Chapter 6


Signs and Symbols,

Rituals and Norms


                                                                  Man passes through forests of symbols
tenderly watching him.

Charles Baudelaire


The Nazi myth-building process discussed in the last chapter included the gigantic martial pageants in the Nuremberg Zeppelin field with Sieg Heil! soaring from a multitude of regimented souls. That, of course, is an obvious case of symbolic and ritualized reinforcement of a myth. The Christian Eucharist, the Hindu incantations and the Chinese Communist recitations of quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung are also easily identifiable social molds of different value systems. It would be naïve, however, to believe that it is always by spectacular social action that values are formed, identified and used as patterns of recognition for social and political organization. Indeed, limiting ourselves to the more manifest symbolic and ritualistic patterns may handicap us in understanding what really goes into the socio-political complex.


Earlier, in discussing affectional communal identification, we talked about how the members of a group can identify with each other and spot a “stranger” in the way he walks, talks, dresses, eats, behaves, believes or “thinks.” These premises of identification constitute the texture of recognition and understanding. Indeed, as they take place they create consequences beyond the actor. They have an impact on his environment and are socially received and perceived.


An animal uses its sensory-motor apparatus to communicate with its total environment.[1]  The senses can be used for the one-way collection of information about the surroundings to determine biological and physiological action, i.e., a receptor-effector functional cycle. Uexkull cites the tick which, upon smelling a passing animal’s butyric acid (the secretion of skin glands in mammals), lets go of the branch to which it is holding, falls upon the animal body, then searches tactilely for a hairless spot, where it bores for suction.[2]  The sensory-motor potentials are further used for conspecific communication, or even for inter-species communication.[3]  When the dog wags its tail in recognition of its owner, an inter-species communication takes place.[4]


According to present scientific knowledge, man possesses five perceptory senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Other possible senses—or extra senses—are under study.[5]  For expression and representation he can make sounds, grimace, gesticulate, move about (walk, run, dance) and manipulate and transform objects. But he lacks some of the faculties of perception, expression and representation that certain other animals have. For example, he cannot navigate by hearing ultrasonic sounds as bats do, or by deciphering the magnetic field of the earth as red-breasted robins do. He cannot communicate to any significant measure by pheromones or a change of color as many animals do. Nor, other than shedding tears, spitting and ejaculating (in sexual intercourse), can he use bodily secretions for expressive communication. Above all, however, he has no elaborate, established, innate pattern for communication. Hardly any basic human physiological signs have universal meaning. We can probably list crying and smiling as expressive forms of behavior, but even they are not necessarily intentional messages. For example, the early smile of a newborn child is more a grimace than a pleased response to another person.[6]  And we know that crying does not always signify pain and distress nor a smile joy in every culture.[7]


Many animals have genetic patterns of behavior for communication.[8]  For example, honey bees do a special dance to inform their conspecifics of the location of a feeding place. Their wagging and circling and the rasping of their wings indicate the direction of the food source with respect to the position of the sun, distance and wind velocity.[9]  As far as we know, there are no schools of dance or navigation within the beehive where the bee can learn to wag and turn in order to communicate with its conspecifics. The bee seems to carry within itself the code of communication: the precise tools to express and receive the signs containing the message.


I: From Signs to Symbols


Beyond the innate blueprint for communication, some animals also develop learned expressive movements. Chimpanzees in nature communicate by gestures and vocal signals. Man’s conditioning of higher mammals or birds is probably more familiar. “The animals learn by trial and error, and the movements become stereotyped, rhythmic, and frequently exaggerated, like the innate expressive movements.”[10]  Their process of learning to communicate, however, is not dissimilar to man’s. He combines his sensory perception with his motor apparatus to elaborate a communication pattern. He hears a sound or sees a movement and tries to reproduce it. Imitation, however, is not automatic. Man does not reproduce every sound he hears or every movement he sees. Al­though he does not imitate just what he finds materially useful, his selec­tion of phenomena to imitate does follow the general pattern of his basic drives discussed in Chapter Two. In the words of Uexküll, the selective imitation will be of “man things” in “man’s world.”


To complete the sensory-motor process we should add the essential need of the animal—man—to emit. Emission has environmental communicative consequences. The bird’s song makes it prey to the hunter. A man’s belch­ing may ingratiate him with the host as a sign of satisfaction in one society or categorize him as uncouth in another. The bird may cease singing in danger and the man may stop belching, but the need for emission does not disappear. In emission there is “auto-affection.” In the words of Derrida, “speech...requires that it be heard and understood immediately by whoever emits it”[11] --a factor which, we shall see shortly, contributes to the conver­sion of signs into symbols.


