Elementsthat are common to all cultures are called Cultural Universals. These donot change over time but they way they are expressed do change with time. Someexamples are language, food, music, and clothes. Cultural Universals meet basichuman needs.
Culturecan be expressed materially (physical, tangible objects) and non-materially(customs, beliefs, philosophies). Both are equally important in defining andperpetuating a culture. Culturechanges through 2 processes: Diffusion and Innovation.
Diffusion isadopting ideas and customs from one group to another. We see this mostprevalