Components of Culture
Culture provides individuals with a set of common understandings that they employ in
fashioning their actions, and makes society possible by providing a common framework
Norms. Norms are social rules that specify appropriate and inappropriate behavior in
given situations. They afford a means by which we orient ourselves to other
people. Folkways, mores, and laws are types of norms.
Values. Values are broad ideas regarding what is desirable, correct, and good that
most members of a society share. Values are so general and abstract that they do not
explicitly specify which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.
Symbols and Language. Symbols are acts or objects that have come to be socially
accepted as standing for something else. Symbols assume many different forms,
but language is the most important of these. Language is the chief vehicle by which
people communicate ideas, information, attitudes, and emotions, and it serves as the
principal means by which human beings create culture and transmit it from generation to
Cultural Unity and Diversity
Cultural Universals. Cultural universals are patterned and recurrent aspects of life
that appear in all known societies. All people confront many of the same problems;
culture represents an accumulation of solutions to the problems posed by human biology
and the human situation.
Cultural Integration. The items that form a culture tend to constitute a consistent and
integrated whole. For example, societies that value universal education also usually have
norms and laws about schools, organize education into a collective activity, and create
symbols and share meanings about the value of education and educational organizations.
Ethnocentrism. The cultural ways of our own society become so deeply ingrained that
we have difficulty conceiving of alternative ways of life. We judge the behavior of other
groups by the standards of our own culture, a phenomenon sociologists
Cultural Relativism. In studying other cultures, we must examine behavior in the light
of the values, beliefs, and motives of each culture, an approach termed cultural
Subcultures and Countercultures.
Cultural diversity may