The Origins of Law Where do our laws come from? Is law necessary?
What are we doing when we make laws? What are stating what we value as a culture. We are usually trying to accomplish one of the following goals: To protect a citizen. To guarantee the rights of a citizen.
So what/who determines what the rights of a citizen are and how they will be protected? First – We begin with values – or the culturally defined standards that are guidelines for social living. This assesses desirability, goodness, beauty, etc.
Second we have beliefs: Specific statements that are held to be true and are based on values. – For example, work hard and you will get ahead in life. – This may not seem very important, but we formulate our attitudes and generalizations about acceptable behavior based on our beliefs. – Death penalty
Third we have norms: Norms are rules and expectations by which a society guides the behavior of its members. Norms reflect values. – For example, you would not wear a bikini to work everyday if you were an accountant and worked in an office building.
Fourth we have mores: Mores are society’s standard for proper behavior. For example, society may frown upon two unmarried people of the opposite sex living together without being married.
Fifth we have folkways: These are customs for routine casual interaction, for example: polite and rude behavior. – It is impolite to burp out loud after a meal, you should excuse yourself, however in Germany – it is a sign of a good meal and it is impolite to acknowledge your burp by saying excuse me.
Let’s read the following story and determine, based on our culture, if the characters violate values, beliefs, norms, mores and/or folkways.
The Story of Abigail Abigail lives on one side of a huge river, her boyfriend Mark lives on the other side. A terrible storm has destroyed the only bridge across the river, and the river is too unruly to swim across. Abigail is madly in love with Mark and is desperate to see him again, but she can’t cross the river. She visits Sinbad the sailor and asks him if he can take her to the other side in his boat.
Sinbad says, “Yes, but only if you sleep with me first.” Abigail doesn’t know how to answer him, so she goes to her mother for advice. After having told her mother the entire story, about Mark, the river, Sinbad and his suggestion, the mother says, “Do as you choose, Abigail. This is none of my business.”
So Abigail is on her own. She ponders the situation, decides she HAS to see Mark again no matter what, and hence sleeps with Sinbad.
Sinbad takes her across to the other river bank as he promised. Abigail runs immediately to Mark’s house and tells him the story and explains what she has done. Mark is furious and breaks up with her.
Abigail leaves the house in tears. Outside she meets John, Mark’s best friend, and tells HIM the entire story. John, who has always been attracted to Abigail, is enraged on her behalf. They both enter Mark’s house. As John beats Mark up, Abigail stands watching the beating, smiling.
Analysis What, if anything, was violated in this story? Values Beliefs Norms Mores Folkways Can you give an example of each?
It is from these basic principles that we develop our laws as a society and the punishments that accompany breaking these laws.
Example You steal a candy bar from Wawa: You are caught and the police are called What happens to you? You have violated a value – not to steal You have violated a belief – stealing is wrong and thieves should be punished. You have violated a norm – you are expected not to steal. You have violated basic mores – it is improper behavior/morally wrong to steal You have violated a folkway – it is rude to steal
You may pay a fine and will probably be sentenced to community service!
In Saudi Arabia: They will cut your right hand off! If you steal again … They will cut your left leg off! How do the values, beliefs, norms, mores and folkways of the US and Saudi Arabia differ?