Man communicates with his total environment (Umwelt) to satisfy not only his biological and physiological needs but also his psychological and sociologi­cal drives which contribute to the abstraction of his communicative patterns. The drive to link with the unknown is not always a search for food; it may be a search for psychological security, and may soar to esoteric and mystic dimensions. Cassirer, referring to Uexküll’s description of biological and organic functions, goes on to say:


Man has, as it were, discovered a new method of adapting himself to his environment. Between the receptor system and the effector system, which are to be found in all animal species, we find in man a third link which we may describe as the symbolic system.[12]


Man, then, by using his sensory-motor potentials to overcome his lack of an innate blueprint for communication, goes beyond functional purposes and turns his signs into symbols. We may thus conceive of a spectrum with, at one end, the mechanical and state-of-nature receptor-effector functional cycle; and at the other, the abstractions of symbolic patterns. In the middle, symbols and signs fade and shade into each other to meet the complexity of human communications. According to human observations, in the animal kingdom both intra- and inter-specific communications, whether innate or learned, remain at the stage of signs. It is doubtful that the bees in a hive would appreci­ate a returning forager bee’s improvisation of a belly dance between its functional waggings. A bee’s dance is a sign to indicate the source of food. A sign need not resemble the object it refers to, but to be functional, it should emanate from an understanding common to both sender and receiver, not from an arbitrary caprice of the sender. A sign is conventional and serves the strict functional purpose of indicating a ratio or an action. The stop sign does not depict a foot on a brake but distinctly evokes that image for those informed about the convention.[13]


In the elaboration of signs and their development into symbols, certain human species-specifics are particularly important. Through thought and imagina­tion, man produces signs by sound, gesture and manual transformation of objects. He creates language and instruments to make music; he draws, paints and sculpts images; he invents alphabets. He makes himself up, dresses and develops dance forms to express himself. His signs are not, however, instinctively understandable by other people. Man’s creative and imitative potentials are further supplemented by his memory which, by repeated exposure to signs, can be habituated to their meaning, store them and transmit them in abstract form to other conspecifics. The creation, imitation, retention and transmission of signs carry the seeds of the symbolic system, because the receptor is at the same time factor and actor. So, while the subject accommodates his scheme of action to the external world by imitation, he also, by assimilation and incorporation, transforms external phenomena and adapts them to his own organism and personality, and he transmits them to others with the imprint—no matter how insignificant—of his own being.


Of human ways to communicate, language is, of course, the most prominent. By turning sounds into words, giving them meaning and providing for their composition through grammar, man greatly expands his potential to communicate. But at the same time, because of their diversity and complexity, languages limit man’s communicative range and make it more exclusive.[14] Languages are creative products serving as cultural indicators. In the words of Whorf:


...the background linguistic system (in other words, the grammar) of each language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is itself the shaper of ideas, the program and guide for the individual’s mental activity .... the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds—and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds.[15]


And for Sapir, “Language is a guide to ‘social reality.’ powerfully conditions all our thinking about social problems and processes.”[16] Language reflects a culture’s evolution and particular experiences. For example, in France since World War II the word “collaborateur” may mean, in certain contexts, a traitor, because during the war it referred to those who collaborated with the German occupation forces. An innocent alien may easily misuse the term. The symbolic abstraction of a term—or a sign—engenders a suggestive and generalizing dimension permitting modification of its significance. This modification takes place within the social dynamics with input from the affectional dispositions of the social members. Sapir suggested that children do not imitate what they hear directly but indirectly on the basis of inferences, thus contributing to the change of the language. The abstraction of a symbol may emerge from the depths of the unconscious and go beyond the consciousness of its originator. There is, of course, no clear separation between conscious and unconscious symbolism. And while parts of the unconscious origins of symbols may be of the domain of psychoanalysis, in so far as they reflect the state of mind of the originators in certain social contexts, they interest the student of politics.[17]  The language of the symbolist poets cannot serve for administrative communication. The movies of Bunuel, Bergman and Kubrick do not provide straightforward information like the instructional films on life-saving and cleaning a rifle. Surrealist paintings would hardly serve as traffic signs. But they indicate trends in Western civilization.[18]  It is a far cry from punk rock to the pomp of “Rule, Britannia, Rule.”


In the words of Baudelaire, “man passes through forests of symbols,” and symbols, reflecting his total environment (Umwelt), combine the affectional and the functional to permit man to make sense of that total environment. For the fatherland to be sensually perceived, we fly the flag and play the national anthem. As a sign, the flag represents a country and will be so recognized by an’ informed alien. But it will evoke abstract feelings of patriotism in the citizen of the country.


Although man uses the audio-visual senses for more elaborate communications, his other senses also play significant symbolic roles. Incense and spice develop olfactory and gustatory patterns of identification and understanding. As for tactile communication, a travel guide to Greece remarks: “ not be surprised at the frequency with which you are patted, petted and prodded in Greece. You may end up feeling like the family dog an affectionate family.”[19]  Russian males greet each other by kissing on the mouth, and the French are slightly surprised to find that American women often do not shake hands. When a person withdraws as he is petted and patted by someone habitu­ated to tactile expression of feelings, or if the latter tries to control his tactile expression in deference to the former, a symbolic dissonance takes place indicating temperamental and cultural differences. Tactile gestures may also be formal symbols of expression. When John Foster Dulles refused to shake hands with Chou En Lai at the Geneva Conference in 1954 his gesture was a symbol of his values.


