AskDefine | Define normative

Dictionary Definition

normative adj
1 relating to or dealing with norms; "normative discipline"; "normative samples"
2 giving directives or rules; "prescriptive grammar is concerned with norms of or rules for correct usage" [syn: prescriptive] [ant: descriptive]
3 based on or prescribing a norm or standard; "normative grammar" [syn: prescriptive]
4 dealing with or based on norms; "a normative judgment"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Of, pertaining to, or using a norm or standard.


Of, pertaining to, or using a norm or standard



  1. Plural of normativa


  1. Plural of normativo

Extensive Definition

Normative has specialized meanings in several academic disciplines. Generically, it means relating to an ideal standard or model. In practice, it has strong connotations of relating to a typical standard or model (see also normality).


In philosophy, normative statements affirm how things should or ought to be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, which actions are right or wrong. Normative is usually contrasted with positive (i.e. descriptive, explanatory, or constative) when describing types of theories, beliefs, or propositions. Positive statements are falsifiable statements that attempt to describe reality.
For example, "children should eat vegetables", "smoking is bad", and "those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither" are normative claims. On the other hand, "vegetables contain a relatively high proportion of vitamins", "smoking causes cancer", and "a common consequence of sacrificing liberty for security is a loss of both" are positive claims. Whether or not a statement is normative is logically independent of whether it is verified, verifiable, or popularly held.
It is only with David Hume in the 18th century that philosophers began to take cognizance of the logical difference between normative and descriptive statements and thinking. There are several schools of thought regarding the status of normative statements and whether they can be rationally discussed or defended. Among these schools are the tradition of practical reason extending from Aristotle through Kant to Habermas, which asserts that they can, and the tradition of emotivism, which maintains that they are merely expressions of emotions and have no rational content.
Normative statements and norms, as well as their meanings, are an integral part of human life. They are fundamental for prioritizing goals and organizing and planning thought, belief, emotion and action and are the basis of much ethical and political discourse.
The way in which individuals or societies define that which they consider to be appropriate, that is to be in accordance with their (normative) standards, varies greatly between peoples and cultures. Many philosophers have searched for a source of normative values which is independent of the individual's subjective morality and consequently objective and 'true' in nature.


In standards terminology, "normative" means "considered to be a prescriptive part of the standard". It characterises that part of the standard which describes what ought (see philosophy above) to be done within the application of that standard. It is implicit that application of that standard will result in a valuable outcome (ibid.). For example, many standards have an introduction, preface, or summary that is considered non-normative, as well as a main body that is considered normative. "Compliance" is defined as "complies with the normative sections of the standard"; an object that complies with the normative sections but not the non-normative sections of a standard is still considered to be in compliance.

Social sciences and economics

See economics aspect in normative economics. Normative economics deals with questions of what sort of economic policies ought to (see philosophy above) be pursued, in order to achieve desired (that is, valued, ibid.) economic outcomes.
In social sciences the term "normative" is used to describe the effects of those structures of culture which regulate the function of social activity. Those structures thus act to encourage or enforce social activity and outcomes that ought to (with respect to the norms implicit in those structures) occur, while discouraging or preventing social activity that ought not occur. That is, they promote social activity that is socially valued (see philosophy above). While there are always anomalies in social activity (typically described as "crime" or anti-social behaviour, see also normality) the normative effects of popularly-endorsed beliefs (such as "family values" or "common sense") push most social activity towards a generally homogenous set, resulting in varying degrees of social stability.
Normative behavior is a term used in sociology to describe actions intended to normalize something, or make it acceptable.


In law, as an academic discipline, the term "normative" is used to describe the way something ought to be done according to a value position. As such, normative argument can be conflicting. For example, from one normative value position the purpose of the criminal process may be to repress crime. From another value position, the purpose of the criminal justice system could be to protect individuals from the moral harm of wrongful conviction.

Further reading

normative in Czech: Normativ
normative in Danish: Normativ
normative in German: Normativ
normative in Portuguese: Normatividade
normative in Swedish: Normativ

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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