Guide to the vibrant and

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This is where the nation-state comes in. Its institutions

(from the education system to the army)

promote and sustain the nation’s awareness of

its uniqueness and of the righteousness of its

contested claims. Its internal policies keep social

conflicts from destroying a sense of oneness

within the national population. Its external policies

identify and pursue the nation’s particular

interests, often in potential or actual contrast

with those of other nations. In the discourse of

nationhood, the state’s own institutional identity

as a form of political Herrschaft (“domination”) of

men over men is seen as redeemed and justified

by its service to a higher entity.

The emphasis laid so far on the significance of

law applies chiefly to a state’s domestic arrangements

and affairs, not to those relating to its

foreign policy. Each state exercises exclusive jurisdiction

over a bounded territory, lying next to

territories over which jurisdiction is exercised by

other states. Thus, the modern political universe is

constituted by a plurality of states, and the relations

between them are of a different nature from

the relations within them. The institutionalization

processes we have discussed so far concern

the latter relations, and affect much less those

between states. Here, political power manifests

itself in a much more naked form, related ultimately

to the sheer might each of the states can

bring to bear, if necessary, in its contentions

with the others.

In spite of various arrangements for the formation

and implementation of an international

order, the modern political universe is not very

similar to the state, for it is, one may say, “open

at the top.” The system generated by the policies

of states vis-a`-vis one another is capable of

reaching an equilibrium, as the imagery of the

balance of power suggests. But from time to time

that equilibrium must be re-set, as it were,

through the threat of or the actual recourse to


These considerations, it barely needs to be said,

amount at best to a highly conventional understanding

of the state. These issues are elaborated

in Gianfranco Poggi, The State: Its Nature, Development

and Prospects (1990). The vicissitudes of actual

state-making, and their outcomes, have varied

considerably even in the European context, not

to mention those other parts of the world which

have sought, or have been compelled, to put their

arrangements for rule through processes similar

to those outlined above. Furthermore, it is

claimed on some counts that the story of the

modern state itself, and particularly of the

nation-state, is going through its final phase,

under the impact of such phenomena as economic

globalization and the formation of one political

“hyper-power” seeking to promote and control

globalization over the world as a whole.


state state


statistical control

– see statistics.

statistical significance

– see statistics.


This term has two distinct meanings, both of

which are relevant to sociology. The original

meaning of the term refers to facts about society.

This is what government statisticians produce, as

they measure the ways in which societies change

by monitoring births, deaths, marriages, employment,

the balance of trade, and so on. To this end,

social data are collected, for instance through

the registration of births and deaths, and through

the census. Having accurate and up-to-date information

about a society is seen as essential to efficient

government, so that policies are targeted

to those areas where the need is most acute, and

problems are spotted at an early stage. Statistics

are also seen as having an important democratic

function that permits the success or failure of

a government to be evaluated against the facts –

for instance, have literacy rates improved and

hospital waiting lists reduced?

However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

is far from being an uncontroversial government

department. Social scientists have often been

critical of the ways in which statistics have failed

to provide a true reflection of society. For instance,

unemployment statistics are regularly

attacked from both the left and the right. Rightwing

critics claim that the government overestimates

the number of people who are unemployed,

as many of those claiming benefit on

the grounds of unemployment could find work

if they wanted to, or actually work informally or

illegally. Left-wing critics have argued that the

figures are under-estimates of the true level of

unemployment, because many individuals who

would work if they could find jobs (such as

married women and early retirees) are excluded

from the numbers. And feminists have often

argued that statistics highlight the more male

aspects of life, such as the formal economy, while

ignoring the importance of domestic work and

childrearing for the well-being of a society.

Many social phenomena are perhaps too complex

to be adequately measured by figures. But

many claim that governments deliberately manipulate

figures to highlight their achievements

and hide their failures. Sociologists have often

been at the forefront of these debates, and have

often used their influence, for instance through

the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), to hold governments

to account.

Over time a second meaning of the term statistics

has emerged and many people who have no

interest in society at all call themselves statisticians.