II. Rituals


Ceremonies, rites and rituals are symbolic acts. In the words of Frazer, “A myth is never so graphic and precise in its details as when it is, so to speak, the book of the words which are spoken and acted by the performers of the sacred rite.”[20]  Here, of course, we are not limiting “rite” and “ritual” to religion and magic. The Confucian classic rituals did not serve magic or religion, but provided for the orderly expression of feelings appropriate to social situations and the refinement and regulation of human emotions. Eti­quette, manners of speech or dress and sacred rites are external manifesta­tions of what is supposed to be the internalized pattern of cognition, compre­hension and identification among group members. The ritual, by making the members act as they otherwise might not have acted then and there, inculcates them with the appropriate symbols, permits them to organize their symbolic thoughts and reaffirms their faith, myth or ideology: The Pledge of Allegiance.


Like symbols, rituals cover a spectrum ranging from more functional purposes to esoteric and superstitious rites. A military parade is a ceremony. At its inception it may be a purely functional occasion to review the army’s preparedness. It develops also as a ritual, first to imprint, then to re­inforce and remind the group members of such affectional and symbolic dimen­sions as patriotism and national pride. It may, however, deteriorate into a nonrational ritual not fulfilling the functions for which it was designed. History records many instances where superstitious practices have handicapped social functions. The Chinese rituals of preparation for war, for example, had degenerated by the end of the nineteenth century to the point that they disadvantaged the Chinese in the Sino-Japanese conflict of 1894. While the modernized Japanese army was taking strategic positions in Korea, the Chinese were attending to the religious ceremonies of recruitment and traditional archery in the streets of Peking.


The nonrational and superstitious dimensions of rituals are not, of course, only results of social sclerosis but indicators of deep rooted social and individual human imperatives. Socially speaking, ceremonies and rituals are promoted by the control agencies to secure continuity of the social order and reaffirm its hierarchy. The church wants the believer to be in church on Sunday. But ritualization also originates within the psyche and permits man to develop cause and effect patterns that help him to cope with uncontroll­able natural and social elements. The internal inclination toward ritualization manifests itself early in life. Piaget observed ritualization in his daughter as of the age of ten months.[21]  We may use the term talisman complex for man’s tendency to develop talismanic, fetishist or superstitious behavior—yet another dimension of his fear of the unknown. In primeval cultures the relationship of the talisman complex to magic rituals is more observable.[22]  In the more complex, heterogeneous and modern society, the talisman complex becomes a socially undeclared individual internalization; we have good omens, lucky numbers and lucky days. There is psychological need for prayer, lamentation, celebration and exaltation.


Thus, combining the inclinations of group members (their talisman complex) with those of the social control strata, the social structure will reinforce itself in the consciousness of group members by marking certain stages or occasions of the cultural process. Cultural observances help maintain the group’s cohesion, integration and prevailing social order. Symbols are “memorated”—that is, they rely on individual memory—and rituals are “commemorated”—that is, remembered in common. Even when performed alone, rituals are observed in a feeling of communion, at a certain time, in a certain sequence and in a prescribed form, like the daily prayers of the Moslems. The more there is need for massive reinforcement of group identity and consciousness of the social structure, the more the social ceremony will turn into sacrosanct ritual.[23]  The more the members of the group become individually conscious of the particular object of a ritual, the more it can turn into the symbolic consciousness of the people and not necessarily have elaborate social manifestations. A resurgence of ritualistic practices may occur on certain occasions to consolidate group integration in the face of danger or to reinforce the prevailing belief, myth or ideology. In times of national catastrophes and wars, churches have better attendance.


Symbols and rituals are then products of man’s interaction with his total environment (Umwelt) of which the social complex is the crucial factor and the main custodian and user of symbols and rituals. By making man make sense of his being, symbols and rituals make him comprehend—or condition him to understand—the social hierarchy and the distinctive attributes of different classes and categories of men.[24]


III. Symbolic Stratification


In his original research, van Gennep distinguished the separation, transition, initiation and incorporation rites by which the members of a primeval group passed from one distinguishable status to another.[25]  In modern heterogeneous society, too, rituals permit the social hierarchy to be recognized so that the social order can be harmoniously maintained. The broad common symbols and rituals—the inauguration of a president or the coronation of a king-will indicate the general symbolic and ritualistic pattern within which particular symbols—forms of address, meeting places, military uniforms-will keep the groups involved at correct distances and permit inferences as to the status and power position of each. Traditional cultures like the Chinese maintained their patterns in this manner for centuries.


