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- Main article: Values
The term mores (IPA [ˈmɔːreɪz]) as used in sociology is a plural noun. The Latin singular, which is not used in English, is mos. The English word morality comes from the same root, as does the noun moral, which can mean the 'core meaning of a story'.
Mores are strongly held norms or customs. These derive from the established practices of a society rather than its written laws. Taboos form the subset of mores that forbid a society's most outrageous behaviours, such as incest and murder in many societies. Usually these are formalized in some kind of moral code, e.g. commandments. Most sociologists reject the thesis that the formalization matters as much as the informal social response of disgust and isolation of offenders. An example of a more might be someone picking their nose; which, although harmless, is widely considered as disgusting to the general populace and goes against the normal. Mores also include an aversion for societal taboos, such as incest or pederasty. Consequently, the values and mores of a society predicates legislation prohibiting their taboos.
Folkways, in sociology, are norms for routine or casual interaction. This includes ideas about appropriate greetings and proper dress in different situations.
In short, mores "distinguish the difference between right and wrong, while folkways draw a line between right and rude".
Both "mores" and "folkways" are terms coined by William Graham Sumner in 1906.
William Graham Sumner
William Graham Sumner's most popular book is Folkways: A study of the sociological importance of usages, manners, customs, mores, and morals (1907). Starting with four theoretical chapters, it provides a frank, objective, and candid description of the nature of many of the more important customs and institutions in societies past and present around the world. The book promotes a sociological or relativistic approach to moral behavior, as expressed in his thesis that "the mores can make anything right and prevent condemnation of anything." (p. 521)
The meaning of all these terms extend to all customs of proper behavior in a given society, both religious and profane, from more trivial conventional aspects of custom, etiquette or politeness - "folkways" enforced by gentle social pressure, but going beyond mere "folkways" or conventions in including moral codes and notions of justice - down to strict taboos, behavior that is unthinkable within the society in question, very commonly including incest and murder, but also the commitment of outrages specific to the individual society such as blasphemy. Such religious or sacral customs may be unpredictable and vary completely from one culture to another: while uttering the name of God may be a taboo in one culture, uttering it as often as possible may be considered pious in the extreme in another.
While cultural universals are by definition part of the mores of every society (hence also called "empty universals"), the customary norms specific to a given society are a defining aspect of the cultural identity of an ethnicity or a nation. Coping with the differences between two sets of cultural conventions is a question of intercultural competence.
Differences in the mores of various nations are at the root of ethnic stereotype, or in the case of reflection upon one's own mores, auto stereotypes.
However, constant exposure to social mores is thought by some to lead to development of an individual moral core, which is pre-rational and consists of a set of inhibitions that cannot be easily characterized except as potential inhibitions against taking opportunities that the family or society does not consider desirable. These in turn cannot be easily separated from individual opinions or fears of getting caught.
- Culture-bound syndrome
- Custom (law)
- Habitus (sociology)
- Nihonjinron "Japanese mores"
- Value (personal and cultural)
- Macionis and Gerber, Sociology 7th Canadian Ed. (Pearson Canada Inc., 2010), pg. 65.
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