new emergent

electronic technologies are fashioning a new postmodern

era are often highly illuminating. McLuhan,

like Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson, and

other theorists of the postmodern, presents an

ideal-type analysis in which modernity is marked

by linearity, differentiation, explosion, centralization,

homogenization, hierarchy, fragmentation,

and individualism. Postmodernity, by contrast, is

marked by implosion or dedifferentiation, decentralization,

tribalism, synaesthesia, and a new

media and computer culture that would be called

cyberspace which would be theorized by Baudrillard

and other postmodern theorists.

As with Karl Marx and certain versions of postmodern

theory, there have been criticisms of

McLuhan’s notion of stages of history and his

ideal-type delineation of premodern, modern,

and postmodern societies. His depiction of premodern

societies as “primitive” and “savage” is

highly objectionable from the standpoint of contemporary

critical theory. Unlike more dialectical

theorists, McLuhan does not mediate between

the economy and technology in the construction

of contemporary media industries, although he

McDonaldization McLuhan, Marshall (1911–1980)


provides unique insights into media form and

the powerful effects of specific media. McLuhan

thus remains important for social theory and

cultural studies as we enter a new millennium.


Mead, George Herbert (1863–1931)

Best known in sociology as the progenitor of the

symbolic interactionist school, which builds upon

his ideas on the social nature of the act and its

relation to the human self and society, he

was actually one of the most original thinkers in

twentieth-century American philosophy. In addition,

he dedicated much thought and effort to

movements for progressive social reform.

As David Miller observes in George Herbert Mead:

Self, Language and the World (1973), Mead’s pivotal

philosophical concept of sociality, which he explicitly

articulated only late in his life, refers to

processes of interaction among and between phenomena

of all kinds throughout the natural universe.

Mead developed this idea by referring to

such disparate intellectual developments as,

among others, Einstein’s special theory of relativity

or Charles Darwin’s evolutionary principles.

That Mead’s thought is only partially understood

by most sociologists is due, at least in part, to his

well-known writer’s block. Most of his influential

works, including Mind, Self, and Society (1934), were

not composed for publication, but rather were

compiled from course notes taken by dedicated

students. This group included Herbert Blumer,

who transmitted edited statements of Mead’s

ideas into sociological circles. But there may be

other problems as well. It is unclear if Mead modeled

his philosophical notion of sociality on his

social psychology of human interaction, or vice

versa. In addition, Mead never worked out an epistemological

position adequate to understanding

interactions between phenomena with different

properties. Indeed, the absence of an epistemological

position in Mead’s thought is reflected in

the absence of a unifying method in symbolic

interactionism today. Not only are there two methodologically

distinct schools of symbolic interactionism,

the Chicago and Iowa Schools, but the

Chicago School often relies on methods much

richer in elegant ethnographic description than

in generalized sociological analysis.

Mead’s thought has experienced a renaissance in

recent years led by Hans Joas, Gary Cook, and Dmitri

Shalin. Ju¨rgen Habermas, more ambitiously,

has reframed and reconstructed sociological elements

of Mead’s thought and incorporated them

into his theory of communicative action. Habermas

emphasizes Mead’s focus on the coordination

of interaction via significant symbols. Mead, in

turn, was inspired, with regard to the significance

of communication, by C. S. Peirce (1839–1914), one

of the founders of the philosophy of pragmatism.

Mead was born in 1863, the son of a Congregational

minister father and a mother who

became President of Mount Holyoke College after

her husband’s death. Mead graduated from Oberlin

College in 1883 and enrolled at Harvard University

in 1887. Though he studied with William

James, he had a higher regard for Josiah Royce

(1855–1916). The strongest influences on Mead’s

thought were Charles Horton Cooley and John

Dewey (1859–1952), both of whom Mead met at

the University of Michigan, where he took a position

in 1891. Three years later he joined Dewey,

who accepted a chair in philosophy, as a member

of the Department of Philosophy at the University

of Chicago, where he spent the rest of his career.


