Sunday, September 21, 2008

Consensus and consent

Besides providing cohesion and unity, value systems give a sense of rightness to the social order and legitimacy for particular practices and usages, including class and power structures, within a given society. For individuals, the value system with which they have been indoctrinated provides a view of the world and an explanation of life in society. Thus the beliefs and values of the society are used for individual, private needs. In the private assimilation of social beliefs subtle transformations take place, but at the same time a sufficient consistency remains to ensure that the social function of the value system is not impaired. The very fact that the vocabulary of a belief system ("freedom," "equality," and so forth) is used so frequently results in the loss of any precise meaning of the words used to describe the values. The loss of meaning makes it easier for individuals to feel that their private interpretations conform to a general social consensus.