Term of Art: Achievement

achievement: The successful accomplishment of, or performance in, a socially defined task or goal. Talcott Parsons (in Social [sic] Theory and Modern Society, 1967) suggests that modern societies use indices of achievement–examination credentials or performance in role-based tasks–rather than ascriptive criteria to recruit, select, and evaluate individuals for particular roles, However, research demonstrates the continued influence of ascription in social stratification, notably according to such factors as race and sex. There is an interesting cross-disciplinary discussion of the concept and its interpretation of achievement, its relationship to creativity and innovation, and its role in explaining economic growth in England and Japan since the seventeenth century, in Penelope Gouk (ed.), Wellsprings of Achievement (1995).”

Excerpted from: Matthews, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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