Advertisement

Social norms: What happens when they become more abstract?

Chapter

Abstract

“Social norm” has been an important concept for sociologists, and shifts towards an increased attention to the role of costs and benefits for social behavior did not displace this concept but may have even boosted its importance (see Opp 1983). Still, much needs to be done, as Hechter and Opp’s book on social norms testifies in 2001. “Phenomena like cooperation, collective action, and social order cannot readily be explained on the basis of the rational egoistic behavioral assumptions that are typically countenanced by rational choice theorists…In their (the theorists’, S.L.) quest for explanations of these ostensibly problematic outcomes, social norms have come to occupy pride of place.” (Hechter and Opp, 2001, p. xii). Hechter and Opp go on to say that as much less is known about the emergence of social norms than about their effects, they focused their book on the emergence, just as Opp had done almost twenty years earlier (Opp 1983). I submit that there is a third topic concerning social norms that has received even less attention than their emergence: the way they work. There is a very specific reason why I am interested in this neglected topic. It concerns a puzzle right at the heart of classical sociology but not really recognized or given much attention. Ever since Durkheim’s book on suicide ([1897]), sociologists have been fascinated by the idea that social norms in modern market societies increasingly become vague or vanish and thus cease to regulate behavior in a vacuum of chronic anomie. They don’t state anymore what should be done or not done or, if they do, they contradict each other; in many cases they even become a matter of personal taste or vanish altogether. As a consequence, the social bond is broken, society becomes excessively individualized etc. But there is also a different thesis on social norms in his earlier book on the division of labor (1964 [1893])1 As societies become larger (due to fusion between smaller societies), the social norms have to cover increasingly a larger diversity of people and circumstances and, as a consequence, they become more abstract. “They rule only the most general forms of conduct and rule them in a very general manner, saying what must be done, not how it must be done.”

