Definition of Norms: 1.
According to Young and Mack, ‘norms’ refer to the “group-shared expectations”. 2. According to H.M.
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Johnson, “A norm is an abstract pattern held in the mind, that sets certain limits for behaviour”. 3. Norms refer to “the rules that guide behaviour in everyday situations and are derived from the value”-Donald Light Jr. and Suzanne Keller. 4. As Robert Bierstedt has pointed out, “A norm is a rule or standard that governs our conduct in the social situations in which we participate.” He further writes that a norm can be treated as “a cultural specification that guides our conduct in society.” 5.
“Social norms are rules developed by a group of people that specify how people must, should, may, should not and must not behave in various situations.”-G.R. Leslie, R.F. Larson and B.
L. Gorman. It is clear from the above definition that norms can be understood as rules and regulations that groups- live by. Norms are the means through which values are expressed in behaviour. Personal or Private Norms and Social Norms: We can make a distinction between personal or private norms and social norms. Private norms are purely individual in character and they reside with individuals only. They may influence only the behaviour of the individual concerned. For example, an individual may make some individual resolutions on the New Year’s Day and decide to comply with them.
Similarly, one may impose on oneself the norm of doing routine things on time schedule. As such, the sociologists are least interested in these personal or private norms. Sociologists are more interested in ‘operative’ social norms. Operative social norms are always backed by sanctions.
Because of sanctions, the violators of norms suffer some penalties in the group, while those who conform are rewarded. Sociology studies in detail the types of social norms, the manner in which they are implemented, the way in which they differ from society to society, the way in which they are backed by sanctions, the functions they perform and so on. Norms and Values: ‘Values’ may be defined as measures of goodness or desirability. They provide general guidelines for conduct. In this sense they are often referred to as “higher order norms”. But norms are given much more specific meaning.
They define appropriate and acceptable behaviour in particular situations. Values are cherished only through the observance of norms. The relationship between the two can be made clear by the following example. Example: A society may cherish the value of “privacy”. This value provides only a general guide to behaviour. Norms define how the value of ‘privacy’ is translated into action in particular situations and circumstances. For instance, norms relating to privacy may insist that person’s mail must not be opened by other people.
Similarly, an individual’s house must not be entered without his permission, etc. A person’s private life or individual life is his own concern and others must not poke their nose into the personal affairs. In this way a series of norms direct how people should behave in terms of the value of ‘privacy’.