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SOCA01H3 (480)
Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - Cultures.docx

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Robert Brym

Chapter 3 Cultures 3.1 Culture as Problem Solving  Superstitious practices of athletes put them at ease  Superstitions help people solve the challenges of life. 3.2 Culture as Meaning Generator  The concrete level of experience is composed of your empirical sensations of touch, taste, smell, sound and sight.  Squiggles don’t mean anything because concrete, physical sensations by themselves are meaningless  With meaningful English words, the culture gives concrete experience meaning.  The power of culture is that it makes our sensory experiences meaningful. Once your cultural experience conditions you to interpret concrete experiences in a certain way, this becomes a reality. Culture Defined  Everyday speech refers to o High culture – culture consumed mainly by upper classes (opera, ballet, etc.) o Popular culture – (or mass culture) – is culture consumed by all classes  Sociologically speaking culture – consists of the shared symbols and their definitions that people create to solve real-life problems o Symbol – concrete things or abstract terms that represent something else o Eg. Ring represents marriage  Abstract feature of a symbol – what the “and their definitions” aspect of culture refers to.  Symbols are shared – meaning shared among a large number of people  Idiosyncratic symbols – not part of culture o Eg. Psychotic person believe rain clouds represent happiness  Culture is the “primary driver” of what people do because individuals respond to the meaning of events – which is defined by our culture.  Culture intervenes between concrete experience and our responses by assigning significance. The Origins of Culture  Culture is the primary means by which humans adapt to their environments – culture emphasizes hat we create culture to solve real life problems.  Humans survived for thousands of years because their sophisticated brains enabled them to create cultural survival kits of complexity and flexibility. Three tools with uniquely human talent and different element of culture: o Abstraction – ability to create general concept that meaningfully organize concrete, sensory experience.  Eg. Recognizing chairs o Cooperation – the capacity to create a complex social life by establishing generally accepted ways of doing things and ideas about what is right and wrong.  Norms – generally accepted ways of doing things  Eg. Family members cooperate to raise children by developing norms o Production – the human capacity to make and use tools. It improves our ability to take what we want from nature  Material culture – comprises the tools and techniques that enable people to get tasks accomplished  Non-material culture- composed of symbols, norms and other intangible elements.  Mainly human activity – able to manufacture tools and use them The human capacity Abstraction Cooperation Production for Gives rise to these Ideas Norms and values Material culture elements of culture In medicine (Eg.) Theories are Experiments are Treatments are developed about conducted to test developed on the how a certain drug whether the drug basis of the might cure a works as expected experimental results disease Three types of Norms: Folkways, Mores, and Taboos  Folkways – least important norms and they evoke the least severe punishment  Mores – are core norms that most people believe are essential for the survival of their group or their society  Taboos – among the strongest norms. When someone violates a taboo, it causes revulsion in the community and punishment is severe. 3.3 Culture and Biology The Evolution of Human Behaviour  Some evolutionary psychologists claim that chemical units carry traits from parents to children account for psychical and behavioral and social characteristics. Disregards sociological perspective Male promiscuity, Female Fidelity, and other Myths  Three-step argument for their biological explanation of human behaviour and social arrangements: o 1. Universal claim  Eg. Men more likely to want sexual partners o 2. Survival-value argument  Eg. Man’s sperm is plentiful in comparison to females, so he improves his chance of reproducing his genes if he tries to impregnate as many women as possible o 3. Conclusion  Eg. The reproductive strategies are in our genes, it cannot be changed  Due to data, we know that: o Men have more sex partners than women (10 % difference) o But marital status plays a big role, decreasing difference to 4% o Social arrangements, such as marriage, account for the measure for variation in male promiscuity – no universal claim o Still, data shows 11 % of men than women have more sex partners in a year due to:  Men more likely than women to have same-sex sexual relations  Gay men more likely to have many sexual partners than lesbians are  Biologist claim is wrong that male promiscuity displays an adaptive reproductive strategy since: o Gay men do not have sex with other men to have babies o Men tend to exaggerate sex partners because our culture puts a premium on male sexual performance  Even if genes are liked to behavioral patterns, genes never develop without environmental influence Language and the Sapir-Whorf Thesis  Language: o Important in culture o A system of symbols strung together to communicate thought o Allows our culture to develop o Sociologists think it distinguishes humans from animals  1930s – Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf: the Sapir-Whorf thesis – holds that we experience certain things in our environment and forms concepts about those things. We then develop language to express our concepts. Finally language itself influences how we see the world. 