Thursday, 31 July 2014

Folkways And Mores


The concept of folkways is associated with the name of William Graham Sumner who made one of the most fruitful and clarifying analysis of culture and its implications. He was one of the best –loved and most inspiring teachers at Yale where he used to teach political economy but later he changed his interest to sociology. In his sociological classic Folkways Sumner has made a notable contribution to the understanding of individual behavior. Sumner conceived of culture in terms of folkways and mores and used the term folkways in a very comprehensive sense. According to him
“They (folkways) are like products of natural forces which men unconsciously set in operations or they are like the instinctive ways of animals which are developed out of experience which reach a final form of maximum adaptation to an interest which are handed down by tradition and admit of no exception or variation yet change to meet new conditions still within the same limited methods and without rational reflection or purpose. From this it results that all the life of human beings in all ages and stages of culture is primarily controlled by a vast mass of folkways handed down from the earliest existence of the race, having the nature of the ways of other animals only the top most layers of which are subject to change and control and have been somewhat modified by human philosophy, ethics and religion or by other acts of intelligent reflection.”
Folkways are recognized ways of behavior. The folkways are thus the recognized ways of behaving and acting in societies that arise automatically within a group to meet the problems of social living. According to Maclver Folkways are the recognized or accepted ways of behaving in society. According to Lundberg Folkways are the typical or habitual beliefs, attitudes and styles of conduct observed within a group or community.

The Meaning of Folkways

The concept of folkways is associated with the name of William Sumner who made one of the clarifying analyses of culture and its implications. In his sociological classic folkways he has made a notable contribution to the understanding of individual behavior. Sumner conceived of culture in terms of folkways and mores and used the terms folkways in a very comprehensive sense. According to him They are like products of natural forces which men unconsciously set in operation or they are like the instinctive ways of animals which are developed out of experience which reach a final form of maximum adaptation to an interest which are handed down by tradition and admit of no exception or variation yet change to meet new conditions still within the same limited methods and without rational reflection or purpose. From this it results that all the life of human beings in all ages and stages of culture is primarily controlled by a vast mass of folkways handed down from the earliest existence of the race having the nature of the ways of other animals only the top-most layers of which are subject to change and control and have been somewhat modified by human philosophy, ethics and religion or by other acts of intelligent reflection.
Folkways are recognized ways of behavior in a society which arise automatically within a group to meet the problems of social living. Social life is full of problems and man seems to have tried every possible way of dealing with such problems. Different societies have found different workable patterns. A group through trial and error, sheer accident or some unknown influence may arrive at one of the possibilities, repeats it and accepts it as the normal way of behavior. It is passed on the succeeding generations and becomes one of the ways of the group of the folk hence a folkway. According to Sumner men inherited from their beast ancestor’s psycho-physical traits, instincts and dexterities or at least predispositions which give them aid in solving the problem of food supply, sex, commerce and vanity. The result is mass phenomena: currents of similarity, concurrence and mutual contribution and these produce folkways. The folkways are thus the product of frequent repetition of petty acts, often by great numbers acting in concert or at least acting in the same way when face to face with the same needs.
According to Lundberg, folkways designate those uniformities in the behavior of a group which develop relatively spontaneously and even unconsciously in adapting to common life conditions and which become established through repetition and general occurance.Thus they are those unconscious collective modes of behavior that are believed to ensure the survival and growth of the group. They include the innumerable ways of behavior men have evolved about the business of social living. They are the customs and usages which have been passed from old generations and to which new elements are added according to the changing needs of times. They represent man’s unique means of adapting himself to his environment. No member of the group ever questions a folkway nor is anyone needed to enforce a folkway.

Characteristics of Folkways

Spontaneous Origin Folkways arise spontaneously. They are not deliberately planned or designed. They are developed out of experience. They are unplanned and uncharted.
Approved behavior- Folkways are the recognized ways of behavior. The group accords recognition to certain way while rejects others. Only such ways of behavior are folkways as have been approved by the group to which they relate.
Distinctiveness- There is numerous folkways in different societies .the folkways become related to a particular group. There is considerable variation in the folkways between groups.
Hereditary- Folkways are passed on from one generation to another. An individual receives folkways from his ancestors.

