- Culture refers to a total way of life shared by people in a society (i.e., shared customs, traditions, norms, beliefs, values, material products, and technology) that is passed from one generation to the next.
- Culture is a unique human capacity.
Components of Culture
- Material Culture - the material objects that distinguish a group of people, such as their art, buildings, weapons, utensils, machines, clothing, and jewelry
- Nonmaterial Culture - a group's ways of thinking (including its beliefs, values and other assumptions about the world) and doing (it common patterns of behavior, including language and other forms of interaction)
- Material and nonmaterial culture are interrelated.
Characteristics of Culture
- There is nothing "natural" about material or nonmaterial culture
- Culture penetrates deep into our thinking, becoming a taken-for-granted aspect of our lives
- Culture provides the lens through which we see the world and obtain our perception of reality
- Culture provides implicit instructions that tell us what we ought to do in various situations; it provides a fundamental basis for our decision-making
- Culture provides a "moral imperative"; that is, by internalizing culture, people learn ideas of right and wrong
- Coming into a radically into contact with a radically different culture challenges our basic assumptions of life
- Although the particulars of culture differ from one group of people to another, culture itself is universal
Diversity Between Cultures
- Culture Shock - the disorientation that people experience when they come in contact with a fundamentally different culture and can no longer depend on their taken-for-granted assumptions about life
- Ethnocentrism - the use of one's own culture as a yardstick for judging the ways of other individuals or societies, generally leading to a negative evaluation of their values, norms, and behaviors
- Cultural Relativism - understanding a people from the framework of its own culture
Diversity Within Cultures
- Subculture - a group whose values and related behaviors distinguish its members from the larger culture
- Counterculture - a group whose values, beliefs, and related behaviors place its members in opposition to the broader culture
- Cultural Hegemony - the control over cultural institutions by an elite group of individuals
- Values are shared ideas about what is socially desirable and undesirable, what is good and bad.
- Norms are rules, expectations, and guidelines that govern what people should and should not think, feel, and do in a given social situation; norms define expected and accepted behavior.
- Prescriptive norms: norms that express what one must do in a situation.
- Proscriptive norms: norms that express what one must not do in a situation.
- Types of norms:
- Folkways refer to norms that express an expectation, but not an obligation; thus, they are not strictly enforced
- Mores refer to norms that are strictly enforced because they are thought essential to core values; they express an obligation
- Taboos refer to norms so strong that even the thought of its violation brings revulsion
- Sanctions - expressions of approval (positive sanctions) or disapproval (negative sanctions) given to people for upholding or violating norms
- Sanctions may be formal or informal in nature.
- Ethnomethodology - the study of the way people make sense of their everyday surroundings; developed largely by Harold Garfinkel, who argued that the only way to make sense of events is to purposely violate norms.
- Symbols refer to anything that stands for something other than itself.
- Gestures refer to the ways in which people use their bodies to communicate with one another.
- Language refers to a complex system of symbols (verbal and nonverbal, written and unwritten) that can be combined in an infinite number of ways and can represent not only objects but also abstract thought. It allows culture to develop by freeing people to move beyond their immediate experiences.
Cultural Complexity, Diversity, and Change
- Ideal Culture - the values, norms, and goals that a group considers ideal, worth aspiring to
- Real Culture - the norms and values that people actually follow
- High Culture refers to norms and values held by upper class individuals
- Popular Culture refer to norms and values held by the masses
- Cultural Universals - values, norms, or other cultural traits that are found in every culture
- Although there are universal human activities (speech, music, storytelling, marrying, disposing of the dead, preparing food, and so on), there is no universally accepted way of doing any of them
Sources of Cultural Change:
- Invention - the process of creating new cultural elements
- Discovery - recognizing and better understanding something already in existence
- Diffusion - the spread of cultural traits or characteristics from one society to another
Cultural lag - William Ogburn's term for a situation in which nonmaterial culture lags behind changes in the material culture
Cultural leveling - the process by which cultures become similar to one another, and especially by which Western industrial culture is imported and diffused into industrializing nations