Concept of Values in Sociology

Sociology for RAS Mains GS Paper 1

Concept of Values in Sociology | 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 Sociology:

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”.

Values are ideals held by people that guide them towards desirable behaviour, hence, called ‘Guiding principles for an individual’. Values are like an anchor and lighthouse as they hold us loyal in temptations and show us right path in times of confusion.

Values are universal as they are shared by all the individuals regardless of their nationality, religion, gender, culture or history.

Types of Values in Sociology:

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.

Innate & Acquired Values

Values can be

  • Innate – values due to our genes and conscience.
  • Acquired – values imparted by social institutions and influences.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Values:

An intrinsic value is a value that one has of itself, independently of other things, including its context. An extrinsic value is a property that depends on a thing’s relationship with other things. Extrinsic value is the value, which depends on how much it generates intrinsic value.

The reason that things have extrinsic value is because they themselves lead to happiness or pleasure or they lead to a series of other things that eventually lead to happiness. Pleasure (Intrinsic Value) is the ultimate end to which all things of extrinsic value are the means.

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.

Why are Values Necessary

Values are essential to ethics. Ethics is concerned with human actions, and the choice of those actions. Ethics evaluates those actions, and the values that underlie them. Value specifies a relationship between a person and a goal.

For example, a person who values honesty might blow the whistle on financial wrongdoing by a superior whereas another person who values loyalty may remain silent. The honest person may believe there are limits to loyalty and keeping quiet about a wrongful act out of loyalty might harm others. The loyal person may believe in the importance of keeping one’s confidence even if it might harm others because of the trusting relationship.

The beliefs and values are imparted by family, society, educational institutions which ultimately leads to the change of attitude and behaviour of an individual.

How are Values Developed

Values are developed through various agencies like:-

  • Family (first agent but is informal)
  • Educational Institutions (first formal agency)
  • Society or peer group
  • Religion/culture
  • Media, etc.

Read more on: Role of family, Society, Educational Institutions in Inculcating Values

Concept of Values in Sociology | Concept of Values in Sociology

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