Values such as democracy, freedom, the right to dissent, respect for fundamental rights and dignity of labour, etc., for example, are very general in character.
These values are abstract in nature and they pervade many aspects of life. A large proportion of values are found to be very general in nature. Sociologically, these are more significant.
(b) Specific Values:
Values are often stated in specific terms. For example, we may value physical health or affluence. More specifically, we may value silk over nylon or the writing of a particular novelist over that of another. Values normally range from highly abstract to specific levels.
2. Values are hierarchically arranged:
All the values are not equally significant. We can make a distinction between-‘Means Values’, ‘Ends Values’, ‘Dominant Values’ and ‘Ultimate Values,
(a) ‘Means Values’ are instrumental values. They are sought as part of the effort to achieve other values,
(b) ‘Ends Values’ are more general and more important from the point of view of the groups who are doing the valuing work.
For example, if health is the value, then the maintenance of good nutrition, securing proper rest, avoidance of alcoholic drinks and drug addictions, doing proper exercises regularly, etc., become means to that end. This difference is based on contexts and situations. But it helps us to understand how the values are patterned and how one is related to another.
(c) ‘Dominant Values’ are those values which influence and condition the behaviour of the people to a great extent. Sociologist Williams has suggested the following criteria for dominant values:
(i) Extensiveness. Whether the value is extensively found in the total activity of the people? (ii) Duration. Whether the value has been durable and observed over a long period of time? (iii) Intensity. With what intensity the value is pursued or maintained by the people? (iv) Prestige of Value Carriers: To what extent the value carriers such as persons, objects, or organisations enjoy prestige in the society? For example, ‘sacrifice’ and ‘service’ are the two among many dominant values of the Indian society. Similarly, ‘individual enterprise’ and ‘success in life’ represent two dominant values of American society.
(d) The ‘Ultimate Values’ refer to those values of the group that give meaning, substance and direction to the lives of people.
If we take the above-mentioned example of the physical health we may say, that it is required for longevity. Longevity or longer life span can be justified in terms of ‘ultimate value’ to do service to the humanity and to be worthy of God’s creation. There can be no higher or more ultimate value than this.
3. Explicit and Implicit Values:
Most of the social values are clearly stated and explicitly held. They are deliberately taught to the children. Through official, governmental and other organisational means they are reinforced to the adults. They are also promoted through mass media. Example: democracy, freedom, fundamental rights, social equality, etc. These values are explicitly held and cherished.
Some of the values are implicitly held by the people. Public leaders, spokesmen for the society and even religious leaders may not stress upon these much. They may even ignore them. For example, respect for elders and conformity, taking care of old parents, respect for authority are values implicitly held in our society.
4. Values may Conflict with One Another:
Values may often conflict with one another. In complex societies we generally observe not just one value system but more than one. We find multiple, overlapping and sometimes even opposing value systems in the same society. For example, the right to dissent, conformity, respect for authority, respect for elders-are values that is in conflict.
Some of the values are potentially conflicting. When they are pervasive, it becomes impossible for us to pursue some of them without violating others. For example, we value religious worship for personal gratification. At the same time we equally value achievement of status, accumulation of wealth, etc. Here, the first one may clash with the latter.
Normally, in modern complex society, we find conflict between groups that hold mutually opposite values. For example, some may value patriotism, respect for authority and disapprove of dissent.
Some others may give high importance to the value of establishment of peace. For them, establishment of peace is more important than submitting to or accepting of the war policies of their national leaders.
No wonder, if, at times, the first group clashes with the second. In the same manner, during the British rule in India, while some of the Indian nationals preferred to cherish the values of “respect for authority” and “obedience to the master “; some others dedicated themselves to uphold the values of ‘independence’ and fundamental liberties’.
It seems reasonable to assume that there are less value conflicts in small homogeneous societies than in large heterogeneous ones.