Values are essential traits of an individual’s character, acquired from various life experiences and sources. The manifestation of these values is influenced by a variety of factors, including social norms, which represent the expected standards of behaviour within a society. As social beings, humans tend to conform to societal expectations, thereby influencing the expression of their acquired values.

Impact of Social Norms on Value Expression:

  1. Family Values:  In Indian society, touching the feet of elders is a widely accepted norm, reinforcing the value of respect for elders among children.
  2. Empathy:  Norms promoting empathy and compassion encourage behaviour such as philanthropy and social service, which reflect these values.
  3. Honesty: Dharmashastras and Jaina religious canons uphold values like Satya (Truth) and Asteya (non-stealing), aligning with norms against stealing and promoting truthfulness.
  4. Dutifulness:  Organizational norms that reward good work with respect or philosophical principles like Nishkama karma perpetuate dutifulness as a valued conduct.

Conflict between Individual Values and Social Norms:

  1. Gender Roles: Example: Some individuals may hold regressive views about working women but conform to organizational values promoting gender equality to avoid conflict.
  2. Peer Pressure: A teetotaler or non-smoker may compromise their values due to peer pressure, succumbing to the social norm of drinking or smoking.
  3. Social Reformers: Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s commitment to eradicating the practice of Sati exemplifies a case where individual values triumphed over regressive social norms.
  4. Corruption: Despite strong personal values against corruption, an individual may engage in corrupt practices when surrounded by colleagues and superiors who do so with impunity.

Society and its norms play a pivotal role in determining how individuals express their inherent values. Social norms can both nurture positive character traits and, in some instances, enable regressive behaviour. Ethical behaviour necessitates a delicate balance between individual values and societal norms, as they interact to shape an individual’s conduct.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish May 16, 2024