In this meaning, statistics can be seen as a

branch of mathematics that deals with the analysis

of data. In the extreme, some pure statisticians

are interested only in the development of tools

to analyze data and have no interest whatsoever

outside of their mathematical properties.

Within sociology, there is a strong historical

tradition of using empirical data to understand

social change, going back to E´mile Durkheim.

Now, this type of analysis is seen as an integral

part of sociology and the ability to analyze numerical

data is seen as an important sociological skill.

There are a number of functions that statistics

perform within sociology. Perhaps the simplest

and most important is the ability to explore numerical

data and apply the sociological imagination.

This approach to statistics, known as

exploratory data analysis (EDA), emphasizes the

way in which a good researcher can look at data,

with a combination of openness to new ideas and

skepticism about the way in which data can

mislead, and gain new insights into the social

world. EDA often uses graphs to explore the features

of a dataset. How one determines the way

in which the distribution of variables should be

investigated is an example of EDA, with the emphasis

on an enquiring mind rather than on mathematical


A more conventional approach to statistics,

termed inferential statistics, is concerned with

generalizing results from a sample to a population.

Providing that the sample is drawn randomly,

or in some other way which assures its

representativeness, then conclusions can be

drawn about a whole population, instead of just

the sample that was interviewed. So, for instance,

a general election result can be predicted from

interviews with just a few hundred or a few thousand

voters. But there is statistical error, or

sampling error, involved in making such predictions.

Often we want to know whether the patterns

we observe in a sample can be confidently

generalized to a population. If they can, the result

is said to be statistically significant. In most cases

where researchers analyse datasets (for instance

with correlations, multiple regressions, or log

linear analyses) as well as describe the relationships

within the data, the results will also indicate

whether the results are statistically significant.

statistical control statistics


This is often done by assigning a “p” value to any

statistic, indicating the confidence that the result

has not occurred by error alone. For instance, the

terminology “p < 0.05” signifies that the chance

of the result being false and brought about only

by sampling error is less than 0.05, or 5 percent,

or 1-in-20. This is usually taken as the minimum

level of certainty that makes a quantitative

finding acceptable as a fact.

Beyond the calculation of statistical significance,

more theoretically interesting work

involves the modeling of data, as a way of understanding

the causal structures that account for

sociological phenomena, for example in multivariate

analysis or path analysis. Such approaches

have attracted criticism, much of it for being positivist

and reductionist. But much of this criticism

is really aimed at the poor use of statistics,

rather than its use per se. Sociologists would

simply be unable to understand many sociological

phenomena, or to detect many forms of social

change, without being able to measure and

analyze them statistically.

The use of statistics in the social sciences has

been revolutionized by the advent of user-friendly

statistical software able to perform complex

analyses on a personal computer. Analyses that

would have taken weeks can now be computed

in seconds, and many tasks have now been deskilled,

so that knowledge of the mathematics

underpinning the statistics is no longer necessary.

The most widely used statistical package in

sociological research is SPSS (Statistical Package

for the Social Sciences), a commercially available

software suite. However, many others are also

available, ranging from freeware to advanced

packages better suited to the needs of advanced

statisticians. As well as performing the calculations

for descriptive and inferential statistics,

these packages can also produce illuminating

and insightful graphical representations of

data – for instance scatterplots or box-and-whisker

diagrams. The appropriate use of graphs can be a

powerful tool for the researcher in understanding

their data, and also in communicating their

findings to wider audiences.

Statistics is seen as a distinct career path for

some individuals and some quantitative research

projects will employ a specialist statistician. But

many social statisticians see themselves as primarily

social scientists, who happen to specialize

in quantitative data analysis skills.

There are a number of types of statistical tests

commonly used in sociology and others are

constantly being developed. One of the most

important considerations in determining which

type of statistical test to use is to examine carefully

the nature of the measurement of the independent

and dependent variables. In some cases

they are, arguably, not measurements at all but

simply categorizations – for instance into ethnic

groups or voters for different political parties. In

other cases, the variables can rank-order cases:

for instance, many measures of social class derived

from occupations can order the classes from

the most advantaged to the least advantaged,

but cannot claim to be able to measure the size

of the gap between any two classes. Finally, some

measures in sociology claim to be similar to measurements

of the physical world, in that they can

tell us the size of the interval between two cases –

for instance, the income of individuals, or the

fertility rates of countries. Each of these types of

measurement, categorical, ordinal (or ranked),

and interval, require different types of tests to

understand adequately the relationships between


status crystalization

– see social status.


