Originally publiburned as:

Edward Sapir. "Custom," Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (New York),4 (1931): 658-662.

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Custom

Words custom is offered to use to the totality ofhabits fads which are lugged by heritage and also lodged inthe team, as contrasted through the more random individual activitiesof the individual. It is not appropriately applicable to those aspectsof communal task which are obviously determined by biologicalconsiderations. The habit of eating fried chicken is a tradition,yet the biologically identified halittle bit of eating is not.

Custom is a variable prevalent sense principle which has actually served as thematrix for the development of the even more refined and technicalanthropological concept of culture. It is not as purelydenotative and objective a term as society and also has a slightlyaffective top quality indicated by the reality that one provides it moreeasily to describe geographically remote, to primitive or tobygone societies than to one"s own. When used to the behaviorof one"s very own group the term is usually limited to relativelyunnecessary and unformalized behavior fads which lie betweenindividual actions and also social organizations. Cigarette smoking ismore readily referred to as a custom than is the trial of criminals incourt. However, in managing modern Chinesepeople, with at an early stage Babylonian culture or with the life of aprimitive Australian tribe the useful equivalent of such acultural pattern as our court trial is designated as practice. Thehesitation to de. scribe as tradition any form of actions in one"sown team that is not at once collective and devoid of majorprestige is perhaps due to the fact that one involuntarilypdescribes put the focus either on significant individualism,in which situation the word halittle is offered, or on a thoroughlyrationalized and formalized cumulative intention, in which casethe term institution seems in location.

Custom is often supplied interchangeably through convention, traditionand also mores, yet the connotations are not quite the exact same.Convention emphasizes the absence of inner requirement in the behaviorpattern and regularly implies some measure of agreement, express ortacit, that a certain mode of behavior be embraced as proper. Themore symbolic or instraight the attribute of a custom, the moreconveniently is it described as a convention. It is a practice tocreate via pen and also ink; it is a convention to use a specific kindof paper in formal correspondence. Tradition emphasizes thehistoric background of practice. No one accsupplies a neighborhood ofbeing wanting in customs and conventions, but if these are notfelt as possessed of considerable antiquity a community is saidto have few if any kind of traditions, The distinction in between practice andtradition is more subjective than objective, for there are fewcustom-mades whose finish explacountry in regards to background does nottake one ago to a remote antiquity. The term mores is bestbooked for those customizeds which connote sensibly strong feelingsof the rightness or wrongness of modes of habits. The mores ofa people are its unformulated values as watched in activity. Suchterms, as practice, institution, convention, legacy and moresare, however, hardly qualified of an accurate scientific meaning.All of them are reducible to social halittle bit or, if one prefers theanthropological to the emotional point of see, to culturalpattern. Halittle bit and society are terms which can be defined withsome level of precision and

(659) have to always be substituted for practice in strictlyscientific discourse, halittle bit or habit device being provided once thelocus of habits is believed of as residing in the individual,social pattern or culture when its locus is believed of asresiding in society.

From a organic standallude all customizeds are in beginning individualactions which have end up being diffprovided in society via theinteractivity of individual upon individual. These diffsupplied orsocialized behavior, yet, tfinish to preserve themselves becauseof the undamaged continuity of the diffusion procedure fromgeneration to generation. One more regularly sees tradition helping todevelop individual halittle than individual habit being made over intocustom. In the main, team psychology takes precedence overindividual psychology. In no culture, yet primitive or remotein time, are the interactions of its members not managed by acomplicated netoccupational of custom. Even at an early stage of thepalaeolithic period people should have been ruled by customto an extremely significant degree, as is presented by the quite sharplyderestricted forms of artifacts that were made and the inferencesthat deserve to be attracted from some of these as to beliefs and also attitudes.