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

Bibliography

  1. Bargh, John. A., Peter M. Gollwitzer, Anette Lee-Chai, Kimberly Barndollar, and Roman Trö tschel (2001). Automated will: Nonconscious activation and pursuit of behavioral goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81, 1014–1027CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bergman, R. (2002), “Why be moral? A conceptual model from developmental psychology”. Human Development 45:104–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boudon, R. (1996), “The “ Cognitivist model’: A generalized’ rational-choice model’.” Rationality and Society 8, 123–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carnevale, P.J.D., and Lawler, E.J. (1986), “Time pressure and the development of integrative agreements in bilateral negotiations”. Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 30: 636–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clark, Margret S, and Mills, Judson (1979), “Interpersonal attraction in exchange and communal relationships.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37:12–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Collins, A., and Gentner, D. (1987).“How people construct mental models.” In D. Holland and N. Quinn (eds.), Cultural Models in Thought and Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  7. De Dreu, C.K.W., and Boles, T.L. (1998), “Share and share alike or winner take all?: The influence of social value orientation upon choice and recall of negotiation heuristics”. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 76:253–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Durkheim, E., Suicide. A Study in Sociology. Free Press, Glencoe, 1951. (originally 1897 in French)Google Scholar
  9. Durkheim, E. (1964), The Division of Labor in Society. New York: Free Press (originally 1893)Google Scholar
  10. Ellickson, R. C. (1991), Order Without Law. How Neighbors Settle Disputes. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  11. Frey, B. S. (1997). Not Just For the Money. An Economic Theory of Personal Motivation. Brookfield: Edward Elgar PublishingGoogle Scholar
  12. Gollwitzer, P. M., & Moskowitz, G. B. (1996). Goal effects on action and cognition. In E. T. Higgins & A. W. Kruglanski (eds.), Social Psychology. Handbook of Basic Principles (pp. 361–399). London: The Guilford PressGoogle Scholar
  13. Hechter, M. and Opp, K.-D.(eds.) (2001), Social Norms. New York: Russell SageGoogle Scholar
  14. Kochanska, G. (2002), “Committed compliance, moral self, and internalization: a mediational model.” Developmental Psychology 38:339–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kochanska, G., Gross, J. N., Lin, M., and Nichols, K. (2002), “Guilt in young children: development, determinants, and relations with a broader system of standards”. Child Development 73:461–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kohlberg, L. (1981), The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice. Essays in Moral Development. Volume 1. San Francisco: Harper & RowGoogle Scholar
  17. Kohlberg, L. and Candee, D. (1984), “The relationship of moral judgment to moral action”. In: W.M. Kurtines and J.L. Gewirtz (eds.), Morality, Moral Behavior, and Moral Development. New York: WileyGoogle Scholar
  18. Kruglanksi, A. W. (1996). Motivated social cognition: Principles of the interface. In E. T. Higgins & A. W. Kruglanski (eds.), Social Psychology. Handbook of Basic Principles (pp. 493–520). London: The Guilford PressGoogle Scholar
  19. Lindenberg, S. (1975), ‘Three psychological theories of a classical sociologist,’ Mens en Maatschappij, 50, 2:133–153Google Scholar
  20. Lindenberg, S. (1983), “Utility and morality”, Kyklos 36, 3: 450–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lindenberg, S. (1986), “The paradox of privatization in consumption”, pp.297–310 in: Diekmann A., and Mitter P. (eds.), Paradoxical Effects of Social Behavior. Essays in Honor of Anatol Rapoport. Heidelberg/Wien: Physica-VerlagGoogle Scholar
  22. Lindenberg, S. (1994) ‘Norms and the power of loss: Ellickson’s theory and beyond’. Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 150, 1: 101–113Google Scholar
  23. Lindenberg, S. (1998) Solidarity: its microfoundations and macro-dependence. A framing approach. Pp. 61–112 in P. Doreian and Fararo, T.J. (eds.), The Problem of Solidarity: Theories and Models. Amsterdam: Gordon and BreachGoogle Scholar
  24. Lindenberg, S. (2001a), “Social Rationality Versus Rational Egoism”.Pp.635–668 in: J. Turner (ed.), Handbook of Sociological Theory. New York: Kluwer Academic/PlenumGoogle Scholar
  25. Lindenberg, S. (2001b), “Intrinsic motivation in a new light”. Kyklos 54:317–342Google Scholar
  26. Lindenberg, S. (2006), Prosocial behavior, solidarity, and framing processes. In: D. Fetchenhauer, A. Flache, A.P. Buunk, and S. Lindenberg (eds.), Solidarity and Prosocial Behavior. An Integration of Sociological and Psychological Perspectives. (pp.23–44). New York: SpringerGoogle Scholar
  27. Nunner-Winkler, G. (1997), “The development of moral understanding and moral motivation.” International Journal of Educational Research 27: 587–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nunner-Winkler, G. (2000), “Wandel in den Moralvorstellungen. Ein Generationen-yergleich.” Pp. 299–336 in W. Edelstein and G. Nunner-Winkler (eds.), Moral im sozialen Kontext. Frankfurt/Main: SuhrkampGoogle Scholar
  29. Opp, K.D. (1983), Die Entstehung sozialer Normen. Ein Integrationsversuch soziologischer, sozialpsychologischer und ö konomischer Erklärungen. Tübingen: Mohr-SiebekGoogle Scholar
  30. Ridgeway, C.L., and Walker, H.A. (1995). “Status structures.” Pp.281–310 in Karen S. Cook, G.A. Fine, and J. S. House (eds), Sociological Perspectives on Social Psychology, Boston: Allyn and BaconGoogle Scholar
  31. Sattler, N.D. and Kerr, N.L. (1991), “Might versus morality; Motivational and cognitive bases for social motives.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60:756–765CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Scanzoni, J. and Szinovacz, M. (1980), Family Decision Making. Sage: Bevery HillsGoogle Scholar
  33. Scheff, T.J.(1967), “Towards a sociological model of consensus”, American Sociological Review 32: 32–46Google Scholar
  34. Van Lange, P.A.M., and Kuhlman, D.M. (1994), Social value orientation and impressions of partner’s honesty and intelligence: A test of the might versus morality effect.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 76:126–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wellman, B, Carrington, P.J., and Hall, A. (1988), “Networks as personal communities”. Pp. 130–184 in B. Wellman B., and S.D. Berkowitz (eds.), Social Structures. A Network Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  36. Wuthnow, R. (1998), Loose Connections. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften | GWV Fachverlage GmbH, Wiesbaden 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universität GroningenNiederlande

Personalised recommendations