Social Values

Sociology for RAS Mains GS Paper 1

The term ‘value’ occupies a predominant place in the subject of sociology. Social values form an integral aspect of the culture of the society with each culture having a distinctive value system.  Values provide stability to social order and bring legitimacy to rules that govern specific activities within the society.

Definition of Values:

In simple sense, values refer to intangible qualities or beliefs accepted and endorsed by a given society. Haralambos defines values as “A value is a belief that something is good and worthwhile. It defines what is worth having and worth striving”. It is a preferred course of action.

While, according to Peter Worsley, “Values are general conceptions of “the good”, ideas about the kind of ends that people should pursue throughout their lives and throughout the many different activities in which they engage”.

Types of Values:

Positive and Negative Values

In a broader sense, values can be seen in two aspects i.e. positive and negative. The desirable behaviour is understood as positive aspects of values and on the other hand. the behaviour which is not desirable to the society is understood as negative aspect of values.

Dominant Values & Variant Values

Dominant Values are values that have bounded society sanction and cannot be violated by an individual. Example – Non-violence in modern society. However, variant values are values that an individual has choice to follow while being part of culture & society. Example Choice of food – vegetarian vs non-vegetarian.

Relational classification of Values

  • Moral Values: moral values are standards of conduct followed by an individual to control over his/her impulses or desires. Some of the moral values are such as honesty. tolerance, truthfulness, sincerity, self-control, punctual, hard working, sacrifice, etc.
  • Rational Values: rational values include equality, liberty, justice, integrity, respect for others, secularism, socialism, democracy, social harmony, etc.
  • Individual Values: individual values include good manners and good conducts in “- relation to teacher, elders, juniors, family members, neighbours, friends, guests in every day life, patience, etiquettes, extending help to others, self-discipline, etc.

Relation between Norms & Values:

Every culture contains a large number of guidelines which’ direct the conduct of its constituent members in particular situations. Such guidelines are popularly known as norms. Norms specify how an individual ought to behave in consistency with values of a society,

Values are general ideas about what is desirable, but such general ideas do not specify how one should act in particular situation: norms do that. (Encyclopedia of Sociology: 1473). Norms are the means through which values are expressed in behaviour.

Values provide more general guidelines but norms are specific. For instance, paying respect to the elders is a social value. But there are different ways to pay respect to the elders such as touching feet, shaking hands, saying hallo or hugging. etc. These are social norms. Values are sets of beliefs an individual has to guide his behaviour while norms are codes of conduct set by a society.