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Mores (//, especially in UK English, sometimes //; from Latin mōrēs, [ˈmoːreːs], plural form of singular mōs, meaning "manner", "custom", "usage", "habit") is a term introduced into English by William Graham Sumner (1840–1910), an early U.S. sociologist, to refer to social norms that are widely observed and are considered to have greater moral significance than others. Mores include an aversion for societal taboos, such as incest. The mores of a society usually predicate legislation prohibiting their taboos. Often, countries will employ specialized vice squads or vice police engaged in suppressing specific crimes offending the societal mores.
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".
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The English word morality comes from the same Latin root "mōrēs", as does the English noun 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 Greek terms equivalent to Latin mores are ethos (ἔθος, ἦθος, "character") or nomos (νόμος, "law"). As with the relation of mores to morality, ethos is the basis of the term ethics, nomos give the suffix -onomy, as in astronomy.
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 vary.
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.
- Macionis and Gerber, Sociology 7th ed. (Pearson Canada 2010), p. 65.
- Sumner, William Graham (1 January 1906). Keller, Albert Galloway, ed. Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals. Ginn – via Google Books.