deference

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deference

  1. an attitude assumed to be based on the belief that there is a natural order of inferiority and superiority in which the inferior recognize the right of the superior to rule.
  2. the outcome of a power relationship requiring a submissive response from a subordinated actor or group.
Most early work carried out within the framework of definition i was inspired by POLITICAL SCIENCE studies in the tradition of Bagehot (a 19th-century social commentator who, in The English Constitution, ascribed the relative stability of British society to its essentially deferential and, hence, élitist character). A number of voting and attitude studies used the notion of deference, in explanations of working-class VOTING BEHAVIOUR in the 1950s when manual workers’ votes had clearly served to maintain Conservative governments in power. These studies were criticized on both operational and theoretical grounds. Operationally the studies employed crude indicators of ‘deference’ (e.g. McKenzie and Silver, 1968, labelled as ‘deferential’ all respondents who indicated a preference in general terms for a public-school-educated rather than a grammar-school-educated candidate for political office). Theoretically, the studies failed to explore with any precision the social structural and ‘relational’ dimensions of deference.

These dimensions are uppermost in sense 2 of deference, e.g. as formulated by H. Newby (1977). Drawing on a variety of earlier anthropological and historical studies, which indicated that deference did not always involve ‘feelings of inferiority’ but arose simply from a relationship of subordination and POWER, Newby was able to demonstrate the existence of deference in this sense in his study of agricultural workers. Thus for Newby deference is a ‘form of social interaction which occurs in situations involving the exercise of traditional authority.’ Deference, then, is better seen as conformity to a set of social expectations, to a ROLE, within a power structure, than merely as an attitude (see also G. Lenski, 1966). See also CLASS IMAGERY.

References in classic literature ?
At home they might hear political and ecclesiastical secrets intended not for them but for their husbands and brothers, and might even issue commands in the name of a priestly Circle; out of doors the striking combination of red and green, without addition of any other colours, would be sure to lead the common people into endless mistakes, and the Women would gain whatever the Circles lost, in the deference of the passers by.
The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend," observed the Marquis, "will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof," looking up to it, "shuts out the sky.
For example, I myself should have hesitated, at such a season of rejoicing, to seem proud, even though excessive deference and civility at such a moment might have been construed as a lapse both of moral courage and of mental vigour.
I have no objection to any amount of blue sky in its proper place (it can be found at the 4000 level for practically twelve months out of the year), but I submit, with all deference to the educational needs of Transylvania, that "skylarking" in the centre of a main-travelled road where, at the best of times, electricity literally drips off one's stanchions and screw blades, is unnecessary.
In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.