Definition of Folkway
Examples of Folkway
- In the United States, covering your mouth when you cough, not eating certain animals like dogs or cats.
- Dressing a certain way depending on the event such as wearing black to a funeral.
- Plural: folkways
- Term coined (along with ethnocentrism and mores) by William Graham Sumner (1840–1910) in Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals (1906).
- Folkways are social standards, not moral standards (mores) and the repercussions for breaking a folkway are minimal or nonexistent; if they are enforced, the sanctions are typically to be informal and lenient.
- Folkways change depending on the culture, group, or society.
- Also called:
- Informally called:
- unwritten law
- unwritten rule
- “No society lacks norms governing conduct. But societies do differ in the degree to which folkways, mores and institutional controls are effectively integrated with the goals which stand high in the hierarchy of cultural values. The culture may be such as to lead individuals to center their emotional convictions upon the complex of culturally acclaimed ends, with far less emotional support for prescribed methods of reaching out for these ends. With such differential emphases upon goals and institutional procedures, the latter may be so vitiated by the stress on goals as to have the behavior of many individuals limited only by considerations of technical expediency. In this context, the sole significant question becomes: Which of the available procedures is most efficient in netting the culturally approved value? The technically most effective procedure, whether culturally legitimate or not, becomes typically preferred to institutionally prescribed conduct. As this process of attenuation continues, the society becomes unstable and there develops what Durkheim called ‘anomie‘ (normlessness)” (Merton  1968:189).
- “Since mores . . . are based on cultural values and considered to be crucial to the well-being of the group, violators are subject to more severe negative sanctions (such as ridicule, loss of employment, or imprisonment) than are those that fail to adhere to folkways. The strongest mores are referred to as taboos” (Kendall 2006:56).
- Word origin of “folkways” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Reynolds, Larry T., and Janice Reynolds. 1970. The Sociology of Sociology: Analysis and Criticism of the Thought, Research and Ethical Folkways of Sociology and Its Practitioners. New York: David McKay.
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ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “folkway.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved September 29, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/folkway/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
folkway. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/folkway/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “folkway.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed September 29, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/folkway/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“folkway.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 29 Sep. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/folkway/>.