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to Pop Culture
Intro to Sociology Steve Zavestoski University of San Francisco
Pop Culture material borrowed from sociologist Robert Wonser. For more information visit: http://www.canyons.edu/faculty/wonserr/Popular_Culture.htm
Sociological Deﬁnition of Culture
Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e., historically derived and selected) ideas [beliefs] and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other, as conditioning elements of further action.
from The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts, Lisa McIntyre.
What’s important in the deﬁnition?
Patterns of behavior? Symbols? Ideas, beliefs, values? Yes, these are all important, but most of all remember: culture is not only a product of human action, but also conditions human action
So what is included in culture?
Unfortunately, almost everything: What we say, write, do, act, make, destroy, believe, ... That’s why we’re like ﬁsh in water when it comes to culture. But sometimes we get a grasp on it when we see how it differs across societies For example, what happened in 1492?
What is culture again?
At a formal dinner party, begin eating with the fork that is furthest from the plate. Do not pick your nose in public. Eat jello with a spoon, not your ﬁngers. Do not sneeze on someone else’s hamburger. The highest position in the Hell’s Angels National Organization is President. π=3.1416 An opera is a drama set to music in which the words are sung “Ring around the Rosie, pocket full of posies, Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down!”
Culture becomes a tool in reproducing social class within a system of stratiﬁcation, primarily through the distinction between “high” and “low” culture. Cultural capital includes the knowledge, skills, education, and advantages that a person has and that can be used to negotiate their position within the system of stratiﬁcation.
The High/Low Distinction
High involves a level of art considered to have a superior value, socially and aesthetically Low implies a level considered inferior Pop culture has been instrumental in blurring these distinctions
What is “Pop Culture?”
Pop culture emerged as a product of capitalist/ industrial societies when goods began to be massproduced, people had more leisure time, and more expendable income. Pop Culture stands apart from other culture because it is by the people and for the people Rejects the supremacy of tradition, past cultural practices, and pretensions of intellectualist tendencies inherent in contemporary traditional culture It is populist, popular and public
Pop Culture Deﬁnition
Pop culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture ... Heavily inﬂuenced by mass media, this collection of ideas permeates the everyday lives of the society.
References to highest level of the hierarchy as well as trendy movies; This admixture of styles is called bricolage or simply collage. Therefore pop culture isn’t a bastard culture but an eclectic one that draws on a variety of inspiration. It breaks down cultural distinctions
Why Pop Culture?
If culture is not only a product of human action, but also conditions human action; Then... How does pop culture condition human action? What societal purpose does pop culture serve?
Blurring Class Boundaries
Pop culture may be a means of overcoming the controlling interests of the socially powerful who have historically used culture to maintain class distinctions and limit class mobility (even when economic growth moves individuals up in economic class) Accepting this hypothesis requires evidence that pop culture is democratic, grassroots, a product of the masses. But is it?
Trends in American Pop Culture Over Time
Most Democratic 1800s 1900s 2000s