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40 Examples of Sociological Concepts

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The following are foundational social concepts, or sociological concepts, that are important to the study and analysis of society.


The process of learning how to interact with others socially.

Socialization agents

Individuals, groups, institutions and experiences that play a role in socialization.


The shared meaning and behavior that emerges in groups.

Social structure

The institutions, systems and relationships that organize a society.


Durable features of a society such as a family that provide stability and structure.

Social order

A society that functions according to established processes, policies and norms.


Unwritten rules, expectations and shared behaviors that emerge in groups.

Social roles

A position or status in society that creates a duty and set of responsibilities.


What society owes the individual.


Things that an individual can decide for themselves without the interference of society.


Emphasis on individual rights and freedoms over the interests of society.


Prioritizing society over the individual such that everyone is required to do what is decided by power structures.

Social cohesion

The degree of unity and cooperation in a society.

Social support

The support an individual can rely upon from others in society such as their family, friends and community.


Elements of society that are sustained over multiple generations.

Social change

The processes such as culture, technological innovation and politics that change society.

Social identity

A sense of self-concept derived from membership in various social groups or categories.

Cultural capital

The ability to influence and thrive within a culture.

Social control

The capacity of society to regulate and shape group and individual behavior.

Social constructionism

An approach to sociology that views social reality as constructed with language.

Social construct

A concept that is created, developed and maintained by society.

Social facts

Observable realities invented by society that constrain the individual.

Social deviance

Behavior and beliefs that violate social norms, values or rules.

Social status

The respect that one person commands from others in a society based on factors such as wealth, power and prestige.

Social stratification

A tendency for societies to form hierarchies of power and privilege.

Socioeconomic class

Large social groups such as the upper class, middle class and working class that are defined by social status, economic position and culture.


Social pressure to conform to consensus views.

Social loafing

A tendency to reduce effort when part of a group.

Social power

The ability to shape or control social processes and the resources of society.


Advantages and benefits a person has in a society. Not necessarily unearned but often presented as such.

Collective consciousness

The capacity of groups to share concepts, beliefs, values and goals.


A sociological theory that class struggle will overthrow capitalism whereby the state will take over all capital and force absolute equality. The basis for communism.


The idea that there are no universal truths only subjective interpretations.

Cultural relativism

The view that cultures can’t be understood from the outside with any type of universal or common criteria.


The emergence of culture in relatively small groups within a society.


A broad trend in social sciences centered around relativism whereby features of society such as language are viewed as a means of social control.

Critical Theory

A sociological theory that views society in terms of power structures whereby every feature of society is intended as a form of social control imposed by an elite.


The capacity of individuals and groups to shape society, communities, culture and other aspects of life. This is downplayed by critical theory that views the masses as hapless victims of power structures.


A sense of isolation an individual experiences in relation to society, culture, community and others in general.

Social contract theory

The theory that individuals surrender some rights and freedoms to society in exchange for the benefits of society.
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