values

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values

  1. ethical ideals and beliefs. The term is often used to distinguish scientific knowledge from ‘values’, especially where such ‘ethical’ ideals, ‘oughts’, etc. are held not to be, or as inherently incapable of ever being, 'scientific’. See also FACT-VALUE DISTINCTION, POSITIVISM, VALUE FREEDOM AND VALUE NEUTRALITY.
  2. the central beliefs and purposes of an individual or society. In Talcott PARSONS’ structural-functionalism internalized 'shared values’ are regarded as playing a decisive role in the social integration of any society (see also CONSENSUS). Criticism of this view is that it overstates the extent to which social integration depends on shared values and understates the importance of political or economic POWER (see also OVERSOCIALIZED CONCEPTION OF MAN; CONFLICT THEORY).
Most sociologists recognize that societies can exist even though riven by value divisions, and that an adherence to prevailing beliefs and values is often expedient or pragmatic rather than deeply held (e.g. see DEFERENCE). Equally, however, most sociologists also acknowledge that naked economic or political force is rarely the sole basis of social integration (e.g. is an unstable basis of political power) and that values usually play an important role (see POLITICAL LEGITIMACY).

In a similar way to criticisms of functionalism, Marxist theories which posit a dominant role for IDEOLOGIES in the maintenance of social power are also criticized for overemphasizing the role of internalized beliefs and values (see DOMINANT IDEOLOGY THESIS).