Folkway Versus Custom

Custom is often referred to as a folkway. But there is a difference between the two that the folkways are of more general and wider character than the customs and cover all those modes of behavior or spontaneous usages which are not included in the term customs. Thus for example-shaking hands, eating four meals etc are folkways rather than of customs. Customs are related to the survival and growth of the group but folkways are not necessarily so related. They are not made obligatory by the group. They are sanctioned informally.

The Sanction of Folkways

Folkways come to form the unstated premises in our daily life.They provide predictability both of our own and of others behavior so that we feel some security and some order in life. They are the great savers of energy and time. They are the foundation of every culture. If an individual does not follow folkway he may find himself socially isolated which would make survival difficult. According to Davis if the alpha and omega of human existence is to be found anywhere it is in the folkways for we begin with them and always come back to them. The sanctions of the folkways are informal.

The Meaning of Mores

Sumner applied the term mores to those folkways which are considered by the group to be of great significance and therefore rather indispensible to its welfare. He writes I mean by mores the popular usages and traditions when they include a judgment that they are conducive to social welfare and when they exert coercion on the individual to conform to them although they are not coordinated by any authority.
The term mores is derived from the Latin word ‘mos’ which stands for customs and just as customs cannot be violated by any individual so mores also cannot be violated without incurring severe punishment. The mores relate to the fundamental needs of society more directly than do the folkways. They express the group sense of what is fitting, right and conducive to social welfare. Sumner has written the Latin word mores seems to be on the whole more practically convenient and available than any other for our purpose as a name for the folkways with the connotations of right and truth in respect to welfare embodied in them.

Distinction between Mores and Folkways

Folkways are of a more general and wider character than mores.
Mores imply a value judgment about the folkways
Mores are more effective and are always molding and restraining the tendencies of the individuals than the folkways.
It is out of mores and not folkways that our profound convictions of right and wrong come.
Folkways are less deeply rooted in society and change more rapidly than the mores which are more deeply rooted and change less frequently.
Folkways change with one’s social status and occupational position but mores do not change that way.
Violations of mores but not of the folkways are looked upon as an evident danger to the right of others.
Mores need not be rational. Some of the mores may look to be irrational to outsiders. Thus purdah system, untouchability etc may look to be irrational to the western world. Mores of one culture may be unknown to other cultures and seem to have no necessary connection with group welfare.

Functions of Mores

According to Maclver following are the functions of mores-
They both compel behavior and forbid it. They are forever molding and restraining the tendency of every individual. In other words they are the instruments of control. In society there are innumerable mores like monogamy, anti-slavery, democracy and prohibition conformity to which is regarded as necessary.
By conforming to the mores the individual gains identification with his fellows and maintains those social bonds which are essential for satisfactory living.
The mores hold the members of the groups together. The members of the group though characterized by the consciousness of the kind are also competing with one another by the good things of this life and status. They are held in line by the constraints of mores. There is a sense of unreflecting solidarity among people who share the same mores because their sentiments are alike. It also implies that there is a sense of resistance and antagonism towards anyone with different mores. There are mores for each sex for all classes and for all groups whose function is to maintain the solidarity of the group.

Mores and Law

In civilized societies the mores tend to take the form of law though laws and mores always coincide. On the one hand the law may prohibit behavior not in the mores in which case law remains generally ineffective. Prohibition is a common example; untouchability is another. The consumption of intoxicating beverages is prohibited by law and sanctioned by mores. Child marriage is legally forbidden but it often takes place. On the other hand all the mores are not the part of law. They are well known and too widely respected to require formal enactment or they are personal matters which are not fit subjects for law.

Mores and Sanctions

The mores represent the norms of modes of behavior in society-they present to us the most accepted and the most standardized ways of doing this or that. They are regulative and therefore it is essential for the member of the groups to conform to them.Behaviour contrary to mores is not permitted by society. They may even compel the individual to follow practices that are contrary to his physical well being. There are several causes for the people obeying the mores. Some obey them in order to win praise or reward; others obey them because of fear of social boycott, imposition of fine or even loss of life. The non acceptance of mores marks out one as a stranger, rebel as a fit object for ostracism for persecution. Most people conform to mores because they think it right to do or because they have become habituated to do it. The motives of the individual are always manifold and hard to disentangle. Every group has its own form of sanction and mores try to guarantee their own enforcement.