Reframing Democratic Governance
Chapter 7: The regulatory space and social norms
Most people rarely come up against the law in their lives. Parking or speeding offences may be the most frequent form of contact apart from those formal certifications of a marriage, birth and death, the execution of a will and the conveyance of a property. They may also engage only sporadically with politics. Nevertheless, most societies, outside what are termed 'failed states' where civil strife is endemic, seem to get along with greater or lesser degrees of success. The reason for this is that people observe, almost without reflection, rules of behaviour for themselves and for their relationships with others without coming to disagreements that can only be resolved though the law or politics. People absorb lessons about what is right or wrong behaviour, they take cues from the behaviour of others and they are influenced by the codes and norms of groups with which they associate or are affiliated with. They take note of what is deemed 'acceptable' behaviour by their families, friends and acquaintances and, if their behaviour falls outside what is seen to be acceptable, they may come under pressure from peers to conform and to behave differently. Norms shape behaviour without any explicit calculation by the actor in many situations in life. The observance of social norms also helps other coordination mechanisms. They help the maintenance of ethical standards of behaviour in the market and the observance of the law.
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