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- -Culture is foundational to all human collectives
- -Culture is consequential: affective everything around us yet often accepted without question
- -Culture varies dramatically between and within societies
- -Culture plays an important role in social change
What is culture?
- -a combination of ideas, behaviors, and material objects that people have created and adopted for carrying out necessary tasks of daily life.
- -Culture is pervasive (the atmosphere)
- -We sometimes lose sight of how our culture looks to others.
- -Travel often helps us see our culture as others see us.
The foundation of civilization
- -Culture is what sociologist Ralph Linton, called our "social heredity."
- -Culture is a "contract between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are yet to be born. ~Edmund Burke
- -Culture is passed from one generalization to another through socialization.
Components of Culture
- -Material Culture
- -Nonmaterial culture
- *Values and beliefs
-Includes all the art, architecture, technological artifacts, and material objects created by a society.
- -Everything about culture that is not part of the material culture.
- -Nonmaterial culture includes
- *Cognitive elements expressing thoughts, beliefs, and preferences
- *Normative elements which express how we should behave
- -words, pictures, in fact anything, that conveys meaning to people who share a culture
- -symbols are powerful because they activate emotions
Symbols are arbitrary
- -Symbols are arbitrary signs that stands for something.
- -Because they are arbitrary, symbols can mean very different things in different contexts and cultures.
- *The "V" or victory sign from WWII became a peace sign among hippies in the 60s
- *In some Asian countries, the "thumbs up" sign is an affront or insult to another person
- *It's customary to burp/ belch in some countries after a meal as a signal of gratitude to the host> In other countries it is rude.
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
- -argues that language shapes thought
- *language is not just a neutral medium to express our thoughts
- *our very thought are constrained by the limits imposed by a language
- -Different groups contest important cultural issues by using different language
- -The right to life vs. freedom of choice
- -"Preapproved" credit card vs "solicited"
- -"prestigious unaccredited university" vs. "diploma mill"
- -"married" is the past tense of "marry"- we have no term for "being married" or "staying married" Does this make it harder for us to remember we have to work at this marriage to keep it going
Whorf and "Backdraft"
- -In this movie, "backdraft" a rash of fires is found to be the work of a "bad guy", an arsonist who set the fires.
- -In real life, Fire inspector Benjamin Whorf found a puzzling patter when interviewing witnesses at fires that eventually led to a fundamental insight into one important cause of fires.
- -In one fire witness reported that "discarded pieces of metal" caught fire because they were wrapped in cardboard and wax.
- -At another, witnesses reported that "empty gasoline drums" exploded when someone lit a match to close to them.
- -Whorf speculated that language contributed to the occurrence of fires.
- -"discarded pieces of metal" caught fire because they were wrapped in cardboard and wax.
- -Thinking of them as "discarded pieces of metal" led to overlooking the flammable nature of the wrapping.
- Similarly, "empty gasoline drums" exploded because they contained a gasoline vapor.
Values and Beliefs
-Cultural Values are standards of desirability, rightness or importance in society. They indicate whether something is good or bad, important or unimportant, attractive or unattractive. Values are NOT neutral. They are positive or negative.
Beliefs: what is accepted as true based on values
-Sociologist Robin Williams (1965,1970) found widely shared cultural values in American culture to include
- achievement and success individualism freedom
- activity and work progress democracy
- efficiency and practicality material comfort equality
- science and technology humanitarian
- -expectations for a behavior
- *EX: we expect a mother Will care for her children.
- -Norms often apply to social roles that people are playing more than to the individuals themselves
- *EX: we expect certain behaviors for any person who is a mother, not just a particular person
Folkways and Mores
- There are 2 kinds of norms (William Graham Sumner)
- -Folkways rules governing everyday conduct that are not considered to be morally important and are not strictly enforced.
- *EX: wearing a tie to church, saying please & thank you, and not staring at others in an elevator
- -Mores("mor-ays") or taboos, are serious norms for important activities having a strong moral imperative and strictly enforced
- *EX: laws forbid murder, rape, stealing, assault and so on
Enforcing norms with sanctions
- -Sanctions: acts designed to encourage behaviors conforming to norm and discourage behaviors that violate norms.
- *Punishments- negative sanctions
- *Rewards- positive sanctions
- - We give one another considerable discretion regarding folkways, but oft punish harshly for the violation of mores
- *no tie in church = dirty looks
- *no clothes in church = arrest
Internalization of Norms
- Most enforcement of norms in a society come not from outside the individual but from inside (Durkheim)
- Internalization-adopting the norm as your own
- *EX:cheat on a friend= guilt
- We become our own police force, enforcing the norms of society as our own
- There is great diversity in personal experience and dress throughout the world.
- Cultrual diversity can occur in any and al element of the material culture.
Cultural diversity within a society
- Large industrial and postindustrial societies ten to have great cultural diversity within the society.
- In fact, most societies include within them not only a single dominant culture, but several subcultures and countercultures
The dominant culture
- the dominant culture- the culture that fakes precedence over other cultures in activities or events involving people population
- often so pervasive that is not questioned but s taken for granted
- *EX: the pres of the US takes the oath of office n the Bible. What if he were a Muslim?
- supports the domination by ruling class through ideologies by the ruling class through ideologies, values, and beliefs
- *EX: Nazi used all aspects of culture to justify Nazi rule
- A culture containing many elements of the dominant culture, but having unique features that distinguish its members from the res of the population.
- May be based on ethnic heritage, lifestyle choices, social class, regional differences, age, race, gender, or a myriad of other categories.
- *Hasidic Jews, rural Southerners, Star Trek enthusiasts, or college students
- A subcultures that challenges important elements of the dominant culture such as beliefs, attitudes, or values and seeks to create an alternative lifestyle
- *EX: beatniks, hippies, survivalists
- countercultures often have a normative culture at offs with the dominant culture in society
Responses to cultural diversity
- Multiculturalism- a perspective that recognizes the contributions of diverse groups to our society and holds that no single culture is any better than all the rest.
- This perspective has sparked controversy with regard to a number of issues
- *do history textbooks recognize contributions of Blacks and Hispanics
- *16 states have made English the official language
- The view that your own culture is the standard against which other cultures can be judged right or wrong
- ~William Graham Sumner (1906,1913)
- The US is often criticized for being ethnocentric
- "What the US does best is understand itself. What it does worst is understand others"
- ~Carlos Fuentes
A Nation of Minorities
- If current population trends continue within the next 20 0r 30 years white non Hispanic Americans will also become a minority
- At that time were will be no single racial and ethnic group that is a majority of the US population
- Already there are many counties in the US where this is true.
Theoretical Perspectives on Culture
- The 3 major theoretical perspectives within sociology each can be applied to culture. These perspectives are
- *The Functional view
- *The Interactionist view
- *The conflict view
The functional view of culture
- Explains cultural elements by their functions for society.
- If this view is correct then there should be cultural universals- cultural elements found in all cultures.
- Cycle= society structures, consequences
Anthropologist Robert Murdock (1945) examined hundreds of cultures and identified several dozen cultural universals, incl:
food taboos games gestures
- a calendar cooking dancing
- music myths religion
- sexual restrictions trade family
- housings language
- Hinduism forbids slaughtering or eating cattle.
- In Nepal cow slaughter is severely punished
- During a famine in India i the 1960s. starving people begged for food while cows roamed freely in the streets
- Is the scared cow a tragic cultural heritage?
The functions of sacred cows
- The veneration of cows in India serves a number of important and positive functions for indian culture (Marvin Harris, 1974)
- *cows and the oxen they produce, pull plows
- * they provide manure which is dried and used for fuel, fertilizer, and event housing blocks.
- *after they die, cows are used for leather
- *members at the untouchable caste in the privacy o their homes violate Hindu teachings by cooking and eating the meat, providing an important source of protein to the poorest members of the population who most need it.
The interactions View of Culture
How we've come to define the meaning of cultural elements though social interaction.
Culture as a Class barrier
- Culture perpetuates inequalities
- Consolidates class position of the wealthy
- lower classes through consumption:
- * become instruments of their own subordination
- "high culture"- the artifacts, values, knowledge, beliefs, and other cultural elements that elites in a society use to distinguish themselves from the masses
- *EX: opera, ballet, and works by "great authors"
- Strategy of distinction- high culture is an effort by people in the upper social classes to differentiate themselves from the masses through the creation and consumption of cultural elements that may remain largely inaccessible or not understood by those in lower social classes
- All the artifacts, values, knowledge, beliefs, ad other cultural elements that appeal to the masses
- *EX: rock music, popular television, toys, comic books, movie stars, and fast food
Culture & social change
- Cultural lag theory
- Cultural diffusion
- A global culture?
Cultural Lag Theory
- Cultural Lag Theory- tech change drives others changes in culture, with other cultural elements often lagging behind technology
- A cultural lag occurs when one of 2 parts of culture which are correlated changes before or in greater degree than the other part does (Ogburn, 1964)
- Classic example: the atomic bomb
- Cultural diffusion- the spread of cultural elements including objects and ideas from one culture to another
- always common, today even more so
- Cultural diffusion---> cultural leveling
- Cultural leveling- the reduction of difference (both good and bad) between cultures resulting in a loss of cultural uniqueness and cultural heritage
- *EX: multinational corporations sell their products and operate factories in a wide range of countries
- *Japanese and German cars in the US
- *American pop music in Europe
Resisting Cultural Diffusion
- There are many examples of societies resisting the diffusion of culture from other societies
- *The US has resisted the metric system
- *France taxes US movie and shows
- *Media restrictions in Communist countries and Muslim countries
- *Restrictions on travel and the Berlin wall during communism
- *Muslim countries often resist American dress, religion, ect
A global culture?
- Cultural diffusion--> a single global culture?
- Marshal McLuhan (1964) first heralded "the global village"
- In most countries in the world today you can
- *eat your McDonalds hamburger or KFC
- *listen to American rock music
- *fly in American airplanes
- *hook up to the Internet
- A drab sameness and elimination of cultural diversity?
- The poor and isolated often lack access to global culture