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SOC101Y1 (470)
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Culture.docx

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Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC101Y1
Professor
Robert Brym

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Description
Culture as Problem Solving - Culture – all the socially transmitted ideas, practices, and material objects that people create to deal with real-life problems - People use tools like religion because they also help solve real-life problems - Religion, technology, and many other elements of culture are different from superstitions - Culture is widely-shared, even passed on from one generation to the next - Culture is shared through human interaction , communication, and learning - Society – involves people interacting socially and sharing culture, usually in a defined geographical area Origins of Culture - Humans survived in the early years of the world, in harsh conditions, by creating cultural survival kits of enormous complexity and flexibility  Abstraction- the capacity to create ideas or ways of thinking  Symbols are things that carry particular value, like languages, mathematical notations, and signs  They allow us to classify experience and generalize from it (ex. We recognize we can sit on many objects, but only few have four legs, a back, and space for one person  we give it a name: “chair”  It is a uniquely human capacity  Cooperation- capacity to create a complex social life by establishing norms  Norms are standards of behaviour or generally accepted ways of doing things  An enormous variety of social arrangements and institutions, ranging from health-care systems to forms of religious worship to political parties, demonstrate the human capacity to cooperate and adhere to norms  Production – devising and using tools and techniques that improve our ability to take what we want from nature  These tools and techniques are known as material culture  Only humans are intelligent and dexterous enough to make tools and use them to produce everything from food to computers - Sanctions - rewards or punishments, aimed at ensuring conformity (social control) - However, people often reject elements of existing culture and create new ones - Social control is needed to ensure stable patterns of interaction, while resistance to social control is needed to ensure cultural innovation and social renewal Culture From the Margins - Culture is often invisible to people who are immersed in it  People tend to their their own culture for granted - This causes people to become startled when confronted with different cultures - Judging another culture exclusively by the standards of one’s own is called ethnocentrism - Ethnocentrism impairs the sociological understanding of culture - Westerners think the worship of cows in India is very strange, yes it is very rational in India - Culture is most clearly visibly “from the margins”  we only see it’s contours if we’re not too deeply immersed in it Two Faces of Culture - Although some aspects of culture make us freer, others constrain and even endanger us - When we develop new ideas, practices and artifacts, we give ourselves more choices and often come closer to realizing our full human potential - Cultural freedom develops within definite limits  Rationalization – the application of the most efficient means to achieve given goals and the unintended, negative consequences of doing so  Consumerism - a lifestyle that involves defining ourselves in terms of the goods we purchase The Rationalization of Science - In the last quarter of the 19 century, it was clear that turning specific principles into technological innovations was going to require genius and substantial resources (organization and money) - The first “invention factory” was established by Thomas Edison - Edison had assembled a staff of 30 scientists, metalworkers, glass blowers, draftsmen, and others working under his close direction and supervision - The phonograph and the electric lightbulb were two big things inspired by Edison, but they were atho expensive team efforts - In the mid-20 century, the great bulk of technological innovation was organized along industrial lines - Only governments and, increasingly, giant multinational corporations could afford to sustain these research efforts - Between 1960 – 2000, spending for research and development tripled - Military and profit-making considerations now govern the direction of most research and development - The direction of inquiry was not only motivated by money, but was strongly influenced by personal interests, individual creativity, and the state of a field’s intellectual development - But scientists are also practical – Isaac Newton studied astronomy partly because astronomers of the day needed better navigational cues - The connection between practicality and research is even more evident today, when many researchers are pulled in particular directions by large research giants, well paying jobs, access to expensive state-of-the-art equipment, and the possibility of winning patents and achieving commercial success - Economic lures, increasingly provided by military and big corporations, have generated moral and political qualms - They wonder whether some research will really benefit mankind - However, they must still any residual misgivings, hop on the bandwagon, and adhere to military and industrial requirements and priorities Culture as Freedom Cultural Diversification and Globalization - Some Christians traditions, like Christmas pageants and celebrations, used to be celebrated in all public schools - These traditions have been abolished in many schools now, because many people don’t identify with Christianity anymore - Christians recognize that the use public institutions to promote their religion is an imposition that creates discomfort for many minority students and denies the value of non-Christians cultures - Canada is a very multicultural and diverse society, but some critics argue that our immigration and multicultural policies weaken Canada’s social fabric  we encourage immigrants to cling to their past instead of creating a distinctive Canadian society  There are two problems with this point of view:  This doesn’t mean we don’t lack a distinctive Canadian identity (our identity is our strong respect for diversity) - Survey research shows that support for multiculturalism is NOT correlated with traditional attitudes that keep people rooted in the past  it IS correlated with various modern trends, such as support for equality between women and men - Canada’s multiculturalist policies are simply the latest stage of cultural evolution - Cultures tend to become more diverse or heterogeneous as societies become more complex, with important consequences for everyday life - In preliterate or tribal societies, there is very little change, while in preindustrial Europe and North America, there were many artistic, religious, scientific, and political forces that fragmented culture - Reformations and Revolutions involved people questioning old ways of seeing and doing things - Cultural fragmentation picked up steam during industrialization - As a result of globalization, people are less obliged to accept the culture into which they are born and freer to combine elements of cult
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