Mead, Margaret (1901–1978)

A student of Franz Boas (1858–1942) and prote´ge´e of

Ruth Benedict (1887–1948), Mead was an anthropologist

of unrivaled international celebrity

during her long and multifaceted career. She opposed

cultures to races (see race and ethnicity) and

pointed to the diversity of practices of enculturation

as the key to any adequate account of the

behavioral diversity of different human populations.

Yet she shared with Benedict a relativism

tempered by a humanist psychology which licensed

the rebuke and even the pathologization

of the culture that failed to accommodate the

whole array of putatively natural psychosexual

human needs and temperamental inclinations of

its members. The part-relativist, part-humanist

thrust of her critical pedagogy is already at work

in Coming of Age in Samoa (1928). It is a motif in

more than forty books and hundreds of essays that

she would subsequently publish. Mead’s terrains of

investigation were many and far-flung; her critical

attention consistently returned to the intolerance

and the Puritanism of her native United States.

Quiet but sustained discomfort with the quality

of much of Mead’s ethnographic research erupted

into controversy after her death with Derek Freeman’s

Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making of a

Myth (1984). Her enduring stature owes more to

her long curatorial career at the American

Museum of Natural History, her early and persistent

advocacy of the use of multiple media of

Mead, George Herbert (1863–1931) Mead, Margaret (1901–1978)


ethnographic documentation and multiple genres

of ethnographic writing, her leadership as a public

scientist and intellectual, and her great success

in rendering anthropology accessible to a mass

audience. JAMES D. FAUBION


– see distribution.


In the social sciences, measurement consists in

the application of numbers to persons, social

objects, or events. An identical number may have

a radically different meaning, depending on the

predetermined rules for its application in a particular

measurement context. There are three

qualitatively different ways that numbers can be

applied to effect such measurement: nominal

scales are used to name things, people, or events;

ordinal scales are used to rank things, people, or

events; and cardinal (interval and ratio) scales are

used to represent quantity. First, nominal scales

may be used to name, or label, things, people, or

events. Scores assigned according to a nominal

scale could just as easily be letters, or words. The

numbers employed in a nominal scale operate to

distinguish between observations – but have no

cardinal, or real, value. Examples of the use of a

nominal scale include the assignment of a “1” for

females and a “2” for males, in a dataset. A student

number or social security number is also an

example of a nominal scale. The assignment of

numbers according to a nominal scale does not

permit the sophisticated statistical interpretation

of collections of such scores. For instance, it does

not make sense to infer that males are twice as

valuable as females, according to the scores

accorded to each (for it would be equally sensible

to accord a “2” to females and a “1” to males).

Similarly it would be nonsensical to compute the

average social security number. For this reason,

variables that are measured according to a nominal

scale are termed qualitative variables.

Second, numbers assigned according to ordinal

scales provide the researcher with more information

than do numbers assigned according to nominal

scales. In addition to performing the basic

function of categorization, such numbers also

provide a sense of the relative position of a

number in relation to other numbers. In this

sense, ordinal scales are quantitative, in that

they give a rough indication of the quantity of

the entity in question, relative to other entities.

A common instance of an ordinal scale is the

activity of ranking persons, events, or objects.

Thus, it may be stated that X is more popular

than Y, and that Y is more popular than Z; however,

an ordinal scale can tell us nothing about the

intervals between X, Y, and Z. That is, the consistency

of the intervals between adjacent ranks

cannot be assumed, according to an ordinal scale.

There are two kinds of cardinal scales: interval

scales and ratio scales. Interval scales provide a

third level of measurement. Interval scales, like

nominal and ordinal scales, may be used to categorize

things, events, or people. In addition, like

ordinal scales, scores reflect the property of quantity.

That is, different numbers reflect more or less

of a particular variable. However, interval scales

differ from ordinal scales in that they have the

property that numerical distances on the scale

represent equal distances on the dimension argued

to underlie each scale. Temperature (whether

measured by Fahrenheit or Celsius) is an example

of an interval scale. The distance between 5 and 10

degrees is identical to the distance between 20

and 25 degrees. Similarly, a log-interval scale of

measurement is one in which numbers are

assigned so that the ratios between values

reflect ratios in the attribute being measured.

