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SOC100H5 (536)
Chapter 2

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Gregory Bird

Chapter 2 – Culture 1) Culture as Problem Solving Culture is the sum of shared ideas, practices, and material objects that people create to adapt to, and thrive in, their environments. - Languages, symbols, values, ideologies People create rituals or wear lucky jewelry or clothing in order to deal with anxiety, pressure, and stressful events. - Methods we create to deal with real-life problems, like tools and religion. High culture is culture consumed mainly by upper classes. - Opera, ballet, art Popular culture or mass culture is culture consumed by all classes. What is a society? A number of people who interact, usually bin a defined territory, and share a culture. 2) The Origins and Components of Culture Humans have thrived in their environments because of their unique ability to think abstractly, cooperate with one another, and make tools. Despite certain predicaments, ancient humans survived and modern humans now dominate nature because humans possess sophisticated brains that allowed them to create complex and flexible cultural survival kits with tools that were uniquely human talent. SYMBOLS The first tool was abstraction: the human capacity to create general ideas or ways of thinking that are not linked to particular instances. What are symbols: important type of idea; anything that carries a particular meaning, including the components of language, mathematical notations, and signs; allow us to classify experience and generalize from it. NORMS AND VALUES The second tool was cooperation: the human capacity to create a complex social life by sharing resources and working together. What are norms: generally accepted ways of doing things. PRODUCTION, MATERIAL CULTURE, AND NON-MATERIAL CULTURE The third tool is production: the human capacity to make and use tools; improves our ability to take what we want from nature. What is material culture? The tools and techniques that enable people to accomplish tasks. What is non-material culture? Symbols, norms, and other non-tangible elements of culture. THREE TYPES OF NORMS: FOLKWAYS, MORES, AND TABOOS What is a folkway? The least important norms – the norms that evoke the least severe punishment when violated; social preferences. - A shirtless man in public What is a more? Core norms that most people believe are essential for the survival of their group or their society; social requirements. - A pant-less man in public What are taboos? The strongest norms; when someone violates a taboo, it causes a revulsion in the community and punishment is severe. - Incest LANGUAGE AND THE SAPIR-WHORF THESIS What is language? A system of symbols strung together to communicate thought; arguably the most important part of culture. - Gives ability to share understandings, experiences, knowledge so it allows culture to develop. Sapir-Whorf thesis: 1930s, Edward Sapir & Benjamin Lee Whorf; holds that we experience certain things in our environment and form concepts about those things; we then develop language to express our concepts and language itself influences how we see the world. 3) Culture as Freedom and Constraint In some respects, the development of culture makes people freer. For example, culture has become more diversified and consensus has declined in many areas of life, allowing people more choice in how they live. In other respects, the development of culture puts limits on who we can become. For example, the culture of buying consumer goods has become a virtually compulsory pastime. Increasingly, therefore, people define themselves by the goods they purchase. A FUNCTIONALIST ANALYSIS OF CULTURE: CULTURE AND ETHNOCENTRISM People tend to take their own culture for granted and are startled when confronted by other cultures. What is ethnocentrism? The tendency to judge other cultures exclusively by the standards of your own. Functionalist theory can illuminate otherwise mysterious social practices and claims that social structures have consequences that make social order possible. Some of these consequences are: - Manifest functions: visible and intended effects of social structures. - Latent functions: the invisible and unintended effects of social structures. Refraining from judging other societies by standards of your own aids in developing a sociological understanding of culture. 4) Culture as Freedom Culture has two faces: provides us with an opportunity to exercise our freedom (problem solving, expression), but also constrains us in a sense (limitations). SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM AND CULTURAL PRODUCTION 1960s: culture was regarded as a dependent variable. - India: necessity to protect cows caused cultural belief that cows are holy. - Recent decades: symbolic integrationists regard culture as an independent variable. People creatively produce and interpret culture. - To an extent, we choose how culture influences us. CULTURAL DIVERSITY Cultural diversity in Canada: 20% European, 70% Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Philippine - Interracial marriage - Influences music, clothing, food, architecture. - However, conflict at political level. MULTICULTURALISM History books were written from the
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