– see prejudice.


As Erving Goffman noted in Stigma: Notes on the

Management of Spoiled Identity (1963), the concept

of stigma refers to a deeply discrediting attribute

or “mark of social disgrace” that is likely to

become the focus of others’ attention and concern,

making it difficult for a person to engage

in smooth or pleasant interactions. Certain types

of attributes are especially likely to evoke stigma.

One set of attributes includes physical or

mental impairments. We tend to assume that

others will appear to be normal; that is, they

will walk normally, talk coherently, see and

hear adequately, have a standard level of physical

stamina, and have the ability to participate in a

normal conversation. If someone does not possess

these attributes, they are vulnerable to stigmatization.

Those individuals who have particularly

noticeable bodily aberrations, such as a physical

deformity, debilitating illness, or deteriorated

mind, are especially likely to be defined as deviant.

Although they have not committed a deviant

act, others view them as tainted because their

bodily appearance falls outside the bounds of


statistics stigma


A second set involves signs of a flawed character.

As Goffman observed, people are likely to be

seen as deviant if they display attributes, such as

dishonesty, selfishness, or unnatural desires,

regarded as indicators of a blemished character,

especially when these attributes are linked to

a known history of criminality, mental illness,

alcoholism, drug addiction, child abuse, unemployment,

or political extremism. What is considered

an emblem of flawed character changes over time

and is a function of society standards.

Finally, stigma may result from membership in

a discredited or oppressed group. People also have

a higher probability of being recognized as deviant

if they belong to an ethnic, racial, religious, or

political group that is defined as undesirable by

members of the mainstream society. This is clearly

illustrated in the case of Jews, who have been

persecuted and killed in various times and places

because of their religious heritage and ethnic

characteristics. Whether a group is targeted as

deviant depends in large part on the amount of

political power they possess within a society or

community. If they have relatively little power,

they are more apt to have stigmatizing definitions

imposed upon them by dominant groups – and

these definitions are more likely to stick.

Goffman emphasized that nearly all of us possess

traits, or combinations of traits, that fail to

live up to the appearance norms of our society. As

a result, almost all of us are potentially vulnerable

to the threat of stigma. Our situation differs significantly,

however, depending upon the visibility

of our nonnormative traits. If they are hidden and

not easily detected, we can draw upon various

protective strategies, such as passing or covering,

to control the information that others receive

about us and avoid having a “spoiled identity”

imposed upon us. On the other hand, if our deviant

traits are clearly visible to others, we have a

more limited range of identity strategies available.

In our efforts to address others’ stigmatizing

attributions and avow desirable features of the

self, we are likely to turn to defensive strategies,

such as neutralization and destigmatization, or

transformative strategies, such as embracement.

We are not passive in the face of stigma. Instead,

we actively manage our self-presentations in an

effort to avoid, deflect, or transcend stigma and

the burdens of a spoiled identity.



– see stigma.

Stinchcombe, Arthur Leonard (1940– )

A professor of sociology at Northwestern University,

Illinois, since 1983, Stinchcombe is currently

Professor Emeritus. He has made substantial contributions

to the study of slavery in Sugar Island

Slavery in the Age of Enlightenment (1995), to the

analysis of administration and organization in

Creating Efficient Industrial Administration (1974)

and Information and Organizations (1990), and to

the study of the economy in Economic Sociology


Stinchcombe is famous, however, for his contributions

to teaching and constructing social

theories in his Constructing Social Theories (1968),

which was awarded the Sorokin Prize in 1969. He

was a founder of the theory construction movement.

