Folkways in Sociology Meaning Definition with Example

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 05:08 -- Umar Farooq


Man's action repeated by him is his habit and a repeated behaviour by a group of people is a custom. More specifically, the socially approved ways of acting are the customs of the society. These customs develop during the way of our daily life and we conform to them consciously and unconsciously, Because they have become an important part of our behaviour, These very customs when regularized by our repeated behaviour, maintain a  basic position in our life and are called "folkways and mores" by W.G, Sumner. "Folkways" are the socially approved ways of behaving in a society. These are the ways of life of folk are the ways of life in a society which open unconsciously upon the people. These are norms that arise during social interaction and are handed down from one generation to the next. They are simply the accumulated patterns of expected behaviors that have arisen to meet the recurrent. Situation of social interaction. The most elementary pattern in social norms is the folkways. The basic form of social control is folkways which paves out a sanctioned way for our life. Interacting with others we, mostly unconsciously, keep in view the generally accepted ways of interaction with others and follow the same patterns which, in terminology of our cultural language, are called manners of conversation. As these define our specific behaviour for specific situation (according to the cultural values) and the social situations differ in space and time and that is why they vary from society to society and time to time.


Sumner says "the folkways are not creation of human purpose and will. They are products of natural forces which men unconsciously set in operation"

Gillin and Gillin say that "Folkways are behaviour patterns of everyday life which generally arise unconsciously in a group".A. W. Green opines, "Those ways of acting that are common to a society or a group and that are handed down from one generation to the next are known as folkways."

According to Lundberg "These are the typical or habitual beliefs, attitudes and styles of conduct observed within a group or community".

Merill says "These are literally the ways of the folk, that is, social habits or group expectations that have arisen in the daily life of the group".


Folkways are the rules of eating, drinking; meeting and departing, types of dressing, ceremonies and rituals for different situations, and the manners of life in institutional situations as family, school, market, and mosque. In Sumner's words, the folkways are "right ways" to meet various situations which can arise. The ways of behaviour which the people think right for specific situations are the folkways. They are the "should" of human behaviour. Some examples of folkways from our Pakistani culture are given below:

Assalam-o-alaikum, and responding waalakam assalam, shaking hands and embracing while meeting, saying Khuda Hafiz or Fi-Amanulla while departing, men and women not to eat from the same dish at the same time to eat by sitting, a place not lower than the sitting place for respect, while smoking the oldest to start first and the younger to serve; ceremonies on marriage like, making the fun of bride and bridegroom; dancing and singing songs by women; decoration" of houses and wearing fine clothes, exchange of dishes among intimates on festivals of Eids and other; respect for elders. Pir and Maulvi sahib, and for women and others.

Violation of Folkways

On the violation of folkways the order of the society is not endangered. It does not create some serious problem. But frequent violation is not tolerated by the society. The people punish the violator by joking, laughing at, advising and taunting. These punishments, how so minor, create control on general violation.

Folkways are informal norms hence their violation and the punishment on them is unwritten. Sumner said that they grow in society like self-grown grass. They vanish when they are not needed. It means unconsciously they appear and disappear in society: Police and other agencies of social control do not interfere in the violation of folkways.

Being the guardians of minor social ways when a this type of norm is violated it means a minor value is broken by the violator. All social norms are the guardians of our social and cultural values. For the defense of higher values the higher norms are fixed and for minor values the minor norms called folkways are appointed.