Each level of the social hierarchy, each distinctive attribute, each different class and category of men implies the existence, within the broader symbolic system, of further particular symbols, modes of behavior, ceremonies and rituals. Particular symbolic patterns not only help the group establish its identity and recognize its members but also allow it to identify and interact with other groups. Even in the animal kingdom, where a species lives sympatrically with other species having overlapping signals, ritualization takes place among conspecifics to avoid confusion of signals.[26]


In some societies and under certain conditions of social evolution, distinctions may be more rigid, as in the caste system of India, while in others they may seem more fluid, as in the United States.[27]  Whatever the degree of fluidity within a heterogeneous society, at some point beyond their shadings and fadings the particular characteristics of an interest group, ethnic group, professional group or class will become identifiable. There will be those who will be “in” and those who will be “out.” Lawyers, businessmen, professors, government officials and manual workers, people of different creeds and races, work together and may live in the same neighborhood; but in their closer professional, religious, ethnic or racial associations, they develop particular behavioral patterns, dialects, tastes, smells and appearances: hairstyles, makeup and dress. In modern industrialized societies, some of these distinctions have been blurred. Nearly anybody can go into any shop and buy any kind of clothing, although even here the fashion aesthetics of the socializing group influences the individual. In more traditional patterns, these symbols more clearly establish group distinctions. The aristocrats, the higher caste, the bourgeois, the artisans and the farmers are each entitled to their symbols and costumes and, in the slow pace of tradition, they feel self-conscious in the garb of another class. The modern society, however, has its own subtle symbolic segregations. If there are no recognized untouchable castes, there are always the ghettos.


But even in the most stagnant tradition, class compartmentations are not watertight. They are subject to the dynamics and fermentations of the total environment (Umwelt) which, beyond its internal evolution, also includes its area of contact with whatever lies beyond. In their interplay, particular groups may promote or inhibit the symbolic significance of others, depending on their overlapping or conflicting value orientations. Many cultures have built-in status reversal ceremonies which serve as a feedback and release mechanism between classes.[28]  The king’s jester is partly a critical institution. But while a philosopher may find the pomp of stately ceremonies ludicrous, he may play the game to make the symbols credible for the “common man.” The ruling class may not believe in God but may attend religious rituals to induce the “common man” to believe and be better regimented for control. In the process, however, the philosopher may become habituated to the ceremony and the rulers become conditioned by the religious morale. Inversely, when the philosopher becomes critical of the state rituals and the common man and the working class lose their awe of the stately symbols, when the younger generation finds the symbols and rituals of the older generation irrelevant, when an ethnic or racial minority no longer abides by the rituals of another ruling ethnic group, or when women find the symbols and rituals assigned to them revolting, the winds of change have blown. More will be said of these in our discussion of reference groups in Chapter Eight.


The inherent potentials of symbols (as distinct from signs) for insinuation, manipulation and valuational interpretation make them the systemic vehicles for change. What the opponents of a regime—an established symbolic and ritualized system—cannot say publicly and politically, they can say in a poem, a satiric cartoon or a movie. Shortly before the French Revolution, Beaumarchais could ask the aristocrats to their face, “What have you done except being born with a name?” That was, of course, through his play, The Marriage of Figaro (1784), staged in the court of Louis XVI.


There is, then, the possibility of overlapping, interpenetration, misunderstanding, qualified recognition (or nonrecognition) within and among symbolic systems and their corresponding social structures. These interactions, at times unintentional, at other times deliberate, will be the cause and conse­quence of social evolution and become the patterns wherein values take shape and group dynamics materialize.


We can now begin to see how symbols and rituals, group dynamics and value-crystallization processes converge within the socio-political complex and condition and qualify each other. Their convergence shows that each is a manifestation of the whole, and that their different dimensions and varia­tions combine, interact and concord. The affectional-functional pattern of behavior and relations in the group context provides, as we saw, grounds for values to develop as the mainstays of interests. The value systems draw on the individual's disposition to sublimate internally or to rationalize and condition his affectional-functional behavior through social action. The symbolic system, while generated by man's sensory perceptions and carried along through his capacities to imitate, to store and transmit information, evolves within the fermentations and dynamics of social action and the individual's reproductive and creative potentials.


Examining group dynamics in Chapter Three, we saw that there could exist, under different circumstances, different degrees of homogeneity and hetero­geneity and different degrees of social integration. We concluded that chapter by emphasizing the relativity of the radius of understanding and identification of the group member and his need for norms by which he can differentiate the "normal" from the "strange." Our question as to the nature of a norm embarked us on our discussion of values and symbols. Their con­vergence with group dynamics at this point of our study brings us back to our original inquiry about norms.


IV. Norms


Our discussions so far have, of course, strongly insinuated and to a large extent implicitly covered the domain of norms. We are now going to put a name on them and look at them more directly. By succinctly recapitulating the fermentations of values and symbols in the context of group dynamics we shall examine their different variations and combinations which develop standards and patterns of behavior. Our spectrum will range from well-­integrated, homogeneous groups with a monolithic value system and well-­established traditional symbolic and ritualistic patterns to social settings where, as these conditions alter and falter, additional standards are required to condition the group member to adjust and submit to the discrepancies arising from the social order.


