UPSC Mains GS syllabus has one whole paper dedicated to the ethics subject. Value system or the Human Values are intergral part of the ethics subject and students should be well aware of the human values and should be able to differenciate between Personal and Social values. For this the IAS Aspirant should thoroughly go through the Values article below and make note of the important points.


  • Definition of Values
  • Types of values
  • Difference between Personal Values and Social Values
  • Human Values
  • Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values


Values can be defined as those things that are valued by someone. In other words, values are what is considered “important” by an individual or an organization.

Values are the beliefs of an individual or a social group about what is held important that motivate people to act one way or another. “Equal rights for all”, “Merit above all else”, “Dignity of labour” etc are representatives of values.

Values are created by formal and informal education. Formal education is what we receive in schools through our teachers, books and the education system. Values inculcate discipline in us and add diversity to our thoughts. Values also helps us to solve problems in particular ways unique to ourselves. Values are also the underlying basis of our attitudes that determine our behavior. Finally, values help develop a love for one’s own country

Difference between Values and Ethics



What is important ? what is right?
What should I achieve? What is the correct action?
Differs from person to person Usually considered universal
Motivates Constrains
Values are ideals of someone (or a group) about what is good or bad (or desirable or undesirable). Ethics is all about reasoning how to do the right action. Remember, values motivate, while morals and ethics constrain.


The conflict between Values and Ethics

People tend to adopt values that they grow up with. They also tend to believe that those values are “right” because of their conditioning of their particular culture. For example, if making money is a value by any particular culture’s standards without consideration about how that money is being made then the act of making money itself seems right to a person from that culture irrespective of the means of making that money. Choosing which values to hold higher against another is a matter of ethical decision.


A conflict between Values: Value ‘A’ vs. Value ‘B’

Conflicts can be a result of conflicting value systems. Person A holding the value of honesty higher than efficiency might not see eye to eye with person B who values efficiency higher than honesty.

 Values vary among Individuals, Cultures, and Time

Just like morals, values also vary among individuals and across cultures and time. For example, for some people, their nation’s flag may represent a sacred value. But for others, the flag may just be a piece of cloth.

 Types of values

We know that honesty, goodness, humility etc values. They form a group of values called Moral Values. There are other types of values as well – like Genius, Beauty, Power etc. However, moral values are rated highest among all natural values.

Values can be classified as:

  • Spiritual Values - “Spiritual values” implies that they are something that human beings need to aspire to and hopefully someday achieve.

  • Moral Values - Moral values are relative values that protect life and are respectful of the dual life value of self and others. The great moral values, such as truth, freedom, charity, etc., have one thing in common. When they are functioning correctly, they are life protecting or life enhancing for all.

  • Social Values - Social values form an important part of the culture of the society. Values account for the stability of social order. They provide the general guidelines for social conduct. Values such as fundamental rights, patriotism, respect for human dignity, rationality, sacrifice, individuality, equality, democracy etc. guide our behaviour in many ways. Values are the criteria people use in assessing their daily lives; arrange their priorities and choosing between alternative course of action.

  • Intellectual Values - Intellectual value comprises content such as performances; teaching, training, and coaching; analysis of specific questions applied to specific situations, and personal attention - someone reading and responding to your e-mail, answering questions, or watching you on a video connection

  • Economic Values - Economic values deals with values related to monetary conditions.

  • Political Values - Political values can be defined as set of beliefs, principles carried by an individual or group which guides their general behaviour/attitude toward political 'objects' (leaders, events, ideologies), they are the mental construct and are not tied to any object. Since political values have evaluative element in it, therefore they helps individual to arrive at certain decision, they are relatively permanent, but are subjective and non-universal in nature i.e. can be different for different individual. Political values constitute of three aspects - cognitive, affectionate & behavioural , these aspect helps in prioritising political values carried by an individual.


Difference between Personal Values and Social Values



Important for individual well being Important for other people’s well being.
Important for other people’s well being. equality, social justice, national security, world peace etc.


A positive and fulfilling life requires a coordinated and balanced pursuit of both self-serving and other serving values.



  • Common to All humans. Love, truth, Compassion. Even Osama Bin Laden would love his children. So, merely by being a human being, at minimum you’ll have these values.

  • Examples: Universal human values, fundamental rights

  • They remain static. Never change with time or region (unlike environmental values or privacy- western world person would be more focused on them).

  • We gain human values through two ways


Examples of values of Famous Personalities



Mahatma Gandhi Simplicity, Minimalism, Satyagraha, Sarvodaya, Secularism, Ahimsa, Non-Violence, Truth, Forgiveness, Self-Sufficiency, Dignity of labour
Jawaharlal Nehru Democracy, institution building, consensus building, socialism, secularism, self-determination, internationalism
Nelson Mandela Service, dignity, self-belief, equality of the human race, freedom, fairness, justice,
Abraham Lincoln Humanism, equality of the human race, integrity, idealism, honesty, freedom
Martin Luther King Jr Self-belief, equality of the human race
Raja Rammohan Roy Social equality, equality of the human race, women empowerment, scientific thinking
Swami Vivekananda Self-belief, equality of the human race, radical thinking, compassion etc.
B R Ambedkar Self-belief, equality of the human race, radical thinking, compassion etc.
Mother Teresa Compassion, altruism, helpfulness, kindness, cleanliness, determination.
Verghese Kurien Self-belief, co-operative societies, entrepreneurship, innovation, farmer welfare etc.


Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values

Role of Family in inculcating values

  • The family is the earliest and the most influential agent of social initiation and socialization. Socialization via the family goes on throughout life. Parents, siblings, and grandparents become the immediate agents of socialization.

  • Values are inculcated in children through the actions of family members. Children pick up behavioral traits from all those who are in their immediate environment. Values are imbibed by children by observing what parents do (and not just what parents say).

  • The power of the family is strongest during infancy and toddler years. During the teenage, the influence of peer group and media usually overpowers the influence of the family. However, the family returns as a predominant agent of socialization during the adult years with the roles of marital partner and parents becoming prominent.

  • There can be differences in values between two families based on their socio-economic statuses.


Role of Educational Institutions in inculcating values

  • Schools and Colleges are important agents in the process of socialization and thus can help a lot in inculcating values. School is the first place where the individual values get compared with the larger value system of the society.

  • The curriculum imparts the values of accepted behavior. A school student learns not only from the official curriculum but also from the social curriculum of peer groups. Values are also imbibed from the practices and rules and regulations of school (e.g.: take permission of the teacher to speak while in class). This is the place where one learns the values of punctuality and discipline.

  • Values education is an explicit attempt to teach about values. There are five basic approaches to values education: inculcation, moral development, analysis, action learning,and values clarification.


 Role of Society in inculcating values

Society can also inculcate a lot of values in people. The elements of the society who have great influence in people include:

  • Friends,
  • Neighbors,
  • Media,
  • Films,
  • Religion,
  • Leaders,
  • Government


The artcle aboves gives you a brief idea regarding the Values and human values in general, Many case studies in ethics are based on the understanding of this topic as the candidate should be able to differnciate between the personal and social values and should be sensitive toward's others values. So it is better if the cadidate reads this article with the other ethics articles. to read more articles on ethics subject - click here