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Chapter 3

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Kimberly Ellis- Hale

Chapter 3: Culture What is Culture?  Culture – characteristics (language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviours, and even material objects) that are passed from one generation to the next  Material culture – the material objects that distinguish a group of people, such as art, jewelry, buildings, weapons, machines, eating utensils, hairstyles, clothing, etc. o Nothing inherently “natural” – no more natural (or unnatural) to do one thing than the other  Nonmaterial culture – ways of thinking (beliefs, values, and other assumptions about the world)and doing (common patterns of behaviour, including language, gestures, and other forms of interaction) o No particular custom is “right” Components of Symbolic Culture  Symbolic culture – another term for nonmaterial culture o Its central components is the symbols that people use to communicate  Symbol – something to which people attach meaning and which they then use to communicate (gestures, language, values, norms, sanction, folkways, and mores)  Gesture o Gestures – the use of one’s body to communicate with others o Giving messages without words (different in various cultures) o Used as communication, but also may lead to misunderstandings  Language o Language – primary means of communication for people o A system of symbols that can be strung together in an infinite number of ways for the purpose of communicating abstract thought o Universal - all human groups possess it  Meaning given to sound has no universal meaning o Language allows human experiences to be cumulative  We pass ideas, knowledge and even attitudes on to the next generation  Language allows culture to develop by freeing people to move beyond their immediate experiences o Language provides a social or shared past and future  Using language, events can be codified – attached to words and then recalled so they can be discussed in the present  Talking – forms the essence of social life  Used for planning events – date, time, location o Language allows complex. shared, goal-directed behaviour  Common understanding enable people to establish a purpose o Language and perception: the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis  When learning a language, learn not only the words, but also a certain way of thinking and perceiving  Suggests that our language determines our consciousness, and hence our perceptions of objects and events  Meet our biological and social needs – by extended networks of people  Language is an essential precondition of collaboration  Without language, the extended co-operative human endeavours on which society is based simply could not exist  Values, Norms, and Sanctions o To learn culture is to learn people’s values, their ideas of what is desirable in life o Values – the standards by which people define what is desirable or undesirable, good or bad, beautiful or ugly; attitudes about the way the world ought to be o Norms – the expectations or rules of behaviour that develop out of values o Sanctions – expression of approval or disapproval given to people for upholding or violating norms  Positive sanctions – a reward or positive reaction for approved behaviour, for conformity  i.e. material goods (ex. money, prize), gestures (ex. hugs, smiles)  Negative sanctions – an expression of disapproval for breaking a norm, ranging from a mild, informal reaction such as frown to a formal prison sentence or execution  i.e. material goods (ex. fines), gestures (ex. frowns, stares)  Folkways and Mores o Folkways – norms that are not strictly enforced  We expect people to comply, but no big deal if they don’t o Mores – norms that are strictly enforced because they are thought to be essential to core values  Result in formal sanctions o One group’s folkways may be another’s mores o Taboo – a norm so strong that it brings revulsion if violated  Pierre Bourdieu and Cultural Capital o Said “economic obstacles are not sufficient to explain” disparities in the educational attainment of children from different social classes o Culture shares many of the properties that characterize economic capital o Certain cultural “habits and dispositions” comprise a resource capable of generating “profits”  Subcultures and countercultures o Subculture – the values and related behaviours of a group that distinguish its members from the larger culture; a world with a world  The values and norms are mostly compatible with the large society o Counterculture – a group whose values, beliefs, and related behaviours place its members in opposition to the broader culture  Do not have to express negative values, but can encourage over- conformity to some of society’s mainstream values  Culture and Taken-for-Granted Orientations to Life o We assume that our customs, beliefs, gestures, etc. are “normal” or “natural” o “culture within us” – culture becomes the lens through which we perceive and evaluate what is going on around us o Culture shock – the disconnection of our nonmaterial culture o Ethnocentrism – the use of one’s own culture as a yardstick for judging the ways of other individuals or societies, generally leading to a negative evaluation of their values, norms, and behaviours  Our group is good, right, proper, superior  Has positive and negative consequences  Positive – creates ingroup loyal  Negative – can lead to harmful discrimination against people whose ways differ from ours o William Sumner “one’s own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it”  Practising Cultural Relativism o Cultural relativism – understanding the people from the framework of its own culture  Attempt to refocus our cultural lens and thereby appreciate other ways of life rather than simply asserting that “our way is the right way” o Robert Edgerton – suggests that we should develop a scale to evaluate cultures on their “quality of life”  Cultural values that result in exploitation are inferior to those that enhance people’s lives Values in Canadian Society  An Overview of Canadian Values o Pluralistic society – a society made up of many different groups (religious, racial, ethnic, interest groups) o National set of values based on “surviva
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