soc Midterm: SOC Week 3- CULTURE

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3 Feb 2016
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SOC Week 3 1
CULTURE
WHAT IS CULTURE?
Culture is the total way of life shared by members of a society.
It includes not only language, values, and symbolic meanings but also technology and material objects.
Culture is essentially the complete way of life shared by people, including both the material and non-material
elements
Subcultures
o Subcultures are groups that share in the overall culture of society but also maintain a distinctive set of
values, norms, life-styles, and even language.
o Example: subculture at one stage in its historysuch as jazz, punk, hip hop and rave culturesmay
represent mainstream taste within a short period of time
Countercultures
o Countercultures are groups having values, interests, beliefs, and life-styles that are opposed to those of
the larger culture.
o Example: During the late 1960s, hippies became the largest and most visible countercultural group in the
United States. LGBT of present times.
ELEMENTS OF CULTURE
Non-Material Elements:
o Cognitive: knowledge and beliefs of people
o Symbolic: verbal and non-verbal forms of communication
Non-verbalsomeone on the TTC sits really close to you and you move away
Verbalthe language you use to communicate to people
o Normative: values, beliefs, and behavioural expectations of people.
Material Elements:
o Material artifacts, products created by groups members
Note: Both elements are interrelated.
Macro sociologywhen something larger is taking us
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE
1. First Approach
a. Culture is the underlying basis of interaction
b. It accepts culture as a given and is more interested in how culture shapes us than in how culture itself is
shaped.
c. Example: Scholars taking this approach have concentrated on illustrating how norms, values, and
language guide our behaviour.
2. Second Approach
a. Focuses on culture as a social product.
b. Focuses on why particular aspects of culture develop.
c. Example: Scholars would be interested in why the content of commercial television is so different from
content of public television.
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SOC Week 3 2
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES ON CULTURE
1. First Approach
a. Culture is the underlying basis of interaction.
b. Is characteristic of structural-functional theory.
2. Second Approach
a. Focuses on culture as a social product.
b. Focuses on why particular aspects of culture develop
c. Is characteristic of conflict theorists interested in the determinants of culture.
CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
Whether structural functionalists or conflict theorists, sociologists share some common orientations towards
culture:
o Culture is Problem Solving: People share common problems (food, shelter etc.)
These problems are universal but the solutions highly vary.
Example: Trobriand Islands- matrilineal society-childrearing may be assigned to mother’s brother; U.S-to natural
mother & father; Israeli kibbutz-communal nurseries
Functionalists argue that the solutions have evolved over generations of trial and error, and they survive because
they work
Conflict theorists argue that these solutions work better for some people than others. Elites manipulate culture.
Culture is Relative:
o The solutions that each culture devises may be startlingly different.
o E.g. Different cultures will come up with different solutions for a similar problem
o Example: Wodaabe of Niger-Parents are not allowed to talk directly to their two first born children, who
will often be cared for by their grandparents ( Beckwith 1983).
Is it functional?
o If it helps meet recurrent problems and maintain society.
Cultural Relativity
o Requires that each cultural trait be evaluated in the context of its own culture.
o No cultural practice is universally good or bad; goodness and badness are relative, not absolute.
o Cultural relativism is the belief that all cultures have equal value
Ethnocentrism
o The tendency to view the norms and values of our own culture as standards against which to judge the
practices of other cultures.
o When is it good?
Can be good if it helps a person appreciate their practices, belief system
Can only be good if it creates functionality of the group your in
As long as you don’t discriminate against other cultures/other groups
Culture is a Social Product: Culture is a social, not a biological product.
o Some aspects of culture are deliberate.
Example: designing of homes, buying publishing empires to spread own version of truth.
o Other aspects of culture develop gradually out of social interaction.
Example: dress patterns and its language
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