norm


norm
norm, social norm, normative
In sociology a norm is a shared expectation of behaviour that connotes what is considered culturally desirable and appropriate. Norms are similar to rules or regulations in being prescriptive, although they lack the formal status of rules. Actual behaviour may differ from what is considered normative and, if judged by existing norms, may be deemed deviant. Consequently the concept is intimately linked to issues of social regulation and social control and to the dominant sociological problem of social order . In this sense the idea of what is normative is crucial to lay and sociological understandings of social interaction. The terms norms and normative are, however, also frequently used in a statistical sense to refer to what is common or typical, whether of behaviour or some other phenomenon.
The sociological concept of norm is closely allied to that of role , which is commonly defined as a set of norms attached to a social position. Although both concepts have been central to functionalist sociology, and especially the theorizing of social order in the writings of Talcott Parsons , they have become less fashionable since the 1960s, not least because they seem to suggest a fixed set of expectations of individual behaviour and a static model of social interaction. Interactionist sociology (with its focus on the negotiation of meanings), ethnomethodology , and now post-modernist theory, all tend to emphasize the complexity and diversity of meanings, and the shifting and fragmented nature of individual identities, in which the static notion of norm has little place. Other theorists, notably Marxists, have emphasized the importance of power and coercion rather than normative consensus to the maintenance of social order.
The contrast between the Parsonsian and social identity theories of norms is succinctly drawn in Francesca Cancian's What are Norms? (1975). The former suggests that norms are beliefs about what individuals ought to do, and become part of a person's motivation through socialization , so that people come to act in conformity with the norms of their society precisely because they want to conform. However, from the latter perspective norms are perceptions of what actions will lead others to validate an identity (rather than personal beliefs), so that people are thought to conform to norms in order to demonstrate to themselves and others that they are a particular kind of person. Cancian's studies (of a Mexican Indian community) tend to vindicate this interpretation.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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