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Differential Norms in a Multi-Group Society – Essay

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Differences in the norms of multi-group society have some important implications. Some of them may be noted.

Firstly, a multi-group society with divergent norms does not exhibit a single homogeneous culture, but reflects a many-faceted culture. Diversity of group norms found in the modern complex societies sets them off from the primitive societies. The primitives have a simple normative system. They have less number of groups.

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Political parties, trade unions, youth organisations, business groups, commercial organisations, etc., that we find in modern societies are virtually absent in them. Their culture reveals a high degree of integration.

Hence, they have almost single set of norms. But in modern complex societies we find a wide variety of groups which have their own norms that demand conformity on the part of their members.

What is conformity in one group may be deviance in another. Idol worship is accepted among the Hindus, but the Muslims condemn it. If the members of the ruling party are obliged to welcome and support government policies even if they are against their personal views, the opposition party members consider it as a privilege to oppose them.

Thus the communists and democrats, theists and atheists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians, Whites and Negroes, modernists and traditionalists, materialists, and idealists, conservatives and progressivists and an infinite variety of such people representing different groups which work on different norms are found in our modern society. Obviously, the modern society reflects a multifaceted culture.

Secondly, wide variety of norms in a multi-group society leads to conflicting situations. Indi­viduals are faced with them and spend much of their lives trying to adjust to conflicting obligations. Too many groups that are found have too many contradictory norms. Individuals are at a conflict in conforming to them.

For example, business norms clash with religious norms, political norms con­flict with ethical norms, family norms tussle with occupational norms and so on. Thus it is difficult to be a good husband and good doctor at the same time.

It is difficult to be a good housewife and a good social worker at the same time. It is not easy to be a good parent and a good neighbour at the same time, and so on. These examples reveal how individuals are made to face conflicting situations in conforming to all the norms.

Thirdly, vast differences in norms may undermine social understanding and spoil social unity. It is true that norms are necessary for social interaction. Indeed a normless situation is a situation of anomie which represents chaos, confusion and disorderliness. But contradictory norms can also place a barrier on interaction and create a wide gap between groups.

For example, the upper-caste people are opposed to the policy of reservation of the government which has made special provi­sions for the Scheduled castes and tribes for they consider it as a blatant violation of the principle of equality and justice.

The scheduled castes and tribes consider the policy as highly legitimate and just. Similarly, some of the non-Muslim communities in India are highly critical of the exceptions made to the Muslims in the Indian civil code.

Some may be even opposed to the minority rights. Some communities want the religious conversions to be banned while others want to have a provi­sion for that. Thus different feelings, sentiments and ideas associated with these divergent norms of multi-group society may put obstacles for free interaction. It is unavoidable in a multi-group society.

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