Monday, July 4, 2011



Definition of Values

Values may be defined as the criteria and moral judgement or certain subjective standards through which individuals or groups distinguish between good or bad, true or false and between ought to be or not to be etc.

Nature of Values

Values are the generally accepted basic assumptions about what is right and important. They define the purposes of life and the means of achieving them. According to International Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences (ISSS: 1968) all “purposive actions fall within the boundaries of evaluative action. Within purposive actions we can identify three main kinds of value: conative (desire, liking), achievement (success versus frustration), and affective (pleasure versus pain or unpleasantness)”.

Distinction Between Values and Norms

Values and norms are deeply related to each other; both are concerned with accepted assumptions about what is considered to be right or wrong, or desirable or undesirable. Values constitute the basis of norms. Norms depend upon values and are justified through standards of “true”, “good” and “beautiful”. Relatively speaking, values are more general and abstract then norms. Norms are Values

relatively more specific: they refer to sets of expected behaviour associated with a particular situation or with a given position in the social order. Widely shared values such as truthfulness, loyalty or respect for elders find expression through (relatively) concrete norms which vary with different situations; strata and professions. Norms themselves are sometimes evaluated. Behaviour conforming to two different

norms (both of which may be acceptable) may be regarded as better or worse in

terms of values which are more fundamental.

Norms provide specific rules about what should be done or should not be done by various kinds of actors in particular situations. On the other hand values are abstract standards of desirability, so that they are relatively independent of specific situation. Since values are more general, the same value may be embedded in a wide variety of norms. For instance, the values of respect and obedience to superiors underline various sets of norms related to widely different institutions such as the family, military,

schools, and administrative, political or religious organisation. On the other hand, it is not unusual for a particular norm to embody simultaneously a number of separable values. For example, the norms which forbid cheating in an examination are based on several values such as those of honesty, achievement,

equality of opportunity and pursuit of knowledge.

Apart from the differences in the levels of generality and specificity, another useful

basis of distinction exists between values and norms. This is the field of value inquiry which refers to attitudinal directives like choice preference, likes and dislikes while the field of normative inquiry refers to those attitudinal directives which consist of obligations and prescriptions. We can also

define values as the preferred mode of orientation to specified categories of human experience. The characteristics of norms can be best explained in comparison with categories of values. Therefore, since values involve preferences whereas norms involve prescriptions, there are higher degrees of freedom and more room for deviance in the realm of value orientation. Values provide standards for judging a wide variety of aspects of socio-cultural life: actions, goals, means, ideas, attitudes, qualities, objects, persons and groups. Dominant values have been found to involve (i) extensiveness, (ii) persistence

(duration), (iii) intensity (iv) prestige of value carriers.

Values in Personality and Socio cultural Systems

Human being as a Value-creating and Value-fulfilling Animal

As Radhakamal Mukerjee (1960: 10), whose contribution to the study of values is widely recognised, points out that human beings create values and also fulfil them. This particular ability affects both the formation of personality and the formation of groups and institutions in society. In this sense human beings are not only the source of values but also those who judge the behaviour involved in day to day functioning of society.

A difference is sometimes drawn between personal and social values. However, even those values which are regarded as personal, are largely acquired by the individual from the society, or a segment of it, to which he/she belongs. A human infant is hardly a social being or person at the time of its birth, though it does possess the potentiality to become one. It is through the process of socialisation that it Values

becomes a social being or a person. Internalisation of the values of the group is an integral and important part of this process of socialisation.

Hierarchy of Values

A person does not attach equal importance to all his or her values. There is a hierarchy of values. In a situation of competing claims, the lower values must yield to the higher one. Thus, when the examinations are close, a student would rather study than go to see a movie. Undoubtedly, in many situations the individual is faced with a conflict of values. But these conflicts are resolved or kept to a minimum through the hierarchical ordering of values. In the absence of such hierarchy of values, the

integration of an individual’s personality is likely to be seriously threatened, and his actions may become chaotic.

