Chapter 2: Culture
Chapter 2: Culture
Edward Tylor proposed that cultures, systems of human behavior and
thought, obey natural laws and therefore can be studied scientifically.
Tylors definition focuses on attributes that people acquire not through
biological inheritance but by growing up in a particular society in which they
are exposed to a specific cultural tradition.
Kottak was aware the conditions that the way Tylor was observing culture
was back then. Now, it is different.
Enculturation- the process by which a child learns his or her culture.
What is Culture?
What Tylors definition entails:
1. Culture is learned
Our own cultural learning depends on the uniquely developed human
capacity to use symbols: signs that have no necessary or natural connection
to the things they stand for or signify.
Clifford Geertz defined culture as ideas based on cultural learning and
Culture’s have been characterized as sets of “control mechanisms –plans,
recipes, rules instructions, what computer engineers call programs for the
governing of behavior.”
Every person begins immediately to incorporate a cultural tradition through
the process of enculturation.
Culture is also transmitted through observation. Children modify their
behavior not just because other people tell them to do so but as a result of
their own observations and growing awareness of what their culture
considers right and wrong.
Culture is also observed unconsciously. North Americans acquire their
culture’s notions about how far away people should stand when they talk,
not by being told directly to maintain a certain distance but through a
gradual process of observation, experience, and conscious and unconscious
behavior modification. They learn to do so as a part of their cultural tradition.
2. Culture is Symbolic
Culture is constructed of symbols and that’s what makes it unique. Symbols
can mean different things in different settings.
Symbol- something verbal or nonverbal, within a particular language or
culture, that comes to stand for something else.
Leslie White defined culture as: “dependent upon symbolling…culture
consists of tools, implements, utensils, clothing, ornaments, customs,
institutions, beliefs, rituals, games, works of art, language, etc.
For White, culture originated when our ancestors acquired the ability to use
symbols, that is, to originate and give meaning on a thing or event, and to
grasp and appreciate such meanings.
There need be no obvious, natural, or necessary connection between the
symbol and what it symbolizes.
Language is one of the distinctive possessions of Homo sapiens. No other
animal has developed anything approaching the complexity of language, with
its multitude of symbols.
Symbols are often linguistic. The association between a symbol (water) and
what is symbolized (holiness) is arbitrary and conventional
All humans possess the abilities on which culture rests –the abilities to learn,
to think symbolically, to manipulate language, and to use tools and other
cultural products in organizing their lives and coping with their
Every contemporary human population has the ability to use symbols and
thus to create and maintain culture.
3. Culture is shared
Culture is transmitted in society.
Shared beliefs, values, memories, and expectations link people who grow up
in the same culture. Enculturation unifies people by providing us with
People in the United States sometimes have trouble understanding the power
of culture because the value that American culture places on the idea if the
In American culture, individualism is a distinctive shared value. It is
transmitted through hundreds of statements and setting in our daily lives.
Although a culture changes, certain fundamental beliefs, values, worldviews
and child-rearing practices endure.
4. Culture and Nature
Culture takes the natural biological urges we share with other animals and
teaches us how to express them in particular ways.
Cultural habits, perceptions, and inventions mold “human nature” into many
Our culture—and cultural changes—affects how we perceive nature, human
nature, and “the natural.”
Through science, invention, and discovery, cultural advances have overcome
many natural limitations. (ex: we have cures for diseases that our ancestors
5 Culture is All-Encompassing
Culture encompasses features that are sometimes regarded as trivial or
unworthy of serious study, such as those of popular culture.
As a whole, part of our lives.
To understand contemporary North American culture, we must consider tv,
fast food, sports and games.
Chapter 2: Culture
6. Culture is integrated
It makes sense. The different elements of culture come together into a
Culture’s are integrated, patterned systems. If one part of the same (the
overall economy, for instance) changes, other parts change as well.
Attitudes and behavior regarding marriage, family, and children have
children have changed. Ex: Late marriage and divorce have become more
Cultures are integrated by sets, values, ideas, symbols, and judgments.
Cultures train their individual members to share certain personality traits. A
set of characteristic core values (key, basic, central values) integrates each
culture and helps distinguish it from others.
7. Culture is Instrumental, Adaptive and Maladaptive
Culture is the main reason for human adaptability.
Humans adapt biologically. (Ex: by shivering when we get cold or sweating
when we get hot.)
People also have a cultural way of adapting. (Ex: to cope with environmental
stresses, we use technology or tools.)
People also use culture to fulfill psychological and emotional needs. (Ex:
Individuals cultivate ties with others on the basis of common experiences,
political interests, aesthetic sensibilities or personal attraction.
Cultural traits (air conditioning) may be called adaptive if they help
individuals cope with environmental stresses. But some traits could also be
maladaptive. (Over-population, pollution, overconsumption.)
8. (on powerpoint)
Very important** Make sure you know all of this ^
Under Conditions of Globalizatoin…
1. ‘Cultures’ tend to be fragmented, some traditional customs retained, others
borrowed from elsewhere.
o A globalized world tends to live in a variety of cultures. Taking bits
and pieces from other cultures.
2. There is a sense of ‘traditional culture’ and ‘modern culture’ which is linked
to mass consumer culture
o There are expectations of communities that are justified as
traditional. There are choices of the individual whether or not to
follow the custom.
3. Individuals tend to be bi-cultural, even multi-cultural as a result of migration
and influence of transnational institutions
o Kottak says that you can identify a culture of an immigrant
community. Immigrants have strong links with their home
country so it develops a transnational culture.
Edward tylor proposed that cultures, systems of human behavior and thought, obey natural laws and therefore can be studied scientifically. Tylors definition focuses on attributes that people acquire not through biological inheritance but by growing up in a particular society in which they are exposed to a specific cultural tradition. Kottak was aware the conditions that the way tylor was observing culture was back then. Enculturation- the process by which a child learns his or her culture. What tylors definition entails: culture is learned. Our own cultural learning depends on the uniquely developed human capacity to use symbols: signs that have no necessary or natural connection to the things they stand for or signify. Clifford geertz defined culture as ideas based on cultural learning and symbols. Culture"s have been characterized as sets of control mechanisms plans, recipes, rules instructions, what computer engineers call programs for the governing of behavior.