Moral Norms


Beliefs, myths and ideologies constitute effective value-crystallizing bases for a social order in so far as the members of the society believe in and practice those values. To that extent the values of the social order become the "normal" pattern of conduct; they become "norms" in the valuational and "normative" sense. That is, the individual adheres to and complies with them on the basis of his religious, superstitious, mythological, mythical or ideological convictions. At this stage of their social potency, they may be termed moral norms: they define the conduct in which the individual "be­lieves," by which he distinguishes between right and wrong. They are also externally functional in the form of mores, customs and traditions by which the group identifies itself. Such standards of behavior imply a fairly homogeneous social pattern with an uncontested value system, such as a primeval culture or a society heavily inculcated by a monolithic ideology. Here the pattern of social behavior will be restrained and constrained within a channel close to the crystallized values.


In other words, in the extreme homogeneous and monolithic stage, such as in a primeval or communal group having a clustered and close-knit value system with little contradiction and challenge, values and norms are so near to each other as to be confounded with one another, becoming the very texture of the group and the ingrained pattern of its members' behavior. There, in the moral normative sense, the norms--or the values--provide the inner pattern of behavior and may need no exterior structure or sanctions to impose conformity. The voodoo death does not need an executioner. Values, deeply ingrained, become matters of inner imperative, not choice, for group members. Under such circumstances we may say that values cease, ceding to norms, because values, in order to be so identified (at least in the abstract) require the possibility of choice: they must be consciously preferred in order to have value to their holder. A strict and extreme monolithic and homogeneous normative system does not offer alternatives. As and when the group evolves into a heterogeneous society, its diversity of interests, as discussed in previous chapters, will bring about variegated values with different degrees and natures of crystallization. When values become heterogeneous, the distinction between norms and values is more apparent.


Ethical Norms


As values fan out in a heterogeneous society, crystallizing into different beliefs, myths and ideologies to uphold various interest constellations, their particularities may (and will) conflict. Each value system present may impose certain moral norms on its own adherents different from those of other groups. But if the heterogeneous society is to survive and not to disintegrate, the coexisting and cohabiting value systems need some grounds of behavior, which may not fully correspond to the particular normative patterns of each, but should at least accommodate their general principles. We thus get a channeling of social behavior which, assuming that the value systems involved are not totally hostile, guides their members to behave, in the larger social context, according to certain social ethical norms. Catholics, Protestants and Jews; socialists, communists and liberal economists; monarchists and republicans may live side by side. Or, rather, if they want to live side by side, they must accept the ethical norms which make their orderly coexistence possible. The channel of social ethical norms will thus be less lofty than the moral norms of each of the cohabiting and coexisting particular value systems, but it will provide them with an area of compromise and some common standards of behavior.


The encounter and coexistence of variegated value systems have, of course, different degrees of impact on the society's subgroups or sectors and their members. At one extreme, the members of a sub-group may virtually isolate themselves from the main social ethical pattern by sticking closer to the normative doctrines and dogmas of their own particular value system, as do the Amish in the United States. To the extent that they do so, they alienate their group from the rest of society. This corresponds to the rigid group behavior discussed in the context of group dynamics in Chapter Three. To allow adherence to social ethical norms which can bring about reasonable integration within the heterogeneous society, the diverse value systems should make some concessions and, by rendering their own particular normative (moral) systems flexible, allow some leeway in the behavioral patterns of their adherents. This may attenuate and weaken the impact of a value system over its adherents. Beyond this attenuation, the coexistence of different value systems also implies confrontations. The two factors combined-attenuation and confrontation--may neutralize the value systems and produce, at the other extreme from rigid group behavior, a breakdown of moral and ethical norms. Such a collapse may cause group members to vacillate between the contradictory value systems or, within the neutralized field, to proceed directly from interests to goals without the value-orientation bonds of either moral or social ethical norms--see Fig. 4.1. The former situation (vacillation) corresponds to the bondless state of anomie discussed in Chapter Three, while the latter corresponds to the state-of-nature rationale which, in the moral and ethical contexts, could amount to criminal behavior. The conflict between heterogeneous values is accentuated when they constitute opposing poles, such as supernatural spiritual beliefs against materialistic ideologies, or when they vitally compete for the same spheres of interests and clientele.


Legal Norms


Under such conditions, to avoid disruption and disintegration and to maintain order, the society must provide social structures to supplement its members' inner point of view and the ethical norms.[29]  The rules of conduct so established, accompanied by sanctions, will become legal norms. Thus, the "channel" of law needs to be created in order to regulate the behavior of the members of the society in their move from interests to goals. Although legal norms are generally inspired by moral norms and have valuational justification, their restraints and constraints are functional. They are norms in so far as they define delinquencies with observable signs and provide effective sanctions against them. The less a society has common moral and ethical patterns, the more it needs to rely on legal norms backed by sanctions.


