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Value

To value something may be defined as ascribing worth to it, and thus placing it within some hierarchy. The development of sociology as a discipline may be seen to centre on the empirical study of values, not least in Emile Durkheim’s conception of “moral facts”. The integration and stability of a society is seen to depend upon the internalisation of the consensual values of the society (encapsulated in Durkheim’s concept of the “conscience collective” or collective consciousness), through the process of socialisation. Functionalism, as the dominant American approach to sociology up to the 1960s, presupposed a consensus on moral values as a precondition of a stable society. This presupposition was increasisngly challenged by the sociology of deviance, with the recognition of a wide-range of alternative subcultures, with markedly divergent value-systems, within a single society. Similarly, the re-emergence of Marxism as a significant force within sociology in the 1960s, led to an increased recognition that consensual values were themselves the products of political and above all ideological practices, as conflicting groups sought to defend, promote and negotiate conflicting value systems.

 

The question of economic value centres upon explanations of the value and price ascribed to commodities. Marxism is characterised by an appeal to the labour theory of value, whereby the exchange-value of a good depends upon the amount of labour-time that has gone into its production. Orthodox economics, in contrast, explains value (or price) through appeal to the interaction of supply and demand in the market.

 

 


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