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Values

The term 'value' has a meaning in sociology that is both similar to and yet distinct from the meaning assigned to it in everyday speech. In sociological usage, values are group conceptions of the relative desirability of things.

Sometimes 'value' means 'price'. But the sociological concept of value is far broader than here neither of the objects being compared can be assigned a price.

What is the value, for illustration, of the right of every human being to dignity in comparison to the need to improve the technical aspects of education? This issue is directly involved in the desegregation of the public schools and has been debated bitterly. Some attempts have been made to estimate the dollar costs of the old system of segregated schools and, more recently, estimates have been made of the costs of using both black and white children to end segregation. Most of the social costs of the two systems, however, defy statement in monetary terms and most people take their stand on the issue in terms of deeply held convictions about what is important in life.

The idea of deeply held convictions is more illustrative of the sociological concept of value than is the concept of price. In addition, there are four other aspects of the sociological concept of value. They are: (1) values exist at different levels of generality or abstraction; (2) values tend to be hierarchically arranged (3) values are explicit and implicit in varying degrees; and (4) values often are in conflict with one another.