Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cultural Values

Cultural Values (sociology Cliff Notes)

A culture's values are its ideas about what is good, right, fair, and just. Sociologists disagree, however, on how to conceptualize values. Conflict theory focuses on how values differ between groups within a culture, while functionalism focuses on the shared values within a culture. For example, American sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested that the most important values in American society are wealth, success, power, and prestige, but that everyone does not have an equal opportunity to attain these values. Functional sociologist Talcott Parsons noted that Americans share the common value of the “American work ethic,” which encourages hard work. Other sociologists have proposed a common core of American values, including accomplishment, material success, problem-solving, reliance on science and technology, democracy, patriotism, charity, freedom, equality and justice, individualism, responsibility, and accountability.

A culture, though, may harbor conflicting values. For instance, the value of material success may conflict with the value of charity. Or the value of equality may conflict with the value of individualism. Such contradictions may exist due to an inconsistency between people's actions and their professed values, which explains why sociologists must carefully distinguish between what people do and what they say. Real culture refers to the values and norms that a society actually follows, while ideal culture refers to the values and norms that a society professes to believe.

Cultural Values (wikipedia)

Groups, societies, or cultures have values that are largely shared by their members. The values identify those objects, conditions or characteristics that members of the society consider important; that is, valuable. In the United States, for example, values might include material comfort, wealth, competition, individualism or religiosity. The values of a society can often be identified by noting which people receive honor or respect. In the US, for example, professional athletes are honored (in the form of monetary payment) more than college professors, in part because the society respects personal values such as physical activity, fitness, and competitiveness more than mental activity and education. This may also be the case because the society takes its education for granted and repays its teachers with non-tangible honors of relatively equal value with that of the athlete. Surveys show that voters in the United States would be reluctant to elect an atheist as a president, suggesting that belief in God is a value.

Values are related to the norms of a culture, but they are more general and abstract than norms. Norms are rules for behavior in specific situations, while values identify what should be judged as good or bad. Flying the national flag on a holiday is a norm, but it reflects the value of patriotism. Wearing dark clothing and appearing solemn are normative behaviors at a funeral. They reflect the values of respect and support of friends and family.

Members take part in a culture even if each member's personal values do not entirely agree with some of the normative values sanctioned in the culture. This reflects an individual's ability to synthesize and extract aspects valuable to them from the multiple subcultures they belong to.

If a group member expresses a value that is in serious conflict with the group's norms, the group's authority may carry out various ways of encouraging conformity or stigmatizing the non-conforming behavior of its members. For example, imprisonment can result from conflict with social norms that have been established as law.

1 comment:

Sheryl Miller said...

This was helpful, a good read. Thanks, Dan.