unwritten norms of civil society

  • 1

unwritten norms of civil society

Tuesday, 19 July 2022 | Vinayshil Gautam

unwritten norms of civil society

Written and unwritten norms mark commonalities globally

Documents and written frameworks of reference are much emphasised for the functioning of any civil society. This is understandable because of the current civilisational structure.

Another structure, which is also the underpinning of any civil society, is made of unwritten norms, which is generally accepted to be the pillars of individual and interpersonal behavior and more.  For example, everyone knows that integrity, truthfulness and honesty are the basic pillars of interpersonal functioning.  This holds true in relationships-one to one, one to many, many to many and so the sequence goes on. If people say one thing at a given point of time and go back totally, the next time, there is reference to it, then it is difficult to work. Something worse than chaos will emerge.

The purpose is to bring to attention, how simple values determine interpersonal dynamics and how it is so basic to the functioning of an orderly society. Taking this logic further, acculturalisation (shared cultural norm) becomes the foundation of any civil framework. It is something to which most must largely subscribe to.

Interestingly, norms have grown up in this area of behaviour in different parts of the world. Even though they have grown up independently and separately without any known pattern of interaction with each other, their assumptions for action and values are many times similar. Summing it up, it can be said that socially, different societies in different parts of the world have been known to grow in a parallel manner without any evidence of having interaction with each other.

A good example would be comparison points on how the Mayan civilization grew in ancient times in the South American continent and some similarity which it has with ancient Indian civilization. One obvious point is the kind of belief both civilizations have had in the occult affecting the material life situations.

Speaking the truth, for example, is considered desirable everywhere on this planet. Not claiming ownership of something which one has not created or bought has thrown up the idea of 'ownership' in human society in an acknowledged manner.  Later on, as civilization grew this led to the concept of property and civil society became still more complex. It is not as if these commonalities cover all aspects and forms of living together. All that is being stated is that there is a substantial unity of values in many matters that touch the human species.  For example, in no part of the world, would murder be condoned.

Yet, one feels that the basic unity of mankind is to find its due place as a cornerstone of educated and informed behavior.  Hence, there is a need to take forward both in local and global frame, this recognition of many ways of universal unity.

This has other advantages, for example, stealth of behavior would be considered repugnant to civil society, dishonestly of word, deed or matter, would be disapproved without having the need for extensive social or legal documentation.

This purpose of the text is to underscore the environment of strengthening the positive universal values.  The purpose is also to show that whereas duplicity or deception could temporarily succeed, it is not to be tolerated in any manner.

Early recognition of these basics will lead to a healthier society and in creating successive generations which not only are progressively and technologically savvy but are also normatively ahead of their preceding generation. That way all parts of the world would progress in a given direction and would create for a more fulfilling society.

(The author is founder Director, IIM-K.)

Sunday Edition


20 March 2023 | Pioneer | Agenda

Rare diseases: No longer rare

12 March 2023 | Archana Jyoti | Agenda

Health Briefs

12 March 2023 | Agencies | Agenda

Shiva offers lesson in Art of Living

12 March 2023 | Bharat Bhushan Padmadeo | Agenda

Lessons in Lord Shiva’s imagery

26 February 2023 | Bharat Bhushan Padmadeo | Agenda

Fear, love & hope

26 February 2023 | AP | Agenda