Chapter 3 Culture
Sociologists define cluture as – the sum of practices, languages, symbols, beliefs, values, ideologies,and
material objects that people create to deal with real-life problems. Culture enable people to adapt to,
and thrive in, their environments
High culture – culture consumed mainly by upper classes (opera, ballet, etc.)
Popular Culture is culture consumed by all classes.
Human culture survival kit has 3 tools
Abstraction – the ability to create general ideas or ways of thinking
Symbols – ideas that carry meaning (eg. languages and mathematical signs)
Cooperation is the second tool – it is the capacity to create a complex social life by norms(establishing
generally accepted ways of doing things) and values(ideas about what is right and wrong.) eg. Family
members cooperate to raise children, and in the process, they develop and apply norms and values
about which child-rearing practices are approrpriate and desirable.
Norms – generally accepted ways of doing things
Values – ideas about what is right and wrong
Production is the third main tool- it is the human capacity to make and use tools. It improves our ability
to take what we want from nature.
Material culture compromises the tools and techniques that enable people to get tasks accomplished
Non-material culture is composed of symols, norms, and other intangible elements
Three types of norms
Folkways are the least important, evoke least sever punishment (walks on street wearing nothing on top
Mores (customs) are core norms that most people believe are essential for the survival of their group or
Taboos are among the strongest normswhen it is violated it causes revulsion in the community and
punishment is sever (incest,rape, murder) Evolution of human behaviour
Charles Darwin`s theory of evolution. – Oserved wide variations in the physical characteristics of
members of each species. (some deer fast, some slow, some tigers ferocious, some aren’t) Species that
are best adapted to their environments (or `fittest`) are most likely to live long enough to have offspring.
Male promiscuity, female fidelity, and other myths
Evolutionary psychologists make similar arguments about human behaviour and social arrangements
1. They first identify supposedly universal human behavioural trait (men are more horny)
2. They next offer an explanation as to why this behaviour increases survival chances.(men
produce hundres of millions of sperm when ejaculate, women releases 1 egg per month)
3. Behaviour in question cannot be easily changed. (its hardwired in our genes)
Some behaviours discussed by evolutionary psychologists are not universal and some aren’t even that
common. Nobody has ever verified that specific behaviours and social arrangements are associated
with specific genes.
The problem of language – is language innate or learned?
language is a system of symbols strung together to communicate thought. Distinguishes humans from
The social roots of language
Our biological potential must be unlocked y the social environment to be fully realized. Language must e
Sapir-Whorf thesis (diagram page 75)
We experience certain things in our environment and form concepts about those things, we then
develop language to express our concepts, language itself influences how we see the world
Researchers found german word for KEY is masculine while Spanish word for KEY is feminine.
Culture and Ethnocentrism : a functionalist analysis of culture
Culture is often invisible, people take it for granted. People get startled when confronted by cultures
other than their own. The ideas, norms, and techniques of other cultures frequently seem odd, irrational
and even inferior.
Ethnocentrism – is the tendency for a person to judge other cultures exclusively by the standards of his
or her own. (indias cow worship) Culture as freedom
Culture provides us with an opportunity to exercise our freedom.
Creating culture is like any other act of construction as we need raw materials to get the job done, >
culture constrains us.
Canada is undergoing rapid cultural diversification because of a rising number of immigrants and change
in their countries of origin.
Cultural diversity has ecome a source of conflict at a political level.
Our schools are failing to provide students with th type of education a country truly devoted to
Critis say multiculturalism has three negative consequences
1. They believe multicultural education hurts students who are members of minority groups by
forcing them to spend too much time on non-core subjects(English math). Multiculturalists
counter that students who are members of minority groups develop pride and self esteem from
a curriculum that stresses cultural diversity.
2. Believe multicultural education causes political disunity and results in more interethnic and
interracial conflict. They want curricula to stress the common elements of the national
experience and highlight europes contribution to our culture. Multiculturalists reply that
political unity and interethnic and interracial harmony simply maintain inequality in Canadian
3. Multiculturalism encourages cultural relativism, which is the opposite of ethnocentrism. Some
cultures oppose the most deeply held values of most Canadians. A system of such multicultural
education may encourage respect for practices that are abhorrent to most Canadians.
Multiculturalists reply .. moderate cultural relativism encourages tolerance, and it should not be
Cultural relativism is the belief that all cultures have equal values
The rights revolution: a conflict analysis of culture
Underlying cultural diversification is what Canadian philosopher Michael Ignatieff calls the rights