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Chapter 2

SOC100 - Chapter 2 - Culture as Problem

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University of Toronto St. George
Arnd Jurgensen

Chapter 2 – Culture as Problem Solving Cultural Sociology The goal of this course is to differentiate between commonsense perspective and sociological perspectives. - Culture refers to the symbolic and learned aspects of human SOCIETY. The sum of traditions, practices, languages, symbols, beliefs, values, ideologies, and material objects that create a sense of similarity among a group of people (Brym and Lie 2012, 31) High Culture – The sum of traditions, practices, languages, symbols, values, ideologies, and material objects that are associated with the upper class. Judged in relation to the majority culture. (Popular culture) - One has a culture (A possession) - Examples include: Opera, ballet, art While popular or mass culture is consumed by all classes, high culture is mainly by the upper class - Food is a good example of both high culture and popular culture, because there is extravagant food, and also basic food (like fast food) - “Foodies” are individual who looks for an experience which is authentic and exotic (Is this snobby eating?) - Food is just one of many examples that can be used to differentiate between “classes” and “high culture from popular culture” Ethnic Culture – The sum of traditions, etc. With a cultural minority group, judged in relation to and often from the perspective the majority ethnic culture (“Ethnocentrism”) - One is a cultural (a description) A person is part of a cultural minority A social construction This acts as an identity, it is who they are (ie. He is French) The majority culture actually forgets that what they’re doing, is actually part of their own culture because it is seen as everyday life, if you are part of a minority culture then you are much more aware of it Three Biases in Commonsense of Culture 1. Culture is an exclusive sphere 2. Culture is relational No culture stands out on its own, each culture is defined in relation to other cultures 3. Culture represents differences Cultural Capital (Bernstein) - Middle class v. Working-class - Middle class possesses cultural capital that seems to come naturally to them Language Codes - Middle Class – “Elaborate code” - Lower class – “Restricted code” Misinterpretation of code by teachers, the more elaborate language is rewarded more by teachers because their language seems more sophisticated - Classes differ in linguistic styles and cultural content, which is regarded as intelligence, however it’s just based on class-based culture The Origins and Components of Culture Although in the past, humans did not have the comforts we have today, they still had their own “cultural survival kit” which includes three main tools. Symbols Abstraction – The capacity to create general ways of thinking that are not linked to particular instances - Symbols are one important type of idea that carry meanings, like the letters of the alphabet or our numerical system Even objects are symbols, what we sit on that has four legs and a back-rest (most of the time) is what we name a chair We distinguish classes of objects with names - Cooperation is the second main tool, which is the capacity to create a complex social life by sharing resources and working together You do this by establishing norms – accepted ways of doing things – about what is right or wrong Norms and Values Three Types of Norms - William Graham Sumner Folkways (1906) a) Folkways – “The least important norms – the norms that evoke the least severe punishment when violated.” For example, walking on the left side of the hallway instead of the right b) Mores – “Core norms that most people believe are essential for the survival of their group or their society.” c) Taboos – “The strongest norms. When someone violates a taboo, it causes revulsion in the community and the punishment is severe.” Incest is an example of a taboo d) Laws – Laws are governed by authorities that take control of these folkways, mores, and essentially taboos are what the law prevents. Production, Material Culture, and Non-Material Culture - Production is the third main tool, involving making and using tools and techniques that improve our ability - These tools are part of material culture because they are tangible, while symbols, norms and values are non-material culture *Very Basic Summary Chart on Pg. 35* Language and the Sapir-Whorf Thesis - Sociologists believe language is a cultural invention that separates us from other animals - Sapir-Whorf Thesis made by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf in the 1930s made a simple Triangle diagram to explain how we conceived language - It essentially goes like this: 1 (Top of Triangle) = Experience 2 (Right Side) = Conceptualization (Thought) 3 (Left Side) = Verbalization (Language) Transition from 1 to 2 is that we form concepts about the things we experience Transition from 2 to 3 is that we develop language to express said concepts Transition from 3 to 1 is that language itself influences how we view the world Whorf saw speech patterns as “interpretations of experience”, which makes sense Nomadic Arabs have 20 different words for camel Garo of Burma distinguish many different kinds of rice However, transition 3 to 1 seems more controversial because people wonder how language can affect perception. For example, we always perceive colours the same… however… In different language like French, colours could be masculine or feminine depending on the colour itself, German and Spanish languages also do this Culture as Freedom and Constraint A Functionalist Analysis of Culture: Culture and Ethnocentrism - Different cultures have different norms, values and beliefs When people start to criticize other cultures from their own cultural perspective, this is known as ethnocentrism. Impairs sociological analysis Manifest Functions are visible and intended effects of social structures Latent Functions are invisible and unintended effects of social structures (discussed in Ch. 1 Notes) - Culture allows us to exercise our freedom, but it can also constrain us because it makes us look from a singular viewpoint Symbolic Interactionism and Cultural Production - Until the 1960s, sociologists argued that culture is a “reflection” of society - Symbolic Interactionists regarded culture as an independent variable In their view people do not accept culture passively, we produce and interpret culture creatively fashioning it to suit ourselves and our needs This implies that we choose how culture influences us Cultural Diversity - We are allowed to choose what we like from different cultures due to our complex Canadian society Today only 20% of Canadian immigrants come from Europe or USA while Asia/Africa supply around 70% - Although this allows us as individuals to become more culturally diverse, politically this results in problems for our society because of all the different viewpoints Multiculturalism - Until a couple of decades ago, Canadian schools neglected non-white, non-French and non- English people in their historical, literacy, artistic and scientific departments This has now completely changed because of our Canadian society - The government in 1971 declared that although we have two official languages, there is no official Canadian culture - Multiculturalists conclude that to the extent that school curricula are culturally biased, they fail to provide an educa
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