With Regard to Criminality, African culture is like a double edged sword. Discuss this statement with relevant examples
Social norms, the customary rules that govern behavior in groups and societies, have been extensively studied in the social sciences. Anthropologists have described how social norms function in different cultures (Geertz 1973), sociologists have focused on their social functions and how they motivate people to act (Durkheim 1950; Parsons 1937, Parsons and Shils 1951; Coleman 1990; Hechter and Opp 2001), and economists have explored how adherence to norms influences market behavior (Akerlof 1976; Young 1998). More recently, also legal scholars have touted social norms as efficient alternatives to legal rules, as they may internalize negative externalities and provide signaling mechanisms at little or no cost (Ellickson 1991; Posner 2000).
Social norms, like many other social phenomena, are the unplanned, unexpected result of individuals’ interactions. It has been argued (Bicchieri 2006) that social norms ought to be understood as a kind of grammar of social interactions. Like a grammar, a system of norms specifies what is acceptable and what is not in a society or group. And analogously to a grammar, it is not the product of human design and planning. This view suggests that a study of the conditions under which norms come into being, as opposed to one stressing the functions fulfilled by social norms, is important in order to understand the differences between social norms and other types of injunction, such as hypothetical imperatives, moral codes or legal rules
Theories of norms and their force: In almost all the literature on norms, it is unquestionably assumed that norms elicit conformity, and that there is a strong correlation between people’s normative beliefs and their behavior. By normative beliefs is usually meant individual or collective beliefs about what sort of behavior is prescribed (or proscribed) in a given social context. Normative beliefs are habitually accompanied by the expectation that other people will follow the prescribed behavior and avoid the proscribed one. Yet it is not obvious that having normative beliefs will induce people to act in a way consistent with them. Whether there can be normative beliefs at variance with behavior, and if so, why, is a question we need to answer in order to provide a satisfactory account of norms
For example, the case with stealing other people property is discouraged with some communities attaching consequences such as witchcraft for violators (someone might prewar that a thief will bewitched to turn into eating grass) such is the case that is meant to deter somebody from engaging in thievery. Its proactive rather than reactive.
Norms and efficiency: Some popular accounts of why social norms exist are the following: Norms are efficient means to achieve social welfare (Arrow 1971, Akerlof 1976), prevent market failures (Coleman 1989) or cut social costs (Thibaut and Kelley 1959, Homans 1961); norms are either Nash equilibria of coordination games or cooperative equilibria of prisoner’s dilemma-type games (Lewis 1969, Ullmann-Margalit 1977), and as such they solve collective action problems
Predominantly it’s an assumption that morality should prevail in all situations, An example of when one kills another. Such is an offence under national law that attracts penalties as harsh as death sentence pending to court judgment. In African culture someone who caused death was penalized through excommunication, cleansing among others. The idea that death penalty exists for murder reads like paying wrong for wrong.
Socialization: In the theory of the socialized actor (Parsons 1951), an individual action is equated with a choice among several alternatives. Human action is understood within a utilitarian framework as instrumentally oriented and utility maximizing. Though a utilitarian setting does not necessarily imply a view of human motives as essentially egoistic, this is the preferred interpretation of utilitarianism adopted by Talcott Parsons and much contemporary sociology. It then becomes crucial to explain by which mechanisms social order and stability are attained in a society that would naturally be in a permanent Hobbesian state of nature. Order and stability are essentially socially derived phenomena, brought about by a common value system—the “cement” of society. The common values of a society are embodied in norms that, when conformed to, guarantee the orderly functioning and reproduction of the social system. In the Parsonian framework, norms are exogenous: how is a common value system created, and how it may change and why, are issues left unexplored. The most important question is rather how norms get to be followed, and what prompts rational egoists to abide by them. The theory of the socialized actor’s answer is that people voluntarily adhere to the shared value system because it is introjected to form a constitutive element of the personality itself (Parsons 1951).
However there is nothing that primarily makes individuals adhere to laws and or rules voluntarily in the present day legal framework. For instance the issue of domestic violence in ATR culture was solved internally or to the outer extent by advocate of elders. Socially, the family structure was to be respected. Take the example of when a Machakos County based couple was engraved in a dispute that resulted in the husband chopping off the wifes palms and the law had to take its course.
Social identity: The theory of the socialized actor assumes that norms affect action by becoming part of an individual’ preferences and goals. In this case, ongoing social relationships such as group memberships can have only marginal effect on behavior. Against this tendency towards over-socializing human action, it has been argued that most behavior is closely embedded in a network of personal relations, and that a theory of norms cannot leave the specific social context out of consideration (Granovetter 1985). Critics of the socialization view call therefore for an alternative conception of norms capable, among other things, to account for the often-weak relation between beliefs and behavior (Deutscher 1973). This alternative approach takes social relations to be crucial in explaining social action and views social identity as a key motivating factor. A strong support for this view among anthropologists is to be found in the work of Cancian (1975) on the normative beliefs that are held by the Zinacanteco Indians, and how such beliefs correlate with behavior.
There is away by which people are guided to perform in a given form pegged on morality. Social norm thus tends to be subjected to a preset way of doing things. For instance society is however divided on lines of economic stratification where associations are based on class. Thus the creations of the rich and poor.
Rational choice: The rational choice model of conformity maintains that, since norms are upheld by sanctions, compliance is a utility-maximizing strategy. Provided that conformity to a norm attracts approval and transgression disapproval, conforming is the rational thing to do, since nobody willfully attracts discredit and punishment (Rommetveit 1955, Thibaut and Kelley 1959). If others’ approval and disapproval act as external sanctions, we have a cost-benefit model of compliance (Axelrod 1986, Coleman 1989). In this framework, one cannot say that norms motivate behavior. Conforming behavior is rationally chosen in order to avoid negative sanctions or to attract positive sanctions. The rational choice model typically defines norms behaviorally, equating them with patterns of behavior as opposed to expectations or values. Such approach relies heavily on sanctions. According to Axelrod (1986), for example, if we observe individuals to follow a regular pattern of behavior and to be punished if they act otherwise, then we have a norm. Similarly, Coleman (1989) argues that a norm coincides with a set of sanctions that act to direct a given behavior
Thus a situation of its good because many approve and its not good because still many disapprove or think so is presented. Conventionally judgment is purely based on numbers and not what is good or bad. In which case scenario, what is good today will as well be bad tomorrow if and when majority think so.
Evolution: Thus far we have examined accounts of social norms that take for granted that a particular norm exists in a population. However, for a full account of social norms, we must answer two questions related to the dynamics of norms. First, we must ask how a norm can emerge. Norms require a set of corresponding beliefs and expectations to support them, and so there must be an account of how these arise. Second, we must investigate the conditions under which a norm is stable under some competitive pressure from other norms. Sometimes, multiple candidate norms vie for dominance in a population. Even if one norm has come to dominate the population, new norms can try to “invade” the existing norm’s population of adherents.
Why African culture is like a double sword with regards to criminality is perched on the idea that it ignores the aspect of evolution better put as change. It lacks the dynamism to balance between wrong and good over a time span. What used to work a century ago might not work automatically today since the prevailing factors keep changing.
The study of social norms can help us understand a wide variety of seemingly puzzling human behavior. As Bicchieri (2006) has argued, norm existence and compliance can be best understood in terms of conditional preferences for following behavioral rules that apply to classes of social interactions. Preferences are conditional on two different kinds of expectations: the empirical expectation that a sufficient number of people adhere to the behavioral rule, and the normative expectation that other people expect one to follow the behavioral rule as well, and possibly enact positive/negative sanctions for conformity/transgression
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