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Chapter 4

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University of Toronto St. George
Lorne Tepperman

Soc 103 chapter 4 - Cultural differences matter. They underlie many of the misunderstandings that arise in the interactions between people and are many of the challenging societies face in reconciling how some groups of humans live vs. others o We are likely to see more cultural variation from one country to next o Study of history and anthropology makes us aware of how widely cultures have varied over space and time - Why focus on the difference? We tend to take culture for granted because we assume that our behavior is a result of human - nature/common sense - The only universal is culture itself: the central role culture plays in tying people to their society through its connection with both social structure and private experience o Macro level – the dominant values of culture are expressed in its social institutions o Micro level – culture works to shape personalities through socialization, - Concept of culture is an important link between the macro/micro perspective on society Ways of looking at: culture Functionalism - Their view culture as having an integrative role in society. They typically look to culture to explain consensus and stability o Civic culture is functional to the festival of democracy.  ‘police are your best friend’ – sentiment typically invoked - Durkheim – emerged from his works o This perspective identifies ways in which culture creates social solidarity, provides stability and assurance, and unites the member of a social groups  They see cultural elements, such as norms, values, beliefs, as arising out of social culture and influencing cultural life  We can look at these elements as evidence of what is important for society, not what the capitalistic enterprise seeks to promote for its own gain  For instance, they would say that the importance of education in a modernizing society is needed o To function properly, one requires more highly educated individuals Critical Theory - They focus on group difference in power and belief. They point out that strongly stated values often indicate conflict between 2 groups with the society - They might also show how overtly stated ‘general’ values often work to benefit some people at the expense of others - This perspective is based in part of insights of Karl Marx o He critiqued these arguments for ignoring the role material, chiefly economic relations in shaping people’s thoughts and actions o He focused on not on ideas and the culture within which they are situated, but on the mode of production that characterizes a historical period and shapes the ideas that develop in a society of that time o He argues that it’s not the culture and ideas that shaped society, but rather the material relationships between members of society that shape culture  From this prospective, the culture are rooted in the economic relations of industrial, and increasing global, capitalism  Capitalism give rise to a dominant ideology, a system of thoughts/beliefs that justify capitalism o By limiting criticism/encouraging support of a neoliberal consumer culture - Since Marx, this perspective has less rigidly focused on economic relations as the foundations for culture and its elements / focuses on other economic relations as foundations for culture and its elements and focuses on other sources of domination o Although theorist still believe that the culture of modern industrial societies perpetuate capitalism, they recognize the role of other factors as well Symbolic interactionism - Often working with dramaturgical approach, they see culture through microsociological lens o For them, culture arises out of the individual face-to-face interactions of social actors and the symbols they communicate through the exchange of meaning - For them, culture shows itself in the creative use of values and norms in the course of everyday interactions, o 2 people my share the same cultural values, but, they still work out the detail in their conversations - Since humans are complex/creative, they caution us against thinking of values/norms as commands that people are programmed to follow always in the same ways - Culture also shows itself in the decisions we make in choosing to communicate in the first place, or to avoid doing so o In what we say/don’t say, what’s kept secret/what’s not o Interactions adds to our culture Cultural Studied perspective - These theorist looked at how subcultural groups at the margins of society lay claim to elements of the dominant culture, redefine them through alternative meanings or ideas, and thus shape their own cultures outside the dominant environment - These Birmingham theories borrowed some of their ideas from critical perspective, especially the notion that dominant groups use ideas to justify their domination over inferior groups - In some ways like symbolic interactionism, cultural studies focuses on the role of meaning in culture - Hall: points out that while the dominant group encodes this material, other people decode it based on their own social/cultural position The production of culture perspective - The production of culture perspective sees the origin of culture in material culture and in social action around this material culture o I.e. mass media, technology, art, etc… - this perspective looks more closely at the concrete ways in which culture is produced, rather than simply accepting - that it somehow arises out of the underlying social structure o theorist consider the cultural studies approach too vague about the actual source of culture - canvas and careers (white): their study of impressionism as a new art style highlights the role of ‘the artist’ and their need to make a living (not just sell a few canvas) Language: a key cultural realm - symbolic interactionism – interested on how people work out patterns of actions often making tactical alignments in order to do so - other theorist – interested as cultural element o structural functionalists – interested in ways subgroups (prisoners) develop their own language to maintain the cohesion of the group o critical theorist – interested in how language is used to subordinate disadvantages groups in society o feminist – through language, culture shapes our perception of reality (perception of men/women)  androcentric/sexist language illustrates gender inequality/ perpetuates the problem  some words are described as androcentric, questioning the role in description  policeman – typically assume as normal, putting the assumption that all police are man o using these ‘masculine terms, affirm the traditional exclusion and subordination of women - language issues goes beyond gender inequalities, for language structures all of the ways we perceived reality o language is an abstract system of sounds, signs, and gestures in which the speaker express their thought - Sepir/Whorf: language expresses our thought but also structures them o They way language is structures has immense significance for the way we experience the world o Cultures provide words to describe, teaching members on what the societies cares about Classic studies: the protestant and the spirit of capitalism - Written by weber. This book is concerned with the way religion can create material progress and not merely justify the rule of a dominant class (as Marx claimed) o Capitalism evolved in Europe when the protestant ethnic influenced large number of people to engage in the work in this world o Protestantism encourages people to develop their enterprises and engage in trade. This
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