The crystallization of individual halittle bit into tradition is a processthat deserve to be complied with out theoretically fairly more conveniently thanportrayed in practise. A distinction have the right to be made betweenpersonalizeds of long tenure and customizeds of brief tenure generallyrecognized as fashions. Fashions are collection by a certain individual orgroup of people. When they have had a long enough lease oflife to make it seem unvital to recall the source or originallocality of the actions pattern, they have actually become customs. Thehalittle bit of wearing a hat is a practice, however the habit of wearing acertain style of hat is a fashion subject to reasonably rapidchange. In the sphere of language practice is primarily referred toas usage. Uncrystallized usperiods of speech are linguisticfashions, of which slang creates a particular array. Food habitstoo develop a well well-known set of personalizeds, within which arisehuman variations that may be referred to as fashions of food and also thresolve die out after a brief duration. Fashions are not to beconsidered as enhancements to custom but rather as experimentalvariations of the standard themes of practice.

In course of time isolated actions fads of a customarynature tend to group themselves Into bigger configurations whichhave a formal cohesion and which tend to be rationalized as practical systems whether they are such historically or not. Thewhole history of culture has been bit even more than a ceaselesseffort to connect originally independent modes of habits intolarger units and also to justify the second culture complexes byan unaware procedure of rationalization. An terrific exampleof such a society complicated, which derives its elements fromthousands of disparate custom-mades, is the contemporary musical system,which is undoubtedly felt by those who manipulate it to be awell compacted practical whole with miscellaneous facets that arefunctionally interdependent. Historically, yet, it is verysimple to prove that the mechanism of musical notation, the rules ofharmony, the crucial approaches, the fads of musicalcomposition arid the conventional uses of particular instrumentsfor specific objectives are independently derivable from customs ofexceptionally various provenience and also of extremely various age, and that itis only by sluggish procedures of transfer of use and also progressiveintegration of all these socialized settings of habits that theyhave actually involved help each various other out in a complicated system of unifiedinterpretations. Hundreds of parallel instances could be given from suchdiverse fields of social task as language, architecture,political company, commercial approach, religion, warfareand social etiquette.

The impermanence of custom is a truism. Belief in the rapidity ofchange of practice is exaggerated, yet, because it is preciselythe comparatively slight divergences from what is sociallyestablimelted that arousage attention. A comparichild of American lifenow through the life of a mediaeval English town would in thelarger perspective of social sociology show rather theloved one permanence of culture than its tendency to readjust.The disharmony which cumulatively results from the usage of tools,insights or various other manipulative types of actions which hadenriched the cultural stock in profession of culture a small earlierresults in adjust of custom. The advent of the car,for instance, was not at first felt as necessarily disturbingcustom, however in the long run all those customizeds appertaining tovisiting and also other settings of disposing of one"s leisure time haveconcerned be seriously modified by the automobile as a powercontrivance. Amenities of social intercourse felt to beobstructive to the totally free utilization of this brand-new resource of powertfinish to be dismissed or abbreviated. Disharmony resulting fromthe increase of new worths also makes

(660) for change in custom. For instance, the better flexibility ofmanner of the contemporary woman as contrasted via the far moretraditionally circumscribed conduct of womales of generations agohas come around because of the climb of a brand-new mindset toward womanand also her relation to male. The influences exerted by foreignindividuals, e.g. the advent of tea and coffee in occidentalsociety and the spreview of parliamentary federal government from countryto nation, are stressed by anthropologists even more than by themajority of historians and sociologists as factors ofreadjust. Most popular examples of the imposition of fashions whichproceed from strategic characters are most likely fanciful anddue to a desire to dramatize the operation of the more impersonaldeterminants, which are a lot even more essential in the accumulation than thecertain individual ones. With the gradual spcheck out of a tradition thatis largely symbolic and characteristic of a schosen percentage ofthe populace, the basic reason for its continuanceweakens, so that it either dies out or takes on an totally newfunction. This mechanism is specifically noteworthy in the lifeof language. Locutions which are considered smart or chic becausethey are the residential or commercial property of privileged circles are shortly taken up bythe masses and also then die because of their banality. A a lot morepowerful and also exact understanding of the nature of individualinteraction, especially as regards the unconscious transport offeeling, is required before a really satisfying theory of culturalchange deserve to be formulated.