1. Experience 2. 3. Verbalization Conceptualization (Language) (thought  Eg. Arabs – different types of camel important, Inuit – different types of snow important. Thus they create words to distinguish between it.  Eg. We refer to objects as left, right, etc – thinking is egocentrically. However some people in southern Mexico don’t know these words they use geographical locations such as North, South, East and West.  Eg. Income and power inequality between men and women encourage men to use offensive words to refer to women. 3.4 Culture as Freedom and Constraint A Functionalist Analysis of Culture: Culture and Ethnocentrism  Ethnocentrism – the tendency for a person to judge other cultures exclusively by the standards of his or her own o Impairs sociological analysis o Eg. Westerners think its crazy that Hindu peasants worship cows in India – and the religious treatment of them. Westerners think in a place of poverty, one must use cows for food, but Hindus cannot eat it because it is part of their culture.  Ethnocentrism misleads Western observers o Eg. Cow worships is a economically rational practice in India:  Indian peasant cannot afford tractors, so cows are needed to give birth to oxen, which plow. Cows provide fertilizer and cooking fuel, which is in short supply. Cows don’t cost much to maintain, they eat food that humans do not eat. Low ranks can dispose of dead cows – they eat and use for leather.  Ethnocentrism analysis of cow worship interesting because: o It shows how functionalist theory can illuminate otherwise mysterious social practice – latent functions performed by cow worship showing how a social practice has unintended and unobvious consequences that make social order possible. o We can learn an important lesson – refrain from taking your own culture for granted and judging other cultures by the standards of your own 3.5 Culture as Freedom  Culture has two faces: o Opportunity to exercise our freedom  Use and elaborate elements of culture in our lives o Culture constrains us  Culture we create is built from raw materials of a culture that already existed Symbolic Interactionism and Cultural Production  1960s- sociologists say culture is a reflection of society (dependent) o Eg. Protecting cows because cultural belief that cows are holy  Now culture seen as independent variable – we don’t passively accept culture, we actively produce and interpret culture, creatively fashioning it and attaching meaning to it in accordance with our diverse needs. We choose how culture influences us. Cultural Diversity  Canadian society has diversified – thus we are increasingly able to choose how culture influences us o Many immigrants – a third will be visible minorities by 2031 Multiculturalism  Political level – cultural diversity has become a source of conflict o Eg. Education system – students learned English and French importance neglecting other immigrants. Books were written from the perspective of the victors not the vanquished.  Now all school curricula should present a more balanced view of Canadian history, society and culture. o 1971- Canadian government declared that which bilingual, Canada has no official culture – none above others o 1988 – Multiculturalism Act o However, many believe that the curricula is still bias,  Critics believe multiculturalism has negative effects: o 1. Hurts students that are part of minority groups, by spending too much time on non-core subjects. They need to develop skills in English, French, math and science. However, it could develop self-esteem by stressing cultural diversity. o 2. Causes political disunity and results in a more interethnic and interracial conflict. They want to stress common elements. However political unity and interethnic and racial harmony maintains inequality in Canadian society. o 3. It encourages the growth of cultural relativism – the belief that all cultures have equal value (opposite of ethnocentrism). Some cultures oppose the most deeply held values of most Canadians. It’ll encourage respect for practices that are abhorrent to Canadians. We should instead encourage moderate cultural relativism. A Conflict Analysis of Culture: The Rights Revolution  The rights revolution – the process by which socially excluded groups struggled to win equal rights under the law and in practice beginning in the second half of the 20 century  After WWII
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