Mores, laws and folkways

Mores, laws and folkways

Societal norms which include mores, laws, taboos and folkways are agreed upon rules and expectations that an individual is supposed to observe and behave according to in a given culture. Norms vary from one culture to another, some thing might be considered as a norm in one culture and in others it is not (Macionis, 2009). For example, shaking hands as a form of greeting in most of the African country shows a lot of respect. Whereas, in Asian countries you are not supposed to shake hands with your elders as a form of greeting

Folkway is said to be socially learned behaviours that are looked upon but which do not necessarily convey any moral significance. These are norms that help individuals interact with the other members of the society towards a harmonious living. Folkways for individual cultures arise from continuous repetition of an act that helps in the shaping of human behaviour. Unlike like is the case with other societal norms, the defiance of folkways carries no serious consequences. A common folkway is the dress codes adopted in different regions and countries (Pauer-Studer, 2008). Muslims dress in Hijabs and long dresses as a folkway but if a Muslim decides to dress in a short dress, no moral rule or laws are broken (except in strict sharia nations maybe).

Mores are significant norms that govern the right or wrong and control the behaviour of an individual. They are not necessarily written set rules to govern an individual but are behaviours that are generally accepted and what society follows in day to day life. Religious rules are example of mores (Macionis, 2009). Catholic clergy are nether expected to break their chastity vows nor are they supposed to get into matrimony and when they behave in a way contrary to this dire consequences are met on them, including excommunication from the society.

Laws are well raid down set of rules that have to be observed and enforced by law officials. Violation of these norms leads to prosecution in law courts. Driving while drunk is an offence which will land you in jail or be fined for violating that law.

When using your mobile handset in a public place you should not shout, level your voice such that you will not be disturbing the others. Shouting over the phone will be violating the folkway. When you violate that norm you feel you are not conforming to the normality of the society On the other hand the people around you will despise you for your behaviour, some of whom will not tolerate your behaviour and try to stop or tell you to lower your voice.

Normative conduct theory is clearly shown in the above example where by the behaviour of talking loud might have been as result of two conflicting beliefs. This might be because one was thinking he/she is in a noisy surrounding and the person on the other end might not hear them. The surrounding people’s approval of situation about that particular behaviour shows how the individual should behave (Pauer-Studer, 2008). Watching other person talk loud over the phone, a society member might pick up on the norm that they are supposed to talk loud in public places

Control theories exist due to lack of socialization, this leads to lack of self control as expressed in that example of speaking loudly over the phone. Individuals who are always overconfident of themselves will exhibit this behaviour and are more likely to violate folkway norms. Control theory considers the individual decision making being as the reason behind such behaviour (Pauer-Studer, 2008).

In conclusion we can say that society behaviour is directly dictated by the norms that are observed by it. That explains why we have different behaviours between different cultures as the norms are not the same.


Macionis, J. J. (2009). Society: The basics. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Pauer-Studer, H. (2008). Norms, values, and society. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Pub.

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