Those customizeds endure the longest which either correspond to sofundamental a human need that they cannot well be seriously readjusted orelse are of such a nature that they deserve to conveniently be functionallyreunderstood. An example of the former type of persistence isthe practice of having actually a mother suckle her boy. There arenumerous departures from this dominance, yet both contemporary America andthe even more primitive tribes maintain as a practice a mode of behaviorwhich obviously lies cshed to the life of man in nature. Anexample of the last kind of persistence, which might be calledadaptive persistence, is language, which tends to reprimary fairlytrue to set develop but which is constantly undergoingreinterpretation in accordance via the demands of theworld which it serves. For instance, the word robin refersin the United States to a very various bird from the Englishbird that was originally supposed. The word might linger on via amodified interpretation because it is a symbol and therefore qualified ofindefinite reinterpretation.

Words survival need to not be used for a custom having actually aclearly defined attribute which can be presented to be various fromits original location and meaning in culture. When used in thelatter, looser feeling the word survival threatens to lose alladvantageous definition. There are few custom-mades among us now which arenot survivals in this feeling. There are, but, specific customswhich it is hard to rationalize on any kind of count and which perhaps looked upon as analogous to rudimentary organs in biology. Theusemuch less buttons in modern clothes are oft cited as an example ofsuch survivals. The usage of Roguy numerals alongside of Arabicnumerals might also be thought about a survival. On the totality however,it seems safest not to usage the word as well openly, for it ishard to prove that any kind of tradition, no matter just how apparentlylacking in energy or just how much rerelocated from its originalapplication, is totally devoid of at least symbolic meaning.

Custom is stronger and also even more persistent in primitive than incontemporary societies. The primitive team is smaller, so that agreater degree of conformity is psychologically vital. In themore innovative neighborhood, which numbers a much bigger total ofpeople, exit from tradition on the part of a couple of selectedindividuals, who may subsequently prove important for a change ofsociety in the neighborhood at large, does not issue so much forthe solidarity of the group to begin via, bereason the chanceindividual of the team finds himself reincompelled by the vastmajority of his fellow males and deserve to do without the better supportof the deviants. The primitive community has actually likewise no writtenheritage to appeal to as an imindividual arbiter in matters oftradition and also therefore puts more energy into the conservation ofwhat is transmitted via activity and oral tradition. Thevisibility of documents relieves the individual from requirement oftaking personal duty for the perpetuation of tradition.Far also good tension is normally lassist on the actually conserving,as contrasted with the symbolically conserving, power of thecreated word. Custom among primitive peoples is apt to derivesome measure of sacredness from its association via magical andreligious measures. When a particular form of activity is linkedwith a ritual which is subsequently apt to be linked through a legendthat to the native min explains the activity in question, aradical leave from the traditionally conserved pattern

(661) of behavior is felt as blasphemous or perilous to thesafety and security of the group. There is likewise a far lesser department oflabor in primitive communities than in our own, which means thatthe pressures making for trial and error in the solution oftechnological problems are proportionately diminished.

In the contemporary people tradition has a tendency to be a lot more conservative inthe rural districts than in the city, and also the factors are similarto those given for the greater persistence of custom amongprimitive individuals. The higher scatter of the rural populationdoes not mostly mean the more intensive individual cultivationof the creates of custom yet rather a compensatory effort tocorrect the hazards of distance by conformity.

Within a complicated neighborhood, such as is uncovered in modern cities.,custom often tends to be even more persistent on the entirety in the lessinnovative groups. Much counts on the symbolism of a tradition.Tbelow are certain types of practice, specifically such as aresymbolic of standing, which tend to be much better conserved in the moresophisticated or wealthy teams than in the much less innovative.The modern Amerideserve to custom, for circumstances, of having a marriedwomale keep her maiden name is not likely soon to take root amongthe very wealthy, who right here join hands with the unsophisticatedmajority, while the tradition is being sparsely diffoffered among theintellectual middle course.

