SOC 1100 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Benjamin Lee Whorf, Edward Sapir, Culture Of Quebec
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Culture – Culture refers to a way of life, which includes what people do (such as forms of dance) and
what people have (such as clothing). But culture is not only about what we see on the outside; it also
includes what’s inside – our thoughts and feelings.
Culture refers to a society’s entire way of life. (Notice that the root of the word ‘culture’ is the same as
that of the word ‘cultivate’, suggesting that people who live together actually ‘grow’ the own way of life
- Different cultures may have different lifestyles
oKissing, wearing white/black, bowing, clothing
- We have different ideas about what is pleasant and repulsive, polite and rude, beautiful and ugly,
right and wrong
What is culture?
Culture refers to the ways of thinking, the ways of acing, and the material objects that together
shape a people’s way of life.
*Includes our thoughts, actions and our possessions
*shapes our goals, sense of justice and innermost personal feelings
*humans have culture, but also depend on culture to survive
Nonmaterial culture: ideas created by members of a society (from art to Canadian constitution)
Material culture: physical things created by members of a society (doughnuts to satellites)
Culture shock: personal disorientation when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life.
Homo sapiens (Latin meaning ‘thinking person’)
Culture, nation, state and society
Culture: ideas, values and artefacts that make up a shared way of life
Nation: political entity (state or country, people who share a culture)
State: political entity in a territory with designated borders
Society: organized interaction of people within a state, nation or boundary who share a culture
What are the elements of culture?
Symbols – anything that carries a particular meaning recognized by people who share culture (graffiti,
red light, whistle, flag)
- *box – language and culture are an umbilical cord to the Creator
- symbols allow people to make sense of their lives, and without the human existence would be
- anything can serve as a symbol; what makes something a symbol is simply that humans attach
meaning to it
Language – a system of symbols that allows people to communicate with one another
- the key to the world of culture
- rules of writing differ (left to right/right to left)
- Cultural Transmission: process by which one generation passes culture to the next (most was oral
- Bill 101, which regulates the use of English in Quebec and made French the only official
language of the province, was an attempt to preserve the distinctive Quebecois culture.
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- Literacy key in language and recognizing how many people do or do not have it, oral traditions
- Does language shape reality? Yes – building blocks of reality
- Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, anthropologists
oSapir-Whorf hypothesis states that people perceive the world through the cultural lens of
oUsing different symbolic systems, people actually experience distinct’ worlds, not merely
the same world with different labels attached
-Although we do fashion reality from our symbols, evidence does not support the notion that
language determines reality the way that Sapir and Whorf claimed (i.e. children understand the
idea of family long before they learn the word)
Values- culturally defined standards that people use to decide what is desirable, good, and beautiful, and
that serve as broad guidelines for social living.
- Values are broad principles that support beliefs (specific statements that people hold to be true)
*values are abstract standards of goodness, and beliefs are particular matters that individuals
consider to be true or false
- Cultural values and beliefs not only colour how we perceive our surroundings but also form the
core of our personalities
- Canada has become a cultural mosaic
- Values: Inconsistency and Conflict ~ value inconsistency reflects the cultural diversity of
Canadian society and the process of cultural change by which new trends supplant older
- Values: A Global Perspective ~ societies in lower-income nations have cultures that value
survival, tend to be traditional, mostly dominated by men; higher-income countries take survival
for granted, value individualism and self-expression, focus on quality of life
Norms – rules and expectations by which a society guides the behaviour of its members
*mores and folkways are two different types of norms. Neither term is used very often these days, but
the point is that some norms involve serious moral issues (mores) and some involve less serious
standards for everyday interactions (folkways).
- Proscriptive norms – state what we should not do
- Prescriptive norms – state what we should do
- Mores (or taboos) are widely observed and have great moral significance
- Folkways are norms for routine or casual interaction.
- Social Control ~ attempts by others to regulate people’s thoughts and behaviour (raised eyebrow,
- Ideal Culture ~ social patterns mandated by cultural values and norms
- Real Culture ~ actual social patterns that only approximate cultural experiences
Material Culture and Technology
*Technology is a very important element of culture. Some sociologists claim that a society’s level of
technology determines its overall way of life. (Ref: Gerhard and Jean Lenski who argue that new
technology is the trigger for societal evolution. Marshall McLuhan makes a similar claim for the
technology of electronic or instantaneous communication.
- Artifacts; a society’s artifacts partly reflect underlying cultural values
- In addition to reflecting values, material culture also reflects a society’s technology (knowledge
that people use to make a way of life in their surroundings)
- Society’s technology can get so complex that it can be at odds with our environmental values
- Do not judge simpler societies (Canada’s lifespan 80 yrs, Brazil about 40 years) – we may live
longer but we are stressed out longer/more
- Canadian technology varies – Mennonites, users of techno gadgets
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