SOCA01H3 Lecture Notes - Jimi Hendrix, Pedophilia, Subculture
ProfessorMalcolm Mac Kinnon
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Chapter 3 Culture
Sociologists define culture 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 appropriate 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 symbols, norms, and other intangible elements
Three types of norms
Folkways are the least important, evoke least severe punishment (walks on street wearing nothing on
Mores (customs) are core norms that most people believe are essential for the survival of their group or
Taboos are among the strongest norms when it is violated it causes revulsion in the community and
punishment is sever (incest, rape, murder)
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Evolution of human behaviour
Charles Darwin`s theory of evolution. – Observed 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 hundreds 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
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)
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