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Culture

A sociological
perspective

Contents
Definition of culture
Defining characteristics of culture
The Components of culture

Values

Norms

Symbol

Language
Development of Culture around the world

Cultural Universal

Innovation and discovery, Cultural diffusion

Mcdonalization of society

cultural lag

Aspects of Cultural diversity/Variation

Levels of Culture
Subculture & counterculture
Cultural shock
Cultural diffusion

Attitudes towards cultural variation

Cultural ethnocentrism
Cultural relativism
Cultural Xenocentrism

Culture
Sociologically, culture is viewed in the broadest possible sensereferring to everything that is part of a peoples way of life.

Definition

Sociologist Cooly and Angel said, Culture is the sum total of the
reflection of the way of life.

According to E.B. Tylor, culture is that complex whole which includes


knowledge, belief, art, morals, law customs and any other capabilities
and habits acquired by man as a member of society. (E.B. Tylor,
Primitive Cultures 1871).

Culture is the way of life shared by a group- a system of ideas, values,


beliefs, knowledge, expressiveness and customs transmitted from
generation to generation within a social group (Metta Spencer).

1. Culture is a dynamic, constantly


changing process that is shaped by
political, social and economic
conditions.

Defining features of Culture

Culture is all encompassing.


Culture is general and specific.
Culture is commonly shared.
Culture is learned.
Culture is symbolic.

Elements of Culture
Values

Values are culturally defined standards for what is good, desirable and
proper or bad, undesirable and improper which serve as broad
guidelines for social living.

Influence peoples behavior


Criteria for evaluating actions
of others
Values may change

Elements of Culture

Norms
Established standards of
behavior maintained by a society
Norms are rules by which a
society guides the behavior of its
members.

To be significant,
norms must be
widely shared and
understood

Types of Norms
Formal norms: generally written;
specify strict punishments
Informal norms: generally understood but
not precisely recorded

Elements of Culture
The American sociologist William Graham Summer introduced
two important terms to the study of norms.

Folkways- Norms that are everyday habits


and conventions. These are a societys
customs for routine, casual interaction. A
person who fails to conform to these
norms or folkways may be thought of as
thoughtless or crude, but not as a criminal
or a sinner.
Mores- Mores refer to a societys
standards of proper moral conduct. These
norms are sacred and violations of them are
almost unthinkable.

Taboos
Taboos are mores so strong that
violation is considered extremely
offensive and even unmentionable.
The incest taboo, which prohibits
sexual relations between certain kin, is
an example of a nearly universal taboo.

Sanction
Sanctions-Penalties or rewards for
conduct concerning a social norm.
Formal Sanctions-salary bonus, firing
from job.
Informal Sanction-smile, humiliation.

Laws
Formal, standardized norms that have
been enacted by legislatures and are
enforced by formal sanctions.
Civil

law deals with disputes among persons


or groups.
Criminal law deals with public safety and
well-being.

Elements of Culture
Symbols:
A symbol is anything that carries a particular
meaning recognized by people who share the
same culture.
Language:
Language is a key element of culture. It has
been called the storehouse of culture (Harroff,
1962). Language is a system of verbal and
non-verbal symbols that allows members of a
society to communicate with one another . All
cultures have a spoken language though not all
have a written language.

Culture and the Dominant Ideology


Dominant Ideology
Describes the set of cultural beliefs and
practices that help maintain powerful social,
economic, and political interests
Functionalists view culture as stabilizing agent
for sociology
Conflict theorists view culture as serving the
privileges of powerful groups.

Development of Culture
Around the World
Cultural Universals
Cultural Universalsare learned
behavior patterns that are shared by
all of humanity collectively. No
matter where people live in the world,
they share these universal traits.
Societies develop common practices, including:

Athletic sports
Music
Funeral ceremonies
Medicine
Sexual restrictions

Development of Culture
Around the World
Innovation
Process of introducing new idea or object to a
culture
Discovery: making known or sharing existence of
an aspect of reality
Invention: when existing cultural items are
combined into a form that did not exist before

Development of Culture
Around the World
Globalization, Diffusion, and
Technology
Diffusion: process by which a cultural item
spreads from group to group or society to
society
Mcdonaldization of society

Development of Culture
Around the World
Technology: information about how to
use the material resources of the
environment to satisfy human needs
and desires
Material culture:
physical or
technological aspects
of our daily lives

Food items
Houses
Factories
Raw materials

Development of Culture
Around the World
Nonmaterial Culture: ways of using
material objects as well as:
Culture
Lag:
period
of
maladjustment when nonmaterial
culture is still struggling to adapt Customs
to new material conditions
Beliefs
Philosophies
Cultural lag means a gap between Governments
technological
change
and Patterns of
adjustment in norms and values.
communicatio
This term was introduced by
n
William F. Ogburn. According to
him,
the
technological
change
tends to occur quickly and cause
new situations that require changes

Cultural Diversity
Levels of culture:

National culture
The experiences, beliefs, learned behavior patterns,
and values shared by citizens of the same nation.
International culture
Cultural practices that are common to an identifiable
group that transcends national borders.
Subcultures
The existence of more than one culturally defined
group within a larger nation.

Cultural Diversity
Subculture

A subculture is a segment of society that shares a distinctive


pattern of norms and values that differs from the pattern of the
larger society.

Counter culture

A counterculture means against the culture (Yinger, 1960). A


group whose norms, attitudes, values and lifestyle directly
challenge or seek to change those of the mainstream culture.

Cultural Diversity
Cultural diffusion
It is the process by which a cultural item spreads
from one society to another society. Diffusion
can occur through a variety of means like
exploration, military conquest, missionary work,
the influence of mass media, tourism and the
internet.
Cultural shock
The feeling of surprise and disorientation that is
experienced when people encounter cultural
practices different from their own.

Attitudes towards Cultural Diversity


Cultural ethnocentrism
The tendency to assume that ones own culture and way of life are
superior to all others. William Graham Summer coined the term
ethnocentrism.

Cultural relativism
Cultural relativism views peoples behaviour from the perspective
of their culture. It stresses that different social contexts give rise
to different norms and values.

Cultural Xenocentrism
The belief that the products, styles, or ideas of ones society are
inferior to those that originate else where