The imposition of legal norms, however, implies that the heterogeneous society, or rather part of it, has decided to maintain the group's cohesion. I say "part of it" because if the whole social entity together with its components (subgroups and their members) did strive in unison for social cohesion there would be no deviation from the moral and ethical norms, and there would be no need for legal norms to sanction the non-existent deviants. We would thus be moving back to our earlier models. The presence of legal norms indicates that some members of the society consciously or unconsciously commit acts which do not contribute to social cohesion. This cohesion is upheld, however, by part of the society which, if it successfully maintains the legal order, is the weightier. Depending on the nature of the legal norms, the weightier part which subscribes to them may be composed of a cross-section including the adherents of various value systems who, in the case of a particular legal norm, may agree with each other on its moral and ethical premises. Whether Communist, Catholic or Fascist, people may agree on punishing homicide (although even the interpretation of homicide, its nature and consequences, may differ among people holding different values). The more there are areas of agreement on legal norms among upholders of different values within a society, the more there will be understanding among them and the greater the social cohesion. From what we saw earlier in our discussion of values and interests, we may conclude, however, that total agreement of the adherents of all value systems on all legal norms would be a non-sequitur for our definition of a heterogeneous society, as we would then revert once again to the monolithic and homogeneous group.


* * *


In a society with heterogeneous value patterns, the prevailing ethical or legal norms cannot be equidistant from all the contradicting value patterns. At some point they will receive their justification according to some and not other values, rendering our model lopsided, leaning towards the weightier of the coexisting beliefs, myths or ideologies. The laws and ethics of present-day Western Europe and North America are basically inspired by Christian, bourgeois and mostly free-enterprise values. Here the more serious crimes are those against individual rights and private property. During the Nazi regime in Germany, when the myth of primacy of the Aryan race was upheld, the gravest crimes were those against the purity of that race and its claim to superiority. In the Soviet Union laws are inspired by Communist ideology, and the most serious offenses are those against public property or those which undermine the state ideology.


Of course, some societies are more lopsided than others. Where there is broad consensus on the prevailing norms, where the coexisting value systems approach the social ethics in their Weltanschauung and mutual toleration, there will be greater balance. Among the existing societies the Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Sweden seem to exemplify this situation. The more social ethics and legal norms are lopsided in support of the interests of a particular sector of the society, drawing their justification from its value system, the more those ethics and norms will need reinforcement through doctrinaire propaganda and drastic sanctions to neutralize and counter adverse beliefs, myths and ideologies. The heretic is burned, otherwise new churches emerge and claim part of the social control: either the inquisition or ecumenicism. The imposition of social and legal norms corresponding to a specific value system may produce a dictatorial regime. We referred to this possibility when we covered overintegration in Chapter Three. However, we also pointed out that the outcome will depend on the environmental factors and the interaction of different value systems. If the alienated value systems are strong and active, they may polarize against the prevailing value system and create social conflict.[30]


V. Normative Interplay


Our treatment of norms so far has shown a gradation in the semantics of the term. We have referred to moral, ethical and legal norms. They are unified and qualified as norms in that they all constitute patterns and rules of behavior. Indeed, norma, the Latin origin of the word "norm," means "pattern" and "rule." Thus, in the social context, norms, setting patterns and rules of conduct, provide for predictable behavior. As Easton and Dennis put it: "'Norms' we take to be expectations about the way people do or will behave. They may be embodied in laws or constitutional codes; they may be simply customary expectations founded in experience with the system."[31]


Depending on the nature of the norm--moral, ethical or legal--different ways and means are used to reinforce the correct behavior and discourage the incorrect. At an extreme where moral standards are fully supported by supernatural beliefs, the sinner may be pitied or lamented for provoking God's wrath: Deorum injuriae Diis curae.[32]  One step further he may be counseled, reprimanded or sanctioned "for his own good"--so that he may not, for example, go to hell (according to Christianity) or be reincarnated in a lower species (according to Hinduism). An act society considers unethical can bring about reprobation, indignation and disgust. Finally, when the action becomes socially intolerable, it may fall into the realm of crime and be dealt with through criminal law. The distinction, of course, is not always easy to establish. A moral sin can become a crime because, as we saw earlier, any normative system, even legal, draws inspiration from a prominent set of values within the society.