Values as Core of Culture-Personality

Sets of values form the core and ethos of every culture. People belonging to a culture, however, are often not conscious of many of the values, for, values are internalised and become a part of their personality. Radhakamal Mukerjee (1960 : 13) says that a normal person is one who successfully obtains a balance between the various conflicting values and goals faced in life. When a person is unable to resolve the value conflicts it leads to severe mental strain and imbalance in his or her personality.

Therefore, he considers that in all normal human beings the person should be a “whole” person just as a normal society is that which is an integrated whole.

Values and Environment

Values also reflect a society’s adjustment to environment. Those activities and objects which promote adjustment are assigned a higher value. For example, the tribals who are dependent on hunting and gathering assign high degree of value to their bows and arrows and to the preservation of the forest as well. Indeed different aspects of life and spheres of activity have different kinds of value.

Change in Systems of Values In Indian society

Values in the Vedic Period

Rigveda, the earliest literary source, provides us a good deal of information about the people who migrated and settled in India around 1500 B.C. It tells us that the militant Aryans destroyed ninety nine cities and overpowered their Values inhabitants, who are referred as “dasa”. After the victory, the following pattern appears to emerge.

i) Conflict of Values Between the Conquerors and the Vanquished

The vanquished people are referred to as dasa (slave) and pani. The pani are portrayed as wealthy traders. The cattle wealth of the pani was a great attraction for the Aryan. Being traders the pani did not want to part with their cows and other wealth without compensation. The tendency of pani to expect something in exchange for everything that they gave, appeared absurd to the semi-nomadic Aryan. Such a clash of race and culture between the Aryan and the non-Aryan contributed, in a myriad subtle ways, to the shaping of the Indian traditions of culture and patterns of values. The varna stratification, the distinctiveness of the elite and the folk streams of culture, and the double standards that prevail in the sacred and the secular law - all these owe a good deal to this clash, and the consequent patterns of adjustment that came into being .

ii) Duality of Norms and Values

The hatred towards the racially distinct subjugated people found expression in social values and norms. In Rigveda, we find two sets of norms, one for the Aryan and the other for the non-Aryan. The poet, Samvanana, exhorts Aryans to live together in a spirit of harmony and unity. He says, “May you go together, speak together, may your minds know together just as the gods of earlier times take their portions together”. But none of the poets of Rigveda ever expressed the desirability of the Aryan living

peacefully with the dasa.

It would appear thus that the foundations of the valuational patterns that have persisted till the present day were laid long ago, perhaps in the Vedic era itself. The facts briefly mentioned above indicate how the Aryan priests and warriors had begun to look upon the non-Aryan traders (Pani) as a perennial source of wealth for extortion and the dasa as the people whose only duty was to serve the Aryan master. The elaborate legal system found in the Smriti, which prescribes different codes of conduct,

privilege and penalties for persons of different Varna. This also has its roots in the double standards of morality and law for the Aryan and the non-Aryan laid down in the Veda.

However, after the Aryan settled down in the Indo-Gangetic plains and established a working relationship with the pre-Aryan people, their militant spirit declined. They took over many non-Aryan values and beliefs. Conflicts within the Aryan elites also began to take shape. Through the Brahmana Grantha, the priestly Brahmana asserted their superiority over the Kshatriya who were kings and warriors. Many elaborate and expensive yajna were prescribed for which the Kshatriya had to pay. The

Kshatriya revolted against this dispensation. Their protest found expression in the Upanishad.

