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Chapter 4

Starting Points Chapter 4 Culture.docx

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University of Toronto St. George

Starting Points Chapter 4: Culture Culture: uniquely human environment, all objects, ideas, institutions that make up social environment of human life  Cultural differences focus on debates on how to best integrate people from diverse backgrounds  Macrosociological: culture in shaping the lives of individuals  Most cultures are similar to each other (i.e cities)  Cultural variation outside of cities, in history and anthropology Organizational culture: way organizations deal with environment; normal and values subculturally distinct to organization  Variations tell us that there’s a variety of social relationships and forms of social organization  We think that our culture is the most “normal”/”natural”  Culture makes humans different from animals (i.e. learn from experience  pass new knowledge and information to next generation) George Murdock: cultural universals  Sports (exercise and competition), bodily adornment (status and selfhood), cooking (preparing food and eating sociably), dancing (expression in movement), funeral ceremonies (handling death and corpses), gift giving (gratitude and fondness), and language (communication)  Human ability to use fire (nature  culture)  Universals fulfill common need (phys, emot, intellect, spirit)  Real universal = culture Values: socially shared conceptions of what a group/society considers good, right, and desirable  Macro level: dominant values of culture expressed in institutions  Micro level: culture shapes personality through socialization Ways of Looking at Culture Functionalism  Culture explains consensus and stability  I.e. “modern” values = trust in others, confidence in social institutions with idea that they have more stable democratic government  “Civic culture”: ordinary citizens participate in everyday social and political life  survival of democracy  How culture creates social solidarity, provides stability and assurance and unites members of society  Cultural elements arise out of social structure and influence economic life (shared norms, beliefs, values) – what’s important for society  Norms: expectations/guidelines for appropriate behaviour in specific social situations in daily life  I.e. Importance of education (to function properly in society, one must be highly educated), therefore culture ensures that norms are fulfilled and certain parts of society carry out its respective functions Critical Theory  Group differences in power and belief  Strongly stated values create conflict (one side approves, the other opposes it)  Formal disapproval shows conflict (i.e. Prohibiting of drug use)  Values, norms, and taboos don’t show everything that’s going on Folkways: norms based on tradition and popular habits Mores: norms that carry moral significance (contribute to general welfare and continuity of the group) Taboos: belief that a particular act, food, place, etc. is repulsive and dangerous (violation  punishment) Marx:  Mode of production shapes ideas of a society  Material relationships between members of society shape culture  Culture rooted in capitalism (rise to dominant ideology: thoughts and beliefs justifying capitalism, and encouraging support of neo-liberal consumer culture)  Culture, role of state, and public intellectuals assist capitalism (intellectuals give advice and knowledge to general public  prevent revolutions)  Popular entertainment also promoted capitalist ideals  Culture part of generally conflicted nature of society and helps powerful social groups maintain dominance Symbolic Interactionism  Dramaturgical perspective  Individual face-to-face interactions of social actors and symbols they communicate through exchange of meaning  Culture shows unique values and norms in course of everyday life (we may have the same values and norms, but details are different, not predetermined – thrilling/painful process)  Decisions in communicating or not communicating Functionalism/Critical Theory: culture imposed on individuals within, regulating behaviour Sym. Interactionists: significant role that social actors play in managing and changing their own cultures by participating within Cultural Studies Perspective  Merging of sociology with literary scholarship  Subcultural groups at margins of society lay claim to elements of dominant culture  redefine through alternative meanings/ideas  shape own culture outside dominant environment  Culture shaped by dominant economic groups to maintain their advantage  Culture maintains divisions in class, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and geography  Stuart Hall: encoding and decoding (dominant groups encode info of society in cultural products  decoding = interpreting and understanding hidden content based on our characteristics) – unconscious processes Production of Culture Perspective  Production of culture sees origin of culture in material culture (material domains produce symbols)  Material culture: physical and tech. aspects of people’s lives; including all physical objects that members of a culture create and use  Concrete ways in which culture is produced (actual and tangible sources of culture)  I.e. Modern art  product of time period, values of society, role of political and social atmosphere labour processes, etc.  I.e. Canvases and Careers (White and White): Impressionism as new art style  need to make a living; breakdown of Royal Academy system for training in classical painting  new system created  Fine art specific aspect of culture (requires specialized culture producers who require a market for their wares – dealers and critics)  Language general aspect of culture (everyone uses it, anyone can create it, requires a market of interaction and exchange) Language: A Key Cultural Realm  How culture shapes the perception of reality  Feminist theory: perception of men and women; androcentric and sexist language (shows gender inequality and helps consolidate the problem)  Switch to gender-neutral terms (i.e. Police officer > policeman) to encourage women to fulfill certain roles  Language structures how we perceive reality  Language = sounds (speech), signs (written; gestures, artifacts, words that express something other than themselves), gestures (non-verbal communication)  Achievements of a generation passed on to next through language – words/symbols (sign with relationship with something else expresses value/evokes emotion) are tools of memory  Languages express and structure thoughts  Culture: words show what members of a society care about The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism  Protestant ethic behind action that supported development of capitalism (elective affinity  Protestant ethic only one element that led to capitalism)  P. ethic and capitalism arose at the same time  I.e. Calvinism: going to heaven/hell predetermined  actions on Earth didn’t make a difference  people free to create capitalism (success at work – sign of good standing with God)  Weber: capitalism = endlessly renewable profit; capitalism and Protestantism – changes in one cultural element  change in another cultural element  Capitalism may have contributed in religion (capitalists used religion and legitimize status quo)  Link between religion and economy:  1) social and econ development often tied to cultural change  2) society very complex  every part generates changes in another part  3) culture not static, also not hindrance to change  4) religious values change societies and history Importance of Values: The Case of Religion  1) Secularization: organized religion not as important in Cda.  2) Importance of religion as a source of values?  religion mask for class/gender based ideologies  Purpose of religion:  values shape social behaviour and change  answers to human existence (birth, death) which makes the world meaningful  set of beliefs and practices that unite people into a socio-religious community  Durkheim: beliefs and ritual binds people together in social groups  Weber: how religion interprets world for individuals  Civil religion: beliefs and rituals that create intense social bonding/involve use of ritual objects (“religion-lite”)  i.e. watching Super Bowl (excite intense emotion, encourage loyalty, use of ritual objects)  Religious-styled artifacts/rituals exercise powerful hold over us: behave differently in sacred settings, and directed by expert in ritual behvaiours) Cultural Integration, Ethnocentricism, and the Mass Media  Modern societies different: specialization of activities, isolation of social groups, and rapid pace of change prevent high level of integration  Goods and services enter and change culture, even if they don’t suit the ideal culture  Ideal culture: aspect of culture only in people’s minds, set of values people claim to believe in  Variation in people’s lives (region, ethnic group, social class, etc.) and what people claim to want vs. what they really want  Ethnocentrism, cultural comparison, and globalized mass media increase cultural integration  Cultural integration: parts of a culture come to fit together and complement each other (i.e. real culture + ideal culture)  Ethnocentrism: to use own culture as basis of evaluating others  Through comparing one’s own culture to another, people clarify and integrate their own behaviours and values  From people’s upbringing  Cultur
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