Thus, depending on the potency and dogmatism of the prevailing value system, norms will not be confined simply to expectations of behavior in the social context, but will encroach on the private life and behavior of the members of the society. Indeed, it is by making them abide by its moral precepts (if not by conviction, at least by obligation) that a value system can better control people and maintain its hegemony. Pericles was daydreaming more than depicting the reality of Athenian democratic virtue when in his funeral oration he claimed: "Far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbor for doing what he likes, or even to indulge in those injurious looks which cannot fail to be offensive, although they inflict no positive penalty."[33]  If ever practiced, this virtue was a fleeting one. The very private life of Pericles and his common law wife Aspasia was the subject of irony by such poets as Cratinos and Hermippos; and Aspasia was tried and condemned for impiety. Twenty-four centuries later, John Stuart Mill wrote that "the individual is not accountable to society for his actions in so far as these concern the interests of no person but himself," adding, in order to be more realistic than Pericles:


Advice, instruction, persuasion, and avoidance by other people if thought necessary by them for their own good, are the only measure by which society can justifiably express its dislike or disapprobation of his conduct.


Yet the society which produced John Stuart Mill also made laws punishing such private matters as homosexual acts between consenting adults and suicide. In England, a century after Mills' On Liberty, the Wolfenden Committee on Homosexual Offenses and Prostitution recommended that


homosexual behavior between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence, [by stating the argument] which we believe to be decisive, namely, the importance which society and the law ought to give to individual freedom of choice and action in matters of private morality. Unless a deliberate attempt is to be made by society, acting through the agency of the law, to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law's business. To say that is not to condone or to encourage private immorality.[34]


The committee's conclusions, however, also stimulated arguments that society censure acts which it disapproved. For example, as Lord Devlin put it:


The law must base itself on Christian morals and to the limit of its ability enforce them, not simply because they are the morals of most of us, nor simply because they are the morals which are taught by the established Church -- on these points the law recognizes the right to dissent -- but for the compelling reason that without the help of Christian teaching the law will fail.[35]


Lord Devlin's approach illustrates those social currents that claim norms in the name of a predominant value system. But legal norms may also be justified by social ethical arguments. It may be said that restrictive norms against suicide are dictated by the social need for the economic contribution of the individual who is, after all, partly, if not totally, a social product. Or perhaps laws against homosexuality exist because the practice is detrimental to procreation (that is, if the society is not worried about a population explosion) and undermines family structure as the basic social unit. But for a moment, let Mill's eloquent writings again counter these arguments:


But I cannot consent to argue the point as if society had no means of bringing its weaker members up to its ordinary standard of rational conduct, except waiting till they do something irrational, and then punishing them, legally or morally, for it. Society has had absolute power over them during all the early portion of their existence: it has had the whole period of childhood and nonage in which to try whether it could make them capable of rational conduct in life. The existing generation is master both of the training and the entire circumstances of the generation to come; it cannot indeed make them perfectly rise and good, because it is itself so lamentably deficient in goodness and wisdom; and its best efforts are not always, in individual cases, its most successful ones; but it is perfectly well able to make the rising generation, as a whole, as good as, and a little better than, itself. If society lets any considerable number of its members grow up mere children, incapable of being acted on by rational consideration of distant motives, society has itself to blame for the consequences.[36]


The normative system covers a spectrum of social actions which may, at one end, inculcate individuals with patterns of moral conduct and, at the other, establish legal norms accompanied by sanctions to set standards of behavior. An understanding of these normative patterns and their relative weight and dosage is crucially important for comprehending different socio-political complexes. Within the possible normative patterns, the individual may behave in a given way or abide by social mores, customs, standards, rules and laws for a number of possible reasons: because they correspond to his inner conviction of rightness, because he believes they constitute the acceptable standards of behavior, because he wants to be in good standing with his fellow men, because he wants to avoid social friction, because, whether he believes in them or not, he finds that as they constitute social norms he should abide by them, or because he fears legal sanctions in case of disobedience. These potential attitudes seem to emanate from social actions and impacts of different natures.


The inculcation of the group member with moral norms, his conditioning to ethical standards and the creation and implementation of legal measures need different social and political structures. Thus, having seen why values and norms are developed, we now want to know within which social contexts they are developed and converted into behavioral patterns. This inquiry will permit us, in the forthcoming chapters, to see the relative distinctive­ness of different social and political agencies which allow values and norms of different natures to develop. We shall begin by considering some of the main agencies which form values and norms and inculcate and condition the individual in the broad social context. After examining their interplay and mutual impact with group members, we shall see how they can eventually be interpreted in terms of political cultures wherein grow the legally and politically structured constitutions, institutions and laws.


[1] The total environment should be understood as encompassing more than the geographic and physical or even the social environment. It is intended to connote the total life-giving whole in which the organism lives. The German word Umwelt would have been more appropriate.

See notably the use of Umwelt by Jakob Johann von Uexküll in Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere (Berlin: Springer, 1921).

[2] Jakob Johann von Uexküll and G. Kriszat, Streifzuge durch die Umwelten von Tieren and Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten (Berlin: Springer, 1934).

[3] We use the term “specific” to designate a branch of a given species with its own particularities, e.g., different varieties of bees. Thus “conspecific” means “of the same branch of a given species.” “Inter-specific” means “between the different branches of the same species,” “con-species” means “among the members of the same species,” regardless of its different branches, and “inter-species” means “among different species.” “Species-specific” refers to the particular characteristics of a given species.

