29/03/2020 1 By indiafreenotes

Generally, value has been taken to mean moral ideas, general conceptions or orientations towards the world or sometimes simply interests, attitudes, preferences, needs, sentiments and dispositions. But sociologists use this term in a more precise sense to mean “the generalised end which has the connotations of rightness, goodness or inherent desirability”.

These ends are regarded legitimate and binding by society. They define what is important worthwhile and worth striving for. Sometimes, values have been interpreted to mean “such standards by means of which the ends of action are selected”. Thus, values are collective conceptions of what is considered good, desirable, and proper or bad, undesirable, and improper in a culture.

According to M. Haralambos (2000), “a value is a belief that something is good and desirable”. For R.K. Mukerjee (1949) (a pioneer Indian sociologist who initiated the study of social values), “values are socially approved desires and goals that are internalised through the process of conditioning, learning or socialisation and that become subjective preferences, standards and aspirations”. A value is a shared idea about how something is ranked in terms of desirability, worth or goodness.

Familiar examples of values are wealth, loyalty, independence, equality, justice, fraternity and friend­liness. These are generalised ends consciously pursued by or held up to individuals as being worthwhile in themselves. It is not easy to clarify the fundamental values of a given society because of their sheer breadth.

Characteristics of Values

Values may be specific, such as honouring one’s parents or owning a home or they may be more general, such as health, love and democracy. “Truth prevails”, “love thy neighbour as yourself, “learning is good as ends itself are a few examples of general values. Individual achievement, individual happiness and materi­alism are major values of modern industrial society.

Value systems can be different from culture to culture. One may value aggressiveness and deplores passivity, another the reverse, and a third gives little attention to this dimension altogether, emphasising instead the virtue of sobriety over emotionality, which may be quite unimportant in either of the other cultures. This point has very aptly been explored and explained by Florence Kluchkhon (1949) in her studies of five small communities (tribes) of the American south-west. One society may value individual achievement (as in USA), another may emphasise family unity and kin support (as in India). The values of hard work and individual achievement are often associated with industrial capitalist societies.

The values of a culture may change, but most remain stable during one person’s lifetime. Socially shared, intensely felt values are a fundamental part of our lives. Values are often emotionally charged because they stand for things we believe to be worth defending. Often, this characteristic of values brings conflict between different communities or societies or sometimes between different persons.

Most of our basic values are learnt early in life from family, friends, neighbourhood, school, the mass print and visual media and other sources within society. These values become part of our person­alities. They are generally shared and reinforced by those with whom we interact.

Types of Values

Values can be classified into two broad categories:

  1. Individual values

These are the values which are related with the development of human personality or individual norms of recognition and protection of the human personality such as honesty, loyalty, veracity and honour.

  1. Collective values

Values connected with the solidarity of the community or collective norms of equality, justice, solidarity and sociableness are known as collective values.

Values can also be’ categorised from the point of view their hierarchical arrangement:

  1. Intrinsic values

These are the values which are related with goals of life. They are sometimes known as ultimate and transcendent values. They determine the schemata of human rights and duties and of human virtues. In the hierarchy of values, they occupy the highest place and superior to all other values of life.

  1. Instrumental values

These values come after the intrinsic values in the scheme of gradation of values. These values are means to achieve goals (intrinsic values) of life. They are also known as incidental or proximate values.

Importance and functions of values

Values are general principles to regulate our day-to-day behaviour. They not only give direction to our behaviour but are also ideals and objectives in themselves. Values deal not so much with what is, but with what ought to be; in other words, they express moral impera­tives. They are the expression of the ultimate ends, goals or purposes of social action. Our values are the basis of our judgments about what is desirable, beautiful, proper, correct, important, worthwhile and good as well as what is undesirable, ugly, incorrect, improper and bad. Pioneer sociologist Durkheim emphasised the importance of values (though he used the term ‘morals’) in controlling disruptive individual passions.

He also stressed that values enable individuals to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Modem sociologist E. Shils (1972) also makes the same point and calls ‘the central value system’ (the main values of society) are seen as essential in creating conformity and order. Indian sociologist R.K. Mukerjee (1949) writes: “By their nature, all human relations and behaviour are imbedded in values.”

The main functions of values are as follows:

  1. Values play an important role in the integration and fulfillment of man’s basic impulses and desires in a stable and consistent manner appropriate for his living.
  2. They are generic experiences in social action made up of both individual and social responses and attitudes.
  3. They build up societies, integrate social relations.
  4. They mould the ideal dimensions of personality and range and depth of culture.
  5. They influence people’s behaviour and serve as criteria for evaluating the actions of others.
  6. They have a great role to play in the conduct of social life.
  7. They help in creating norms to guide day-to-day behaviour.