In log-interval ratio scales, the logarithms of

the scale scores form an interval scale, as the ratio

a/b ¼ log a _ log b. Common examples of logratios

are density (mass divided by volume) and

fuel efficiency in kilometers per liter. The application

of interval scales within the social and behavioral

sciences is more contentious than within the

natural and physical sciences. Many statistical

tests rely upon the assumption that the data represent

an underlying dimension of equal intervals.

As early as 1946, Clyde Coombs in his “A

Theory of Psychological Scaling,” urged social scientists

to stick with lower levels of measurement,

rather than “quantifying by fiat.” The process of

transforming data into higher levels of measurement

is known as “scaling” or “quantification.”

Critics have argued that quantification or scaling

can, if applied without consideration, impose nonsensical

numerical values on non-numerical dimensions.

In turn, the ubiquity of this practice

raises questions about the transferability of

scaling, as a concept, from the physical sciences

to social phenomena, with the risk of otherwise

information-rich qualitative data being subjected

to the imposition of a single, linear, underlying


Ratio scales are argued to provide the most sophisticated

level of measurement. In addition to

possessing all of the properties of an interval

scale, a ratio scale also possesses an absolute zero

mean measurement


point. Time and length are instances of ratio

scales. Temperature is not, as “0” does not equal

the complete absence of heat.

A discontinuous or discrete variable, or dimension,

of interest is one that usually increases by

increments of one whole number. Pregnancy and

number of children are discrete variables. That is,

while it may be true that the average number of

children per Australian couple is 2.21, and that

the average number of live births per single

mother per year is 0.18, these expressions do not

reflect any particular real-world pregnancy or

child. One cannot be a little bit pregnant; just as

one cannot raise 0.21 of a child. In the interpretation

of averages based on discontinuous variables,

one should identify the closest sensible

denominator. For instance, in the above example,

we should expect to find 221 children per 100

Australian couples.

A continuous variable, or dimension, in contrast,

can in theory have an infinite number of

increments between each whole number. Height

and weight are common examples of continuous

variables. When measuring continuous variables,

it is always possible to achieve a more precise

measurement – and any measurement taken is

always an approximation. In consequence, the

measurement of continuous variables typically involves

the specification of a particular unit of

measurement, which specifies the desired level

of precision. This specification will result in all

measurements taken that fall within a particular

interval being recorded as an instance of that

interval. The upper and lower real limits of a

number are typically one half of the specified

unit of measurement. Thus, if one were recording

height in centimeters, the real limits for the

figure 164 would be 163.5 cm (lower limit) and

164.5 cm (upper limit). If the unit of measurement

were tenths of a centimeter, then the real limits

for the figure 164 would be 163.95 cm (lower limit)

and 164.05 cm (upper limit).

Measurement gives rise to consideration of the

issues of reliability and validity. Reliability refers

to the ability to repeat the results of a measurement

accurately (common forms include interrater

reliability; test–retest reliability; and measures

of internal consistency, including split-half

and coefficient alpha). Validity refers to the degree

of fit between the measurement taken and the

underlying analytic construct (construct validity);

or to the resemblance between the measurements

taken and their “real-life” equivalent (ecological

validity). The measurement scale employed may

have consequences for both these issues. Particular

caution may be necessary when combining extremely

qualitative, or “subjective” social issues,

such as racism, or homophobia, with higher-order

measurement approaches.

Measurement raises a number of issues for sociologists.

It engenders at least two basic challenges:

the question of finding an appropriate fit between

indicators and analytic concepts, and the search

for sufficiently accurate data. Sociological forms

of measurement are more diverse than those

found within other social sciences, including

psychology, where the variables of interest are

often articulated at an individual, rather than a

societal, level. In consequence, sociological researchers

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