that are common to all cultures are called Cultural Universals. These do
not change over time but they way they are expressed do change with time. Some
examples are language, food, music, and clothes. Cultural Universals meet basic
can be expressed materially (physical, tangible objects) and non-materially
(customs, beliefs, philosophies). Both are equally important in defining and
perpetuating a culture.
changes through 2 processes: Diffusion and Innovation.
adopting ideas and customs from one group to another. We see this most
prevalent in other countries as they absorb our food (McDonalds), our clothing
styles, and our music. American Missionaries and Anthropologists have lengthy
histories of attempting to diffuse elements of the American culture into other
in one of 2 ways: something is discovered or something is invented. Discovery
is the process of revealing new facts or knowledge. DNA strings and the genome
studies are examples of the revelation of new knowledge. Invention is taking
existing items and reshaping them to form something new. The quartz chip and
the computer chip are among 20th Century inventions.
are 3 significant parts to culture: Language, Norms and Values. All 3 always
co-exist. One cannot separate one from the others.
Language: System of word meanings and
symbols. It is the foundation of every culture. It not only describes a culture
but shapes it as well. Language includes speech (spoken sounds), written
characters (letters), numerals, symbols (& % J), and gestures (waving hello).
Norms: Established standards of behavior
maintained by society. Norms can be formal or informal. Formal norms are
written and have specific consequences for adhering to them or breaking them.
Informal norms are not written but are understood; consequences come in the
form of praise or ridicule.
Norms that are important to society’s
welfare are called Mores. These behavioral standards
generally carry some moral implication,
are difficult to change, and result in severe
punishment if violated. (Examples are
incest, child abuse, multiple marriage partners.)
Norms that govern daily behavior without
much concern for society’s welfare are called
Folkways. These behavioral
standards generally do not carry a moral implication and
change easily. (Examples are church dress,
business attire, helping a stranger.)
We are more likely to formalize mores than
Values: Concept of what is ‘good’, proper,
desirable and what is determined to be ‘bad’, improper, and undesirable within
a culture. We value specific material things (people, objects, wealth) and
general things (health, power, status). A culture demonstrates its value of a
by the lengths it goes to protect it. The most commonly devalued things in our
culture are women, children, Judeo Christian beliefs, and education.
Cultural Variation: Ways in which
segments of the population develop cultural patterns that differ from the
dominant culture. Subcultures and Counter Cultures are 2 types of
Subculture: a segment of society that
has a distinct pattern of mores, folkways, and values
different from those of the dominant
culture that are recognizable to those both within the
and those outside of the group. Subculture members belong to the dominant
while at the same time engaging in
behaviors that are unique and distinct to a subculture.
Subcultures can be based on one’s age
(teenagers, retired folks), region (WV “Hillbillies”,
Ozark Appalachians), ethnic group
(Swedish), beliefs (neo-Nazi), vocation (police, truckers)
and shared interests (Computer users).
It is not unusual of a subculture to develop its own
Counter Culture: a segment of society
that rejects the values and norms of the dominant
culture and seeks alternative norms and
values. The “hippies” of the 60’s and the
“survivalists” of the 80’s and 90’s are
the most obvious examples. The Dominant Culture
works to monitor and alter these groups
so as to limit their growth and influence.
Culture Shock: Feeling
disoriented, uneasy or surprised by cultural practices different from one’s
own. Culture shock can be experienced within the dominant culture or when
coming in contact with a subculture.
Ethnocentrism: Our response to
Cultural Variations. It is the assumption that one’s culture is superior to
other cultures. Wm Graham Sumner suggests that we measure other cultures against
our own. Thus, when we experience something in another culture that is unlike
our own, we determine that culture to be inferior.
Cultural Relativism: Viewing people as
relating to their own culture. Accepting the values, beliefs, customs, and
behaviors of individuals as understandable based on their culture.
Multiculturalism: A broad knowledge
of the cultures outside one’s own. Represents a working knowledge of the impact
of cultural influences of others in relationship to the dominant culture.
Cultural Diversity: The wide range of
cultural expressions found within a society. Includes visible expressions
(clothing, music), behavioral expressions (rites of passage, rituals), values
(economic choices), and beliefs (church worship). It is believed that the
greater the diversity, the stronger the Dominant Culture becomes.
Cultural Sensitivity and Political Correctness:
Concepts resulting from an attempt to promote acceptance for diversity. CS/PC
are expected within the public and political arena and negative sanctions are
often levied if not attained. The debate remains: Whose rights are less
important than whose?
Culture and the 3 Main Sociological Perspectives
Interested in the workings of each part of
culture. When one part changes, how are the others affected? How do the 5 Main
Institutions change as cultural variations change? As values change? As
language and norms shift? For example, Marriage
is defined in our culture as one man with one woman. How will our Culture be
affected if that definition changes to include multiple marriage partners or
same sex partners? How will the change affect the Educational Institution? What
will be the impact on the other Institutions?
looking at the struggle between minority groups and the dominant culture in a
society. How free are minority groups to express cultural differences? Are some
behaviors of minority groups more tolerated than other behaviors? This theory
also identifies divisions created by language (police officer not policeman,
flight attendant not stewardess), norms (dress, discipline of children), and
values (religious or socioeconomic choices).
Looks at daily,
individual influences of our culture as expressed in language, norms, and
values. Clothing styles, tattoos, piercings reflect what? Has computer and text
language (LOL, mouse, virus) impacted our Culture? How? Do we have norms? What
are they? Have they changed? How? How does this affect our activities of daily