The differing levels of conservatism in regard to practice deserve to beshown in the actions of a solitary individual bereason of thedifferent kinds of social participation into which he enters. InEngland, for circumstances, the same individual might be in the vanguardof practice as a f Londoner yet insistent on the preservation ofrural tradition as a nation squire. An Amerihave the right to university male possibly disdainful of customary r opinion in his faculty club but bemeekly observant of spiritual practice on Sunday at church. Loyaltyor leave from practice is not a basic feature of temperamentor personality but part and also parcel of the symbolism of multipleparticipation in culture.

Custom is mainly described as a constraining force. Theproblem of individual will and also social compulsion is acquainted,however also the the majority of forceful and self-assertive individual demands toyield to custom at the majority of points in order that he might gainleverage, as it were, for the implace of his individual will certainly onculture, which cannot be 1 dominated without the implicit captureof social consent. The freedom gained by tree denial of practice isbasically a subjective liberty of escape fairly than anefficient freedom of conquest. Custom renders for a powerfuleconomy in the discovering of the individual; it is a symbolicaffirmation of the solidarity of the team. A byproduct of thesefundamental features of custom is the even more sentimental valuewhich outcomes from an capability to attach the current and the pastand therefore to develop a larger ego in time, which supplementsthrough its authority the larger ego represented by the neighborhood asit attributes in the current.

The formulation of customs in the spright here of the civil liberties and dutiesof individuals in their manifold relationships leads to legislation. It isnot beneficial to use the term legislation, as is often vaguely done indealing with primitive societies, unless the enforcement ofcustomary task be made explicit, being vested in particularindividuals or bodies of individuals. There are no societies thatare wholly totally free from the binding force, of implicit regulation, however asthere are also many type of primitive cultures which recognize some typeof legal procedure it seems much better to soptimal of legislation just inthe last situation. Tright here are, for circumstances, few American Indiantribes in which customary responsibilities are well-known as a systemof law that is capable of enforcement by the neighborhood.Psychologically regulation prevails, but not institutionally. This is inquite sharp comparison to the legal procedure which has beenoccurred by the majority of Afrideserve to people. Here tright here is notsimply the law of tradition in an implicit sense yet the perfectlyexplicit acknowledgment of rules of conduct and of punishment fortheir infringement, via a sophisticated technique of learning guiltand through the power of inflicting punishment vested in the king.The example of Afrideserve to regulation suggests that the essentialdistinction between custom and also legislation does not lie in the differencein between dental tradition and the composed formulation of tradition. Lawdeserve to emerge from tradition long prior to the advancement of creating andhas actually demonstrably done so in numerous cases. When practice has theemotional obsession of regulation however is not managed by societyvia the implace of explicit penalties" it might be calledprinciples or, more primitively, mores. It is challenging todistinguish law .and values in the even more straightforward develops of society.Both arise from tradition however in a somewhat divergent manner.Mundane or humale sovereignty becomes increasingly distinguishedfrom socially diffsupplied or superorganic or imindividual sover-

(662) -eignty. Custom regulated by the former is law; customregulated by the latter is values.

The agencies crucial in the development of tradition are for thea lot of part quite impersonal in character and also implicit in the merereality of humale interrelationships. Tbelow are likewise even more self-conscious agencies for the perpetuation of custom. Among thesethe many vital are legislation and religious beliefs, the last particularlyin the create of an arranged church and priesthood. There are alsoorganizations which are sentimentally interested in theconservation of customs which thrconsumed to go out of use. In thecontemporary human being one regularly sees a quite weak nationalistic causebolstered up by the rather synthetic fostering of archaicpractice. Much of the ritualism of the contemporary Scottish clans issecondarily rather than lineally conservative.

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If facility forms of aware manipulation of concepts andtechniques which ascendancy the modern human being are excluded from theselection of the term custom, the force of tradition may be said to begradually lessening. The factors which favor this weakening oftradition are: the thriving department of labor through its tendency tomake society much less and much less homogeneous; the thriving soul ofrationalism, in the light of which a lot of the justification ofcustom fades away; the thriving tendency to break amethod from localtradition; and also, ultimately, the better store collection by individuality.The ideal which is latent in the contemporary mind would certainly seem to be tobreak up tradition right into the 2 poles of individually determinedhabit on the one hand also and also of large range institutional planningfor the major enterprises of mankind on the various other.