Values in the Post-Vedic Period

In the Upanishad, the knowledge of the Self is considered the ultimate aim of life. Persons from all walks of life participated and made contribution to it. The language of Upanishad was easy to understand and therefore attracted people. People belonging even to the younger generation of the priestly elite had lost their interest in the intricate sacrifice and rituals. This wave gave a strong blow to the supreme position of the priestly elites as well as to the Varna hierarchy. It appears that by the time of the Upanishadic era, the notion of racial purity was compromised to such an extent that it became a part of the ritual purity. Thus for getting formal entry into the community, it was made obligatory for each child to undergo certain sacraments or Sanskara. From conception to death, these sacraments are to be performed to mark the turning points in a person’s life. It seems that in all traditional societies, whenever the elites want to get rid of the immediate past, they try to revive the ancient past. Due to the long interval of time, a complete revival of the bygone age is never possible. Usually what is revived is

only some outer form of the ancient past. During the Upanishadic era the values of Varna-hierarchy lost their hold. The lower castes, women and the younger generation of elites revolted against the traditional social order. During this era many popular non-Aryan values got entry into the elite stream. The stronghold of the priestly elites loosened to such an extent that even the priests had to get acquainted with the newly emerging metaphysical ideas.

Values in the Buddhist Period

The social values sought to be re-established in the Post-Vedic period were challenged again by Buddhism. The impact of Buddhism was very great. Unlike Brahmanical elites, Buddha preached in the common man’s language. He preached equality of all human beings. The Brahmanical lore was in Sanskrit. It was the preserve of the elite only. Buddha’s teachings were open to all castes. Buddha attacked the great Vedic sacrifices and declared them wasteful and futile. Buddhism became popular

among rulers, well-to-do merchants, artisans and peasants. The value of equality among castes and the stress on hard work and frugality propagated by Buddhism, promoted industrial and business activity. People made remarkable progress in trade and industry during this era. Many industries and crafts are mentioned in Buddhist literature. The Jataka mentions eighteen types of guilds of artisans and workers. They are mentioned as sheni or puga (seni and puga in Sanskrit). The royal court recognised these guilds. There used to be a head craftsman in each guild. He is called Jethaka or pamukha (jyeshtha or

pramukha in Sanskrit). He was an important member of the royal court. Gradually there developed a prosperous commercial class. Buddhism disturbed the caste hierarchy and the division of society entirely on the basis of birth. The racial factor which was the basis of colour doctrine got another

jolt from foreign hordes who continually came to India. They fulfilled very well the criteria of white complexion and blond hair propounded by Patanjali as the physical qualities of a Brahmana.

Manusmriti : Veda of the Brahmanical Revival

Therefore in order to maintain the uniqueness of the Brahman the criteria of racial purity had to be replaced by ritual purity. The Brahman too had lost their racial purity to some extent, despite theoretically emphasising the colour/doctrine. Still another threat was from the pre-Aryan darker people who were at the lower rungs of the social hierarchy. They constituted the majority in the society. Their norms and culture were basically different from the Aryan. In order to survive, the priestly elites had to meet all these challenges, and at the same time revive the flickering Brahmanical tradition. In this period of crisis Manusmriti, the Veda of the Brahmanical revival, appeared on the horizon. Unlike

the Sutra of the Post-Vedic period which were recognised to be creations of human being, Smriti were presented as the dictates of mythical seers. It is indeed appropriate. to attribute the Manusmriti, the grand treatise of revivalist era, to Manu, the primeval Values father, since work really laid the foundations of the social and moral order supposed to be based on Vedic tradition.

Values in the Islamic Period

Impact of Islam in India can be traced back to the Arab conquest of the Sind in the beginning of the eighth century. The Muslim, population in India was sixty million in 1973. In 1991 (Census 1991) the population of Muslim in India was about 101 million which is about 12.1% of total population of India. Historically and sociologically speaking Islamic values play a very important role in the cultural tradition of India. When we talk about the values in the Vedic period, in the Upanishadic period, and

so on, we are basically talking about the Hindu Great tradition. In contrast, the Islamic Great tradition is founded on a world-view which more or less “is nonhierarchical, is purely monotheistic, and messianic-historical in ethos” (Singh 1973 : 68). It is non-hierarchical in the sense that according to Islam all men are equal in the eyes of God, unlike the Hindu tradition. In the Hindu tradition, as Manu has accorded,

the Brahmin are at the top; the Kshatriya are next to them, followed by the Vaishya and at the lowest rung are the Sudra. Islam is monotheistic in the sense that its people believe in the existence of one

supreme God, unlike Hinduism where multitude of Gods and Goddesses are worshiped. It is messianic-historical in ethos because its origin is traced to the time of Abrahim, or Ibrahim. From the sons of Abrahim the three religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism are traced. It believes in the notion of messiah who will redeem the world and that there will be the day of judgement when the world ends.

