In Sociology what is the difference between Real and Ideal values?

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brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Real values in a society, and in the sociological field, often involve that which is concrete or material, something tangible, such as financial success, home ownership, or a promotion, but can also include the completion of short and long term goals, such as moving out of the house or getting married and starting a family, etc.  That is to say, real values fall in the realm of the tangible and achievable, and often also reflect what society defines as real values. Ideal values are usually expressed in the abstract, that is, they are hard to quantify or show evidence of.  Patriotism is one such example of an ideal value, as is democracy.  It is something a society may strive for, and the individuals within that society may say are among their top values, but the ideal itself is not achievable.  No society is ever fully equal, fully just, no population fully patriotic.  Yet the pursuit of the ideal is still very important, and often social progress is dependent on it. There is continual debate about what constitutes these values in either the real or the ideal, (what does it mean, for example, to be a "patriot"?) but the pursuit of the ideal and the achievement of the real in terms of values is part of the common everyday existence and motivations of a society.