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3.2J: Folkways and Mores

Folkways and mores are informal norms that dictate behavior; however, the violation of mores carries heavier consequences.

 

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

 

Differentiate between folkways and mores

 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Key Points

 

  • Societal norms, or rules that are enforced by members of a community, can exist as both formal and informal rules of behavior. Informal norms can be divided into two distinct groups: folkways and mores.
  • Both “mores” and “folkways” are terms coined by the American sociologist William Graham Sumner.
  • Mores distinguish the difference between right and wrong, while folkways draw a line between right and rude. While folkways may raise an eyebrow if violated, mores dictate morality and come with heavy consequences.

 

Key Terms

 

  • mores: A set of moral norms or customs derived from generally accepted practices. Mores derive from the established practices of a society rather than its written laws.
  • William Graham Sumner: An American academic with numerous books and essays on American history, economic history, political theory, sociology, and anthropology.
  • folkway: A custom or belief common to members of a society or culture.

Societal norms, or rules that are enforced by members of a community, can exist as both formal and informal rules of behavior. Informal norms can be divided into two distinct groups: folkways and mores. Folkways are informal rules and norms that, while not offensive to violate, are expected to be followed. Mores (pronounced more-rays) are also informal rules that are not written, but, when violated, result in severe punishments and social sanction upon the individuals, such as social and religious exclusions,.

William Graham Sumner, an early U.S. sociologist, recognized that some norms are more important to our lives than others. Sumner coined the term mores to refer to norms that are widely observed and have great moral significance. Mores are often seen as taboos; for example, most societies hold the more that adults not engage in sexual relations with children. Mores emphasize morality through right and wrong, and come with heavy consequences if violated.

image

 

William Graham Sumner, 1840-1910: William Graham Sumner coined the terms “folkways” and “mores. “

Sumner also coined the term folkway to refer to norms for more routine or casual interaction. This includes ideas about appropriate greetings and proper dress in different situations. In comparison to the morality of mores, folkways dictate what could be considered either polite or rude behavior. Their violation does not invite any punishment or sanctions, but may come with reprimands or warnings.

An example to distinguish the two: a man who does not wear a tie to a formal dinner party may raise eyebrows for violating folkways; were he to arrive wearing only a tie, he would violate cultural mores and invite a more serious response.

 

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