Technology, Cultural Change, and Diversity

In the Republic of Georgia, people participate in celebra- tory and memorial occasions known as supras—feasts or ban- quets. More-formal supras take place at holidays or significant events, such as birthdays, weddings, baptisms, or funerals. Less formal supras mark the gathering of friends and family to enjoy food, music, and dancing while engaging in a ritualized wine drinking that marks one’s personal and national identity, as well as his or her place in the social hierarchy.

The norms of eating are more informal at the supra, but the drinking norms are strictly formal, starting with the first toast, which sets the character, structure, and meaning of what is being celebrated or mourned (Muehlfried, 2007). Georgian wine cannot be consumed without first having an eloquent speech given by the tamada, or toastmaster, who must adhere to strict rules of etiquette to ensure that honor is appropriately distributed to the guests. The tamada must be able to give extensive toasts, share humorous stories, and

consume large amounts of wine without showing any sign of fatigue or intoxication. The norms governing toasts empha- size the importance of whom the tamada addresses, when, how, in what order, and for how long. It is also important who drinks when and how much because such details demon- strate people’s status. When a toast is given to women or the deceased, for example, women and children remain seated, but boys of a certain age must stand up to show that they have become men. Older men who no longer participate in drinking and toasting typically lose their status as head of the family (Muehlfried 2007).

Why do Georgians maintain these cultural norms govern- ing supras across generations? In the past, such norms may have helped Georgians hold on to their cultural identity when they were overtaken by other nations, such as Russia. Today, some social scientists believe these norms and rituals con- tinue to help people in Georgia maintain their identity and cultural heritage in the face of rapid social change and global- ization (Muehlfried, 2007).

reflect & analyze Can you think of eating or drinking norms that are specific to your family’s national, religious, or racial/ ethnic traditions? What about those of your friends or acquaintances? Do these norms contribute to your identity and social interaction patterns?




Black Sea

● MAP 3.2 THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA © Cengage Learning 2015


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Examples of positive sanctions include praise, hon- ors, or medals for conformity to specific norms. Negative sanctions range from mild disapproval to the death penalty.

Norms that are considered to be less important are referred to as informal norms—unwritten standards of behavior understood by people who share a com- mon identity. When individuals violate informal norms, other people may apply informal sanctions. Informal sanctions are not clearly defined and can be applied by any member of a group (such as frowning at someone or making a negative comment or ges- ture). Around the world, people of all nations have formal and informal norms that are unique to their culture and way of life (see “Sociology in Global Perspective” on the previous page).

Folkways Norms are also classified according to their relative social importance. Folkways are informal norms or everyday customs that may be violated without serious consequences within a particular culture (Sumner, 1959/1906). They pro- vide rules for conduct but are not considered to be essential to society’s survival. In the United States, folkways include using underarm deodorant, brush- ing our teeth, and wearing appropriate clothing for a specific occasion. Often, folkways are not enforced; when they are enforced, the resulting sanctions tend to be informal and relatively mild.

Mores Other norms are considered to be highly essential to the stability of society even though they are not laws. Mores are strongly held norms

with moral and ethical connotations that may not be violated without serious consequences in a particular culture. Because mores (pronounced MOR-ays) are based on cultural values and are con- sidered to be crucial to the well-being of the group, violators are subject to more-severe negative sanc- tions (such as ridicule or loss of employment) than are those who fail to adhere to folkways. The stron- gest mores are referred to as taboos. Taboos are mores so strong that their violation is considered to be extremely offensive and even unmention- able. Violation of taboos is punishable by the group or even, according to certain belief systems, by a supernatural force. The incest taboo, which prohibits sexual or marital relations between certain categories of kin, is an example of a nearly universal taboo. In the United States, mores are considered to be infor- mal norms unless they are officially made into law.

Laws Laws are formal, standardized norms that have been enacted by legislatures and are enforced by formal sanctions. Laws may be either civil or criminal. Civil law deals with disputes among per- sons or groups. Persons who lose civil suits may encounter negative sanctions such as having to pay compensation to the other party or being ordered to stop certain conduct. Criminal law, on the other hand, deals with public safety and well-being. When criminal laws are violated, fines and prison sentences are the most likely negative sanctions, although in some states the death penalty is handed down for certain major offenses.

Technology, Cultural Change, and Diversity Cultures do not generally remain static. There are many forces working toward change and diversity.

Some societies and individuals adapt to this change, whereas others suffer

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