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customany established pattern(s) of behaviour within a community or society. As in everyday usage, the term refers to regularized social practices, or accepted rules of behaviour, which are informally regulated, and which mark off one cultural group from another. At another level, customary forms of action may be distinguished from ‘rational’forms of action (see TYPES OF SOCIAL ACTION), e.g. as with TRADITIONAL ACTION, in which there is little consideration of alternative courses of action.
an inherited pattern of behavior that recurs in a given society or social group and is habitual for the members of that society or group. The term “custom” is frequently identified with the terms “tradition” and “ritual.” Traditions, however, embrace a much larger range of phenomena, intrinsic to all spheres of social behavior and all cultures, while custom is limited to a particular society or area of social behavior. Ritual is only a variety of custom, symbolizing particular social relations, while custom may also be a means of practical utilization and transformation of various objects. Custom served as the principal regulator of relations among people in precapitalist societies. This fact was related to the settled and immobile nature of social life and the weak development of intercultural relations.
Custom serves as a means of acquainting individuals with a particular social and cultural experience, transmitting that experience from generation to generation, regulating the behavior of individuals, maintaining intragroup solidarity, and sanctifying various objects and social relationships. Both real and imaginary objects (gods and so forth) may be sanctified. Production skills, religious rituals, and civil holidays can all function as customs.
With the development of the state and of law, a whole body of customs was sanctioned by the ruling class and included in a system of legal norms (customary law); as a result, the observance of custom was ensured by the state. The power of custom was on the whole undermined with the development of capitalism, the expansion of relations between different cultures, and the secularization of public life. The dynamism of contemporary life, the development of industry and the means of mass communication, and urbanization all intensify this process, bringing social institutions to the fore as regulators of social activity. Custom is preserved in its purest form in everyday life, in mores, and in civic rituals.
The role of customs is determined chiefly by the system of social relations of which the customs are a part; in this connection, customs are divided into the progressive and the reactionary, or obsolete.
In the USSR and other socialist countries, a struggle is waged against obsolete customs. New civic rituals and customs are established, which contribute to the development of socialist social relations.
REFERENCESEngels, F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva.” Marx, K. and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Tarde, G. Zakony podrazhaniia. St. Petersburg, 1892. (Translated from French.)
Gofman, A. B., and V. P. Levkovich. “Obychai kak forma sotsial’noi reguliatsii.” Sovetskaia etnografiia, 1973, no. 1.
Sumner, W. Folkways. London, 1958.
A. B. GOFMAN