[4] For other examples of animal communication, see Thomas A. Sebeok, ed., How Animals Communicate (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1977).

[5] See, for example, Louisa E. Rhine, ESP in Life and Lab: Tracing Hidden Channels (New York: Macmillan, 1967); and Sir Alistair Hardy, The Living Stream (New York: Harper & Row, 1967).

[6] A. Nitschke, quoted in Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Ethology, p.  402.

[7] Klineberg gives as examples the tears shed by the Andaman Islanders and the Maori of New Zealand in meeting a friend after an absence and the Japanese smile in response to a scolding by his superior or on learning about the death of his beloved: Otto Klineberg, "Emotional Expression in Chinese Literature," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 33:517-520 (1938).

[8] See, for example, Nikolaas Tinbergen, The Study of Instincts (Oxford: Clarendon, 1951) and Sebeok, How Animals Communicate.

[9] Von Frisch, Bees; Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Ethology. The latter points out: "Dancing is innate in bees, and there are several dialects. The Egyptian honey bee begins wagging dances when the food is more than 10 meters from the hive, the Krainer race only beyond 50 to 100 meters" (p. 139).

[10] Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Ethology, p. 113.

[11] Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1974), p. 166.

[12] Cassirer, An Essay on Man, p. 24.

[13] For various attempts at distinguishing between signs and symbols, see Jean Piaget, Play, Dreams and Imitation (New York: Norton, 1962), p. 169; Heinz Werner and Bernard Kaplan, Symbol Formation: An Organismic-Developmental Approach to Language and the Expression of Thought (New York: Wiley, 1963), p. 12; and Leslie A. White, "The Origin and Nature of Speech," in William S. Knickerbocker, ed., Twentieth Century English (New York: Philosophical Library, 1946), pp. 93-103.

[14] See, for example, Noam Chomsky, Language and Mind (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972).

[15] Benjamin Whorf, "Science and Linguistics," Collected Papers on Metalinguistics (Washington: Dept. of State, Foreign Service Institute, 1952), p. 5.

[16] Sapir (1929) in David G. Mandelbaum, ed., Edward Sapir: Culture, Language and Personality (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1966), pp. 68-69. See also Edward Sapir, Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech (New York: Harcourt, 1921).

[17] For a discussion of symbols for the purpose of political analysis, see C. E. Merriam, Political Power: Its Composition and Incidence (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1934), notably pp. 104-105.

[18] See notably Michael Schneider, Neurosis and Civilization: A Marxist/ Freudian Synthesis (New York: The Seabury Press, 1975), p. 221.

[19] Quoted by Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964), p. 78.

[20] Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, abridged ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1963), p. 705.

[21] Piaget, Play, Dreams and Imitation, pp. 93 ff.

[22] See notably the previously cited works by Frazer, Durkheim, Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown and Redfield. For an account of magic rituals in our time and culture, see Herbert Passin and John W. Bennett, "Changing Agricultural Magic in Southern Illinois: A Systematic Analysis of Folk-Urban Transition," Social Forces, 22:98-106 (1943).

[23] R, A. Rappaport, "The Sacred in Human Evolution," Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 2:23-44 (1971).

[24] See, for example, Hugh Dalziel Duncan, Symbols in Society (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1968).

[25] Arnold van Gennep, The Rites of Passage (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1960; first published in 1908).

[26] Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Ethology, pp. 97 ff.

[27] See, for example, Urie Bronfenbrenner, "Socialization and Social Class Through Time and Space," in E. E. Maccoby, T. M. Newcomb and E. L. Hartley, eds., Readings in Social Psychology, 3rd ed. (New York: Holt, 1958), pp. 400-425.

[28] Victor W. Turner, The Ritual Process (Chicago: Aldine, 1969), pp. 172 ff.

[29] The concept of inner point of view is inspired by H. L. A. Hart, The Concept of Law (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961).

[30] See our discussion of conflict under "Social Semantics" in Chapter Eight.

[31] David Easton and Jack Dennis, "The Child's Acquisition of Regime Norms: Political Efficacy," APSR, 61:25 (1967).. See also Easton's A Systems Analysis of Political Life, notably Ch. 12.

[32] Injuries to God are God's concern.

[33] Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian Wars, Bk. II, Ch. 37.

[34] Paragraph 62 of the Wolfenden Report, 1957.

[35] Sir Patrick Devlin, The Enforcement of Morals, Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. XIV, Maccabaean Lecture in Jurisprudence, 1959 (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1965), p. 25. For counterarguments to Devlin, see H. L. A. Hart, "Immorality and Treason," The Listener, pp. 162-163; and Richard Wollheim, "Crime, Sin and Mr. Justice Devlin," Encounter, November 1959, pp. 34-40.

[36] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Ch. IV.