This week’s discussion is going to unfold in two parts and we will use the continued issue of mask mandates (and masking in general) as an opportunity to think about different ideas around norms. Namely, the debate over masking is emblematic of your readings in multiple ways. Regardless of where you stand in your interpretation of whether something is legal, ethical, or moral, it’s important to consider why there is a disagreement over this meaning in the first place.
These are a prime example of one way in which laws (free speech and freedom of assembly; local/state public health mandates; local, state, and federal law regarding ideas of public property and specific types of property) and norms (expected modes of acting and interacting) are not always coterminous (many laws are based on cultural norms that the majority of people agree with, others are predicated on views that the majority don’t necessarily think should be deemed illegal; moreover, many normative expectations never enter in the realm of the law). The notion that punishing someone who has broken a law is, generally speaking, accepted by the majority of people (whether this is good or bad itself is a related, though different, conversation as it deals with a distinct set of parameters as it’s focused on the issue of what punishment and justice as concepts are and require).Â
So, how do we make sense of society and culture when we so regularly see them as containing multitudes and conflicts?
For the first part, that you need to finish by Thursday 11:59pm PST (end of day), please post a comment addressing the following point:
Emile Durkheim argues, “A social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint; or again, every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestations.” In this case, what he is noting is the importance of understanding how an individual fits within a broader, structured way of being and a consistent concern with norms.