Islamic values, like Hindu values, or for that matter any other values, have not remained constant. There has been a lot of intermixture between Hinduism and Islam. Sufism, a sect of Muslim religious mystics, has the elements of ‘bhakti’ of Hinduism. Similarly, Sikh religion has values of both the great traditions, Hindu, as well as Islam. Because of a long period of socio-cultural interaction the Muslim population of India had elements which are not present amongst the Muslims of other countries. They have

caste-like structures in their society. Certain customs are also borrowed from the Hindu population. Similarly, the Hindu communities have borrowed the custom of ‘purdah’ or veil in North India from the Muslims.

The Modern Value System

i) The British Rule and Indian Value System

The impact of the British rule on the Indian society gave birth to an urban middle class which had values that were not only different but even opposed to the traditional values. It became imbued with the values of modern capitalist society such as individualism, rationality, competitiveness, acquisitiveness, and activeness. This was a far cry from the unified life of the traditional society where the values of co-operation and contentment prevail. In India the concept of individualism never existed, except

in the case of the ‘sanyasi’ otherwise family group was the basic unit of society to which every person belonged. Impact of the British rule also opened the channels of communication between the Indian elites and the Western society. The English language became the window through which, the Indians could view the changes in Western society. They imbibed the values of freedom. The notions of equality, liberty and fraternity came to be understood and internalised by them. Notion of democracy and self-rule or swaraj became a popular ambition for our leaders during the national movement for freedom in India. In fact, we can see the impact of western values on our national leaders such as, from Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Vivekanand, Gandhi, Nehru and Tagore.

ii) Impact of Modern Values on Indian Villages

Modern values did not remain confined to the cities. Modern forces brought about a basic transformation in the relationship between urban centres and the villages; and thus the life and values in the countryside also began to change. It was not that because of the new means of transport and communication, peasant villages were connected with transport and communication, for the first time. In peasant civilisations villages are always related with towns. Unless a stable relationship existed between the villages and the towns the latter could not have survived as they did not produce

such essential things as food and cotton. The fact is that a certain kind of relationship always existed between the villages and the towns belonging to the peasant civilisation; but the modern economic, technological, political and cultural factors have brought about a qualitative change in the nature of this relationship, thereby beginning a process of transformation of the village life itself. In the traditional peasant civilisations, towns thrive on the revenue collected from the villages. Apart from getting such surpluses from the villages, the towns people are not interested in transforming the countryside or in manipulating its life in any way. This picture changes dramatically when towns become centres of commerce and industry. Now the towns people make an all out effort to sell the mass-produced

goods in the country side, and to acquire cheap labour and raw material from there. This has important consequences for the traditional way of life in the villages. The village industries decline, and together with mass-produced commodities which are pumped into the villages, modern attitudes and values also invade the rural areas. The production in the villages also is motivated more and more by the desire for

earning the maximum profit, rather than primarily fulfilling one’s requirements. Together, with this, the values of individualism, competition, and unlimited acquisitiveness also has gathered strength.

Modern forces dealt a blow to folk values, as well as to the folkway of life. In traditional, peasant civilisations, the basic values underlying the elite and the folk traditions of culture were the same. The difference between the two traditions was Values primarily that of the degree of refinement, systematisation, and self-consciousness. It was because of the sharing of the basic values and worldview that the traditional elite culture did not damage or weaken the folk cultures, even though they were in

constant interaction with each other. The modern elite culture on the other hand is imbued with values which are not only different from folk values but are opposed to them. It is not surprising, therefore, that the influence of modern elite culture poses a threat to the very existence of folk culture and folk values. We find thus that although the values of a social system tends to form a coherent and relatively stable pattern, they do not remain static.

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