The definition of value in sociology differs from the definition of value in economics or philosophy. In economics, for example, value equals price.
Social values are an important part of a society’s culture. The stability of social order is accounted for by values. They provide general guidelines for social behavior. Fundamental rights, patriotism, respect for human dignity, rationality, sacrifice, individuality, equality, democracy, and other values guide our behavior in a variety of ways. Values are the criteria that people use to evaluate their daily lives, set priorities, and choose between alternative courses of action.
Values are social behavior standards derived from social interaction that are accepted as constituent facts of social structure. They are objects that are desired by social conditions. These are culturally defined objectives that include “sentiments and significance.” These are “aspirational references.”
For judging and evaluating social interaction, goals, means, ideas, feelings, and expected behavior, values are expected to be followed. It would be difficult to judge individual behavior or social action in the absence of such a criterion. Values seek to integrate expected individual and social behavior. It tends to prevent tension and thus plays a role in tension management.
The Relationship of Norms and Values:
Norms and values are inextricably linked. Values are not specific, whereas norms are. There may be norm delusion in a specific situation, but values are commanding. Norms are rules for behavior: they specify what should and should not be done by specific types of actors in specific situations. Values are standards of desirability that are less dependent on specific circumstances.
The same value may serve as a point of reference for a large number of distinct norms; a specific norm may represent the simultaneous application of several distinct values. Thus, the value premise “equality” may enter into norms for husband-wife relationships, brother-brother relationships, teacher-student relationships, and so on.
On the other hand, the rule “a teacher must not show favoritism in grading” may include values such as equality, honesty, humanitarianism, and others. Values, as standards (criteria) for determining what is desirable, provide the basis for accepting or rejecting specific norms.
- Values provide members with goals or ends to strive for.
- Values ensure group interaction stability and uniformity. They keep society together because they have something in common. According to some sociologists, shared values serve as the foundation for social unity. Members of society are likely to see others as “people like themselves” because they share the same values. As a result, they will feel a sense of belonging to a social group. They will feel included in society.
- Values lend credibility to the rules that govern specific activities. The rules are accepted and followed because they embody the values that the majority of people accept. Americans, for example, believe that capitalism is the best organization because it allows people to achieve success in life.
- Values contribute to some degree of adjustment between different sets of rules. People seek the same kinds of ends or goals in various areas of their lives. As a result, they may be able to change the rules to aid in the pursuit of this goal.
For example, if the Indian people value “the principle of equality,” they will have to change the rules that govern the interpersonal relationships of husband and wife, as well as man and woman. People make rules based on their beliefs about what is ‘good’ and ‘right’ as new activities emerge.