SWRK 423 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: Edward Sapir, Marvin Harris, Cattle In Religion And Mythology

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Published on 29 Jan 2013
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Culture as Problem Solving
-sociologists define culture as the ideas, practices, and material objects that people create to deal w/ real-life
problems
-popular and mass culture is consumed by all classes, but high culture tends to be consumed by mainly upper class
-tools and religion are also elements of culture
-widely shared and passed from one generation to the next
-shared culture is socially transmitted
-thus, culture comprises the socially transmitted ideas, practices, and material objects that enable people to adapt
to, and thrive in, their environments
The Origins of Culture:
-the human cultural survival kit consists of:
-abstractionability to create general ideas or ways of thinking
-ex. symbolsideas that carry meaning
-cooperationcapacity to create a complex social life by establishing norms and values
-by analyzing how people cooperate and produce norms and values we can learn much about
what distinguishes one culture from another
-productioninvolves making and using tools and techniques that improve our ability to take what we
want from nature
-uniquely human activity
-material culture b/c it is tangible
-symbols, norms, and values are non-material culture b/c they are intangible
3 types of norms:
1. Folkways: norms that specify social preferences. Punishment is minor.
2. Mores: norms that specify social requirements Punishment is modestly harsh.
3. Taboos: strongest and most central norm. When violated, it causes revulsion in the community and severe
punishment
Culture and Biology
The Evolution of Human Behaviour:
-biology sets broad human limits and potentials, including the potential to create culture
-evolutionary psychology claims that genes account not just for physical characteristics but also for specific
behaviours and social practices
-based on Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest
-most sociologists disagree
Male promiscuity, Female fidelity, and other myths:
-contemporary evolutionary psychologists use Darwin’s method to make similar arguments about human
behaviour and social arrangements
-they first identify and supposedly universal human behaviour trait
-next offer explanation as to why this behaviour increases survival chances
-final part is that the behaviour in question cannot easily be changed
-the characteristics that maximize the survival chances of a species supposedly are encoded or
“hardwired” in our genes
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