SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SOCIETIES AND

CULTURES

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out 30 fundamental rights that must be upheld
by governments and law making bodies. By providing infrastructure, including law enforcement,
individuals’’ rights and freedoms are better protected and upheld, regardless of their social status.
The upholding of such rights creates similarities between people, so that cultural difference should
not dictate the treatment we receive from all levels of government.

While there is variation, specific similarities exist between some societies. World empires wield power
over cultures that were once vastly different, through colonisation. After invading and dominating the
host culture, string ties back to the empire were deliberately pursued and maintained. Similarities
between Commonwealth countries today are generally the result of colonisation. For example, India,
Australia, New Zealand and Canada have similarities in sports and foods.

Some societies and cultures have string similarities in social structures. Class or hierarchal systems
exist in most nations and social class is quite evident in Western Societies where wealth can be easily
displayed through material possessions, such as motor vehicles, housing and clothing. Social
stratification, where members of a society are seemingly placed in layers from top to bottom in order
of so-called ‘importance’, often indicates the wealth, education and social status of individuals and
groups. Upper, middle or lower class are terms often used by individuals or groups to place
themselves in a social position.

A more rigid form of stratification is the caste system, which exists in nations such as India, Nepal,
Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Korea, Yemen and Indonesia. In these systems, a large number of
‘untouchables’, outcasts, serfs or manual labourers are at the bottom. These people typically
experience extreme levels of social exclusion and extremely limited access to socially valued
resources.

Social differentiation within and between societies can be based upon age, gender, ethnicity, location,
disability, religion, sexuality or socioeconomic status. Differences can also be created when meaning
and emphasis are placed on certain things over others, or by certain groups resulting in:

• Different symbols of culture, such as flags, food, clothing, shelters
• Different values and ethical codes or moral conduct, such as polygamy, adultery
• Different levels of organisation and hierarchy, such as theocracy, anarchy, monarchy
• Different norms, laws and governance, such as martial law, communism, democracy
• Different forms of communication, such as verbal and non-verbal
• Different levels of application of the 30 basic human rights around the world.

Extract Taken from: K.Thompson, M.Leaver, E.Davidge, T.Lovat & N.Martirena. (2015) Eight: Social Inclusion and
Exclusion. (pp.260-261). Australia. Cengage Learning Australia.