Stinchcombe argued that, while the theories

of classical sociology such as those of Karl

Marx and E´mile Durkheim were complex, they

can be represented by relatively simple systems

models. He promoted commitment to hypothesis

testing, the falsification of theories, and theoretical

models such as system feedback loops. To

some extent he followed Robert K. Merton in

calling for theories of the middle range that could

be tested and that illuminated actual social

processes. BRYAN S. TURNER

Strauss, Anselm L. (1916–96)

An emeritus professor at the University of California,

San Francisco, much of Strauss’s academic

work was published jointly with Barney G. Glaser.

In The Discovery of Grounded Theory (1968), they developed

an approach to empirical research which

involves a general method of comparative research

in which theory is discovered through inductively

exploring research findings. Strauss’s

grounded theory was inductive, cumulative, and

middle range. He contributed to the study of

professions, medical organizations, and the

experience of death and dying.

Strauss interpreted the social world as a negotiated

order and this perspective characterized

his approach from the early essay on “The Hospital

and its Negotiated Order” (1963) and Mirrors and

Masks. The Search for Identity (1959) to his later

work on Negotiations (1978). In Social Organization

of Medical Work (1985), Strauss and colleagues studied

the negotiation of workplace settings, such

as hospitals – specifically how the social interconnections

between technology, work organization,

and occupational clusters are managed.

Symbolic interactionism has an irreverent tone

towards the professions, and in The Boys in White

(Becker et al., 1961), Strauss and his colleagues

stigmatization Strauss, Anselm L. (1916–96)


demystified the hospital as a place of work and

showed that physicians, like other workers, were

subject to the vagaries of interaction settings,

including endless negotiations.

Strauss remains influential through his analysis

of trajectories, in which social relations involve

a series of biographical transformations of identity

through distinctive status passages. These concepts

were elaborated in influential empirical

studies of death and dying with Glaser, such as

Awareness of Dying (1965) and Time for Dying (1967).

Different conditions or diseases have different

trajectories, involving different forms of expressive

and instrumental work. A lingering dying

trajectory was described in the case study published

as Anguish (1970). Their empirical work

on these trajectories was partly summarized in

a formal theory on Status Passage (Glaser and

Strauss, 1971). BRYAN S. TURNER


– see industrial relations.


A theoretical tradition whose formation and influence

can be seen as much in the fields of

linguistics (Ferdinand de Saussure), literature

(Roland Barthes), psychoanalysis (Jacques Lacan),

history (Fernand Braudel), anthropology (Claude

Le´vi-Strauss), and philosophy (Louis Althusser)

as it can in sociology. It is associated with the

search for deep and relatively abiding structures

that lie beneath the flux and change of surface

events and apparent contingencies. In sociology

the work of E´mile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss

is often associated with structuralism, as is the

work of later writers such as Pierre Bourdieu,

Anthony Giddens, and Stuart Hall, who are all

clearly marked by the tradition.

Most commentators relate the founding of

structuralism as a distinctive tradition to the

Course in General Linguistics (1916 [trans. 1974])

written by the Swiss linguist Saussure and published

posthumously in 1916. Saussure argued

that, instead of focusing on language change,

linguistics should concentrate on the language

system which endured through the surface

changes. To this end he distinguished between

the diachronic and the synchronic axes of language.

The diachronic was the historical, whereas

the synchronic pointed to those aspects of a language

that existed as a system at any one point

in time. By suspending time and taking a snapshot

of a language system, one could examine

the internal relations between the various

grammatical, functional, and meaningful elements

of a language. The distinction between

“langue” (the stock or system of language as a

whole) and “parole” (instances of speech) takes

this further. Any one instance of speech (“parole”)

is generated by the language system that both

provides its conditions of possibility and places

limits on what can intelligibly be said.

For Saussure, and for later structuralists such as

Le´vi-Strauss and Barthes, language is a system in

which each term relies on its relations with other

terms. The distinction between the signifier (the

written word, image, or sound) and the signified

(the meaning carried by the signifier) as joint

components of the sign is central, as is the fact

that neither term involves the referent (the real

object referred to). The signification system is

markedly autonomous from the world of referents.

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