Culture is both expressive and social. Neither culture nor society exist in the real world rather it is the thoughts and behaviors of people that constructs a society, its culture, and meanings (Griswold 2013). People build the world we live in including the cultural attributes we choose to obtain, exhibit, and follow. Societies communicate and teach culture as part of the human experience.
Historically, culture referred to characteristics and qualities of the fine arts, performing arts, and literature connecting culture to social status. This perspective emphasized a subculture shared by the social elite or upper class and has been historically characterized as civilized culture. This perspective within the humanities studied the “ideal type” or “high culture” of affluent social groups depicting whom was “cultured” or rather was wealthy and educated in society lending itself to a ranking of cultures in its study.
In the 19th century, anthropologist Edward B. Tyler (1871) introduced culture as a complex social structure encompassing “... knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” This definition focused on culture as a social attribute of humanity. Social scientists adopted this perspective expanding the study of culture beyond the ethnocentric elitism of “high culture.” With emphasis on human social life as a reflection of culture, social scientists sought to understand not only how culture reflects society but also how society reflects culture. These new insights inspired social scientists to examine the practices of people lending itself to a sociological perspective on culture.