Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving. Culture is the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people.
- 3.1: Introduction to Culture
- A culture represents the beliefs and practices of a group, while society represents the people who share those beliefs and practices. Neither society nor culture could exist without the other. In this chapter, we examine the relationship between culture and society in greater detail and pay special attention to the elements and forces that shape culture, including diversity and cultural changes. A final discussion touches on the different theoretical perspectives from which sociologists research
- 3.2: What Is Culture?
- Almost every human behavior, from shopping to marriage to expressions of feelings, is learned. Culture generally describes the shared behaviors and beliefs of these people, and includes material and nonmaterial elements.. Our experience of cultural difference is influenced by our ethnocentrism and xenocentrism. Sociologists try to practice cultural relativism.
- 3.3: Elements of Culture
- A culture consists of many elements, such as the values and beliefs of its society. Values are a culture’s standard for discerning what is good and just in society. Values are deeply embedded and critical for transmitting and teaching a culture’s beliefs.Beliefs are the tenets or convictions that people hold to be true. Culture is also governed by norms, including laws, mores, and folkways. The symbols and language of a society are key to developing and conveying culture.
- 3.4: Pop Culture, Subculture, and Cultural Change
- There are a multitude of cultural differences between societies in the world. Societies are also comprised of many subcultures—smaller groups that share an identity. Countercultures reject mainstream values and create their own cultural rules and norms. Through invention or discovery, cultures evolve via new ideas and new ways of thinking. In many modern cultures, technology can lead to cultural lag and spreads both material and nonmaterial culture to contribute to globalization.
- 3.5: Theoretical Perspectives on Culture
- There are three major theoretical approaches toward the interpretation of culture. A functionalist perspective acknowledges that many parts of culture work together as a system to fulfill society’s needs and culture is a reflection of society’s values. Conflict theorists see culture as inherently unequal, influence by gender, class, race, and age. An interactionist is mainly interested in culture as experienced in the daily interactions between individuals and the symbols of that culture.
Thumbnail: ǃKung woman and child sharing a meal. Image used with permission (CC-SA-BY 4.0; Staehler).