When certain act is repeated we call it a habit. In case the society follows a certain mode of life or repeates the act at the same time thinks it proper it do it repetedly we call it custom.
In other words it may be called a long habitual and generally observed course of counduct of a number of persons.
Psychologically habit and custom dwell on the same footing. In either case there is a repetition of an action.
Even custom has its origin in some preceding tradition or custom. There is no such thing as an entirely new numerous interactions.
Ginsberg describes origin of customs in the following words. “What happens is that opinions or judgments raditate from one individual centre, impunge on the opinions of the others, clash with or reinforce them, modify or influence, there emerges a more or less stable opinion or judgement will henceforth act as an influence to mould the ideas of other men.”
In other words custom has its origin in fraction, when hundred of persons come together, there takes place clash of ideas as a sort of interchange of habits. In course of time only habits remain in forces which are approved by the people in general and others are discharged by the society. Then gradually what remains ultimaely becomes custom for that particular society.
1. Essay on the Influence of custom
Shakespeare describes custom as “But to any mind through I am native haere and to the manner born, it is custom more honoured in the breach than the observance.”
It is the custom which dominated throughout the evolution of our society. One can trace the influence of custom to the earliest stage of our social life.
As soon as the individuals come in contact with each other and realize the need and importance of cooperation through bitter experiences in their struggle for existence, they come to approve of certain obejcts.
The way of life which ultimately is approved by the majoirty became custom for that society or a particular group Since then custom has become so powerful to the extent of claiming and upper hand over the native’s law.
In primitive society custom had the same force what legislation had today. Society was not so advanced and could not frame rules. But custom had the forece of sanction behind it. It went on from father to son and dominated the unit of that particular group. Custom permits practically all the spheres of life.
Even in modern and advanced society it has enormous influence over conduct of man. The influence of custom is due to the biological utility of uniformity of action. Everything being in society tends to crystallize.
The uniform and constant comes to be understood and anticipated. The new and varied cannot be relied upon cannot be calculated in advance, and is, therefore, full of terrors. In the customary, in what has always been done horror of innovation. Primitive man therefore surrounds his customs with an air of sanctity and punishes severely any violation of them.
Collective habits are more stable than individual habit. They cannot be dropped by man after man but awaits concerned abandonment or modification.
Custom is most powerful in matter of feelings. Further we see that the influence of custom is realize even to extent of legislation. According to Wester Marck “Those laws command full obedience which have the authority of custom.” Even our modern legislature is based on customs in competition with law, custom carries the day.
Law is simply an expression of the growing moral sense of a community. It has an obligatory character like custom.
The general will is identical with eternal will.
Thus custom has come to occupy important part in human activity. It has become the basic requirement of our existence and therefore yields tremendous influence over our society.
2. Essay on Culture
There is a lamentable confusion in the use of the word culture and probably there is little hope of arriving at agreed definition. The anthropologist uses the word culture in a very wide sense to cover the whole field of human life. Taylor defines culture as “that complete whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”
Mathew Arnold defines culture as the study of perfection, the disinterested search for the sweetness and light and the urges that it consists in becoming something rather than having something in inwards condition of mind and spirit, not in an outward set of circumstances.
MacIver says culture is concerned with intrinsic values, with the things which are desired for this own sake,” It is the expression of our nature in our modes of living, and of thinking in our every day intercourse in art, in literature, in religion, in recreation, and enjoyment.”