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The Concept of Culture

Updated on April 21, 2016

The definition of culture refers to the life style, the outward appearance and the standards and mannerism cultivated by a particular person. The "cultured" person knows the "proper" manner, has an impressive vocabulary, and is well acquainted with the fine art. The overall impression of a cultured person presents to the world is that of the perfect gentleman or woman, well educated, a refined person, a cultivated person, a superior person and probably a wealthy individual. People often say that some people are cultured while others are not cultured. Those who think in this way, tend to believe that culture is an attribute of certain class of people.

The sociologist has an entirely different conception of culture. To sociology, the point of departure is that every society has culture. it is not possible to see a society without culture. culture is not a personal attribute. It is rather seen as the totality of the way of life of a group of people. culture can then be said to be the complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, arts, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

Among sociologist, culture is agreed to have the following characteristics;

1. It consist of many system of organized behavior, governed by traditional standards and rules, specifying how people are supposed to act.
2. It includes ideas, values and goals as well as the material products that men create during a lifetime of human interaction.
3. Any human society may develop a culture that is distinct from all other human culture. However, universal needs of foods and shelter and of human relationship such as friendship, marriage and work, cause cultures to resemble one another closely. All cultures have developed institution and establishment to fulfill these basic needs and govern human relationship.
4. culture is learned and language is the social vehicle by which it is share, sustained and preserved.
5. All culture are subject to continuous change,culture is dynamic, not static.
6. Within cultures are distinct groups which create subcultures and carry out functions which overlap but are unique to the rest of the culture.

Culture was defined to include the total pattern of beliefs, customs, institutions, norm and object of technology, that characterize the life of a human community. Culture provides the attitudes and behavioral ways in which man adapts to his total environment. The major distinguishing feature of man from other animals, is the possession of Culture. for example, bees are said to posses a form of social organization. They have a highly organized, interrelated and independent form of behavior and a system of social ranking represented by the authority and high reflect values. Ancient civilization used stone tools; modern man works with computers and bulldozers. some people build canoes, others build spaceships. such object and artifacts cannot be treated separately from the total culture. The knowledge and skills necessary to create them are highly value, establishing a part of their significance within the culture.

Values represent what a society believes in, what it prefers and what it considers desirable to possess and maintain. It would however be difficult to define a single all inclusive value for a society. critics even debated the ever present nature of the value of success cherish by Americans. It may be interesting to note that values exemplify the power structure of a society. Those in power, do have the support systems (knowledge, media, government and legal agencies) to sustain certain values over others

Cultural Norms
Cultural Norms

Cultural Norms

Cultural values are expressed in norms or specific conduct. Put differently, norms refer to the concepts of proper behavior for every member of a society. Culture is characterized by definite patterns of behavior that allow a society to maintain order and to endure. Cultural norms are created by man itself, their purpose is to organize behavior so that goals are realized and so that ordered, predictable relationships are possible. We must remember, however, that norms serve merely as guides to conduct. Because people frequently deviate from norms in actual situations and because culture continuously changes, rules of conduct are constantly being revised. Clearly, norms serve to regulate and even determine the life style of most individuals. sociologist recognize three types of norms namely, Folkways, Mores and Laws.

Folkways, literally, is the way of the folks, are norms of expected behavior. They represent weaker norms such as those governing dressing, customary ways of eating, shaking hands e.t.c. folkways may vary from relatively permanent customs to the transitory patterns of fashion. or musical fads. Any deviation from expected behavior is treated with a show of minor disapproval. For instances when a younger man greets elders haphazardly without stooping as it is expected in some cultures, elders will usually complain of the disrespectful attitudes of the youth.

Mores represent behavior patterns that are imposed as necessary to the welfare of society. mores depict the attitudes that label certain acts as moral or immoral, resulting in restrictions against such act as rape, murder, theft, incest and extra marital affairs. if one chooses to violate the demands of mores he may be severely punished by the society that enjoins them. Mores vary from one society to the next due to the variability of cultures of different societies. However there are mores that are universal for instance incest taboo is a universal norm for bidding sexual relationships between very close relations. it is known as an abomination that must be punished for its non-compliance.

Laws are codified norms. when norms are written down with specific punishment attached to them, such mores are called laws. indeed laws of a society are often an outgrowth of its mores. Laws are necessary because they indicate more precisely than unwritten norms, what is permissible behavior. Laws also apply theoretically to all members of a society and they can be enacted or repealed to conform to new needs created by social change.

Folkways, mores and laws are the foundation of every system of social control. in some of the simple human societies, such as the small bands of hunters and food gatherers, that still exist in remote areas of the world, there is no need for laws because the few folkways or mores successfully maintain order. in such societies, a major norm might be the rejection of a member for a violation of a tribal custom or tradition. In a harsh barren climate, food and shelter is scarce and difficult to find alone. Rejection, therefore could result to death. In modern complex societies, control is achieved because deviance from mores is punishable under the laws which have been written to uphold the mores of a society.


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