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Mores (generally pronounced //, and often //; from Latin mōrēs, [ˈmoːreːs], grammatically plural: "habit"; singular form: mōs) is a term introduced into English by William Graham Sumner (1840–1910), an early U.S. sociologist, to refer to norms that are more widely observed and have greater moral significance than others. Mores include an aversion for societal taboos, such as incest or pederasty. Consequently, the values and mores of a society predicates legislation prohibiting their taboos.
Folkways, in sociology, are norms for routine or casual interaction. This includes ideas about appropriate greetings and proper dress in different situations.
In short, mores "distinguish the difference between right and wrong, while folkways draw a line between right and rude".
Both "mores" and "folkways" are terms coined by William Graham Sumner in 1906.
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The English word morality comes from the same Latin root "mōrēs", as does the English adjective moral. However, mores do not, as is commonly supposed, necessarily carry connotations of morality. Rather, morality can be seen as a subset of mores, held to be of central importance in view of their content, and often formalized in some kind of moral code.
The meaning of all these terms extend to all customs of proper behavior in a given society, both religious and profane, from more trivial conventional aspects of custom, etiquette or politeness — "folkways" enforced by gentle social pressure, but going beyond mere "folkways" or conventions in including moral codes and notions of justice — down to strict taboos, behavior that is unthinkable within the society in question, very commonly including incest and murder, but also the commitment of outrages specific to the individual society such as blasphemy. Such religious or sacral customs may be unpredictable and vary completely from one culture to another: while uttering the name of God may be a taboo in one culture, uttering it as often as possible may be considered pious in the extreme in another.
While cultural universals are by definition part of the mores of every society (hence also called "empty universals"), the customary norms specific to a given society are a defining aspect of the cultural identity of an ethnicity or a nation. Coping with the differences between two sets of cultural conventions is a question of intercultural competence.
Differences in the mores of various nations are at the root of ethnic stereotype, or in the case of reflection upon one's own mores, autostereotypes.
- Culture-bound syndrome
- Custom (law)
- Euthyphro dilemma, discussing the conflict of sacral and secular mores
- Habitus (sociology)
- Nihonjinron "Japanese mores"
- Political and Moral Sociology: see Luc Boltanski and French Pragmatism
- Value (personal and cultural)
- Macionis and Gerber, Sociology 7th ed. (Pearson Canada 2010), p. 65.