Examing the Norms Essay
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IntroductionAs we walk down the streets, it is not uncommon to spot a student raising funds for an organization or a beggar asking for money. We bend down and drop a coin into the box. Sometimes, we give a slight wave of dismissal before walking away apologetically. Other times, we excuse ourselves from the donation by expressing that we are in a rush of time. Donate, or to not donate, and how we donate- we unconsciously follow a certain set of social rules concerning this activity. Donation comes in many forms: fund raising for organizations, donation of food and educational materials, begging for money on the streets and the list goes on. For simplification purpose of this paper, I will be focusing on donation carried out in public, between the donators, that is the public, and the beggar who is the recipient. More often than not, we witness this form of donation on streets with high human traffic and the recipient of this donation could be putting up a performance or not doing anything at all.While we witness this donation of money on a rather regular basis, we are often unaware of the unspoken rules that govern this activity as these rules or norms are usually “invisible”, unspoken and not propagated by the public. Hence, this paper serves to answer the following questions: what are the social rules that guide and govern this activity with regards to the donator and the recipient? Why do people conform to these rules? Since these rules are “invisible” and not established in any guides, how did their enforcement come about? The Unspoken Rules and the PlayersHaving identified the specific form of donation this paper is focusing on, I will go on to make visible the various social rules pertaining to the two different players in this activity, namely the donator and the recipient. By dissecting the behaviors of the donators, I have uncovered the following social rules they follow:Donators donate in coins or bills and do not ask for change Donators determine the amount that they want to donate without having to ask the recipientNext, I go on to unveil the social rules that recipients observe:Recipients use containers like tins or boxes to collect the amount donated instead of using walletsRecipients usually bow when a donation is being receivedRecipients are usually dressed in ragged or simple clothesConformity and Control MechanismsNow that I have listed down the respective social rules governing the behaviors of both the donators and the recipient, I will dedicate this section of the paper to analyzing the reasons behind both parties’ willingness to conform to these norms and the control mechanisms behind this activity.
DonatorsTo understand why donators follow these social rules, I will tie these observations to the concepts on class and power. First of all, donators abide to these rules as they are placed higher on the social hierarchy. By definition, social stratification is a system by which a society systematically ranks categories of people in a hierarchy. The donators are naturally ranked higher in the class hierarchy by income, wealth and occupation whereas the recipient occupies a much lower class. This class difference also lead to this power imbalance between the two parties with the donator being assigned more power. Weber defines power as the ability to control others, to get more valued things sooner, which is also institutionalized when the norms and statuses of social organizations govern its use. The donators evidently hold much more power compared to the recipients as the recipients’ livelihood ultimately depends on the donators’ willingness to donate and the amount donated. As such, the donators hold enough power to determine how much they want to donate without having to ask the recipient. One control mechanism behind this social rule is that if the donator did ask the recipient for the amount expected but he is not willing to meet that amount expected, it will reflect very badly on the donator as he is of a higher class by income and is expected to meet the demand. Moreover, the donators recognize that they are placed in a higher class compared to the recipients and this awareness has a certain level of pride attached to it. Once they fork out a bill, they would not expect a change of cash as that would only result in a loss of pride. After all, they are known to have a much higher income than the recipients and asking for a change would only make them seem ungenerous, defeating the whole purpose of donating and being generous. With this pride in mind, donators unconsciously the rule of not asking for change when they donate. The control mechanism behind this social rule stems from the non-commercialized and charitable nature of this activity as one would only expect a change of cash in a commercialized form of transaction. Hence, the costs of asking for change in donation would, once again, result in a loss of pride and possible public humiliation.