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Custom (tradition, ritual, обычай) is certain set of actions and believes that are commonly accepted in some society, but, perhaps, are not written explicitly. Also, this term includes the specific set of taboos, prohibitions, that are assumed to be obvious, but sometimes are not explained.


Customs and traditions

Words "custom" and "tradition" often go together, and it is difficult to distinguish, where is "custom" and where is "tradition" [1][2].

There is slight difference between term "tradition" and "custom": tradition refers rather to believe of the individuals, while "custom" refers to the way, the individuals usually act being in the society.


The customs include prohibition of certain actions. Often, such prohibitions are not written in Laws, but strongly "assumed".

Here is example of the folklore story about one poor boy and very rich daughter of one business man. The student wanted to marry her, but her father told, that it is "absolutely impossible". After few months, the daughter of the rich businessman become pregnant, and she indicated that student as father. The businessman changed his mind, invited the student and told him, that he should marry her. The student reminded that this is "absolutely impossible"..

In this example, the businessman and the student assumed different sets of taboos; and during the first conservation, they did not specified, did not declared them. The negation of some taboos may be qualified as higilism [3] by those that consider those taboo as some absolute imperative; in this case, the statement "You are nihilist" means "Our opinions are different".

Customs as knowledge

Many customs are transfered as folklore, that includes legends (stories), proverbs, jokes, stories, music, dances and, perhaps, other rituals. Historically, the tribes with certain customs were more competitive than neighbors; in this sense, the customs appear as kind of knowledge, as information that helps in the practical activity.

In order to indicate place of customs, they should be separated from other kinds of knowledge – art, religion and science. As soon as the custom is well written, stored in a reproducible way, in becomes art; and if it fits some strict rules that are assumed to be compulsory, it becomes religion.

For example, the story from the previous section becomes art, as soon as it is written and available for reproduction and critics; in particular, its artistic quality can be negated and disputed.

The custom to follow certain rules in the research leads to science, which seems to be the most structured kind of knowledge. In TORI, these rules are formulated as 6 axioms.

Different civilization may have different customs. The attempts to force one tribe to follow different customs of another tribe usually lead to the degradation.

Interpretation of custom as knowledge slightly narrows the set of meanings of this term. For example, the often consumption of enormous amount of alcoholic beverages of doubtful quality falls out of category of knowledge. (Although some alcoholics may be qualified as "professional drinkers".)

Customs as ethnicity

Customs are form ethnic individuality of the nation, tribe. Often, representatives of some civilization consider their customs as correct, "true", and other customs as "bad", "wrong". In this case, the difference in customs may lead to xenophobia, conflicts, genocide, wars.

The ideas of pluratism [4] are supposed to mitigate the xenophobia by the price of fading, smoothing of the customs, reducing their importance as knowledge.

Other meanings of the word

Term "custom" may have other meanings. In particular, this word is used to specify the institute of restriction of movement of some objects across the borders between countries. The officials, who realizes these restrictions, call themselves "custom service". (Such transformation of meaning is similar to the slang use of the word "client" among the criminal burglars and robbers; they qualify their victims as "clients")


  1. Thai Customs and Traditions
  2. Greece customs and traditions
  3. Nihilist: Taboos
  4. Positivistic pluralism (Позитивистский плюрализм, In Russian)