1.1 Defining values
Definitions of values are rather complex. Generally speaking, values are deep-seated beliefs about what is right or wrong and about what is important or unimportant. They are principles, standards or qualities that people care about and that contribute to driving people’s behaviour. Values held by individuals are also supported by a set of unwritten rules or norms about what is socially acceptable behaviour – both personally and within society.
Values incorporate a degree of judgement, and this further implies that people’s values are based on what is important as well as how important it is to them. Therefore, once people have ‘internalised’ a set of values, it becomes a standard for understanding the world around them, directing and justifying their own actions, sustaining their attitudes and, inevitably, judging others’ actions. Values can be abstract, such as freedom of choice, or specific, relating to, for example, hunger, poverty or racism.
Activity 1 Thinking about values
Figure 1 shows some examples of values. Identify the values you think you uphold, as well as those that go against what you believe in. Can you also identify any values that clash or contradict?
Everyone will have a different answer to this activity due to the nature of values. You may find that you share similar values with your friends or colleagues: values are one aspect of which job we choose, where we work and the people we enjoy spending time with.
In terms of work, if you find smoking unacceptable, you might choose not to work for a tobacco company; if you are passionate about animals, you might choose not to work for a company that tests their products on animals. However, not everyone has a choice in where they work. You will have the opportunity to do more thinking about your personal values in Section 2.