Mores and Folkways: A Case study of a Tribal Population Group of Assam INTRODUCTION TO MORES AND FOLKWAYS The social norm, or simply, "norm," is arguably the most important concept in sociology. Sociologists believe that norms govern our lives by giving us implicit and explicit guidance on what to think and believe, how to behave, and how to interact with others. We learn norms in a variety of settings and from various actors, including our families, from teachers and peers in school, through the media, and simply by interacting with others as we go about our daily business. There are four key types of norms, with differing levels of scope and reach, significance and importance, and methods of enforcement and sanctioning of violations. These are, in order of significance, folkways, mores, taboos, and laws. The concept of folkways is associated with the name of William Graham Sumner who made one of the most fruitful and clarifying analysis of culture and its implications. He was one of the best –loved and most inspiring teachers at Yale where he used to teach political economy but later he changed his interest to sociology. In his sociological classic Folkways Sumner has made a notable contribution to the understanding of individual behaviour. Sumner conceived of culture in terms of folkways and mores and used the term folkways in a very comprehensive sense. According to him "They (folkways) are like products of natural forces which men unconsciously set in operations or they are like the instinctive ways of animals which are developed out of experience which reach a final form of maximum adaptation to an interest which are handed down by tradition and admit of no exception or variation yet change to meet new conditions still within the same limited methods and without rational reflection or purpose. From this it results that all the life of human beings in all ages and stages of culture is primarily controlled by a vast mass of folkways handed down from the earliest existence of the race, having the nature of the ways of other animals only the top most layers of which are subject to change and control and have been somewhat modified by human philosophy, ethics and religion or by other acts of intelligent reflection."
Folkways are recognized ways of behaviour. The folkways are thus the recognized ways of behaving and acting in societies that arise automatically within a group to meet the problems of social living. According to Maclver Folkways are the recognized or accepted ways of behaving in society. According to Lundberg Folkways are the typical or habitual beliefs, attitudes and styles of conduct observed within a group or community. According to Sumner, and how sociologists understand this term today, folkways are norms that stem from and organize casual interaction, and that emerge out of repetition and routines. We engage in them to satisfy our daily needs, and they are most often unconscious in operation, though quite useful to the ordered functioning of society. For example, the practice of waiting in (or on) line in many societies is an example of a folkway. This practice creates order in the process of buying things or receiving services, which smooth‘s and expedites the tasks of our daily lives. Other examples include the concept of appropriate dress dependent on setting, raising one's hand to take a turn speaking in a group, or the practice of "civil inattention"-when we politely ignore others around us in public settings. Folkways mark the distinction between rude and polite behaviour, so they exert a form of social pressure on us to act and interact in certain ways, but they do not have moral significance, and there are rarely serious consequences or sanctions for violating one. THE MEANING OF FOLKWAYS In Sumner‘s sociological classic folkways he has made a notable contribution to the understanding of individual behaviour. Sumner conceived of culture in terms of folkways and mores and used the terms folkways in a very comprehensive sense. According to him They are like products of natural forces which men unconsciously set in operation or they are like the instinctive ways of animals which are developed out of experience which reach a final form of maximum adaptation to an interest which are handed down by tradition and admit of no exception or variation yet change to meet new conditions still within the same limited methods and without rational reflection or purpose. From this it results that all the life of human beings in all ages and stages of culture is primarily controlled by a vast mass of folkways handed down from the earliest existence of the race having the nature of the ways of other
animals only the top-most layers of which are subject to change and control and have been somewhat modified by human philosophy, ethics and religion or by other acts of intelligent reflection. Folkways are recognized ways of behaviour in a society which arise automatically within a group to meet the problems of social living. Social life is full of problems and man seems to have tried every possible way of dealing with such problems. Different societies have found different workable patterns. A group through trial and error, sheer accident or some unknown influence may arrive at one of the possibilities, repeats it and accepts it as the normal way of behaviour. It is passed on the succeeding generations and becomes one of the ways of the group of the folk hence a folkway. According to Sumner men inherited from their beast ancestor's psycho-physical traits, instincts and dexterities or at least predispositions which give them aid in solving the problem of food supply, sex, commerce and vanity. The result is mass phenomena: currents of similarity, concurrence and mutual contribution and these produce folkways. The folkways are thus the product of frequent repetition of petty acts, often by great numbers acting in concert or at least acting in the same way when face to face with the same needs. According to Lundberg, folkways designate those uniformities in the behaviour of a group which develop relatively spontaneously and even unconsciously in adapting to common life conditions and which become established through repetition and general occurrence. Thus they are those unconscious collective modes of behaviour that are believed to ensure the survival and growth of the group. They include the innumerable ways of behaviour men have evolved about the business of social living. They are the customs and usages which have been passed from old generations and to which new elements are added according to the changing needs of times. They represent man's unique means of adapting himself to his environment. No member of the group ever questions a folkway nor is anyone needed to enforce a folkway. CHARACTERISTICS OF FOLKWAYS To give out detailed characteristics of Folkways, some of them have been listed here in the following manner: Spontaneous Origin: Folkways arise spontaneously. They are not deliberately planned or designed. They are developed out of experience. They are unplanned and uncharted.
Approved behaviour: Folkways are the recognized ways of behaviour. The group accords recognition to certain way while rejects others. Only such ways of behaviour are folkways as have been approved by the group to which they relate. Distinctiveness: There is numerous folkways in different societies .the folkways become related to a particular group. There is considerable variation in the folkways between groups. Hereditary: Folkways are passed on from one generation to another. An individual receives folkways from his ancestors. o FOLKWAYS VS CUSTOM Custom is often referred to as a folkway but there is a difference between the two that the folkways are of more general and wider character than the customs and cover all those modes of behaviour or spontaneous usages which are not included in the term customs. Thus for exampleshaking hands, eating four meals etc. are folkways rather than of customs. Customs are related to the survival and growth of the group but folkways are not necessarily so related. They are not made obligatory by the group. They are sanctioned informally. o THE SANCTIONS OF FOLKWAYS Folkways come to form the unstated premises in our daily life. They provide predictability both of our own and of others behaviour so that we feel some security and some order in life. They are the great savers of energy and time. They are the foundation of every culture. If an individual does not follow folkway he may find himself socially isolated which would make survival difficult. According to Davis if the alpha and omega of human existence is to be found anywhere it is in the folkways for we begin with them and always come back to them. The sanctions of the folkways are informal. o IMPORTANCE OF FOLKWAYS Folkways are the basis of culture. They give us better understanding about a particular culture. They are regulative and exert pressure upon the individual and the group to conform to the norms. They are most powerful and control the behaviour of individuals in society even more than the state action. Folkways are as indispensable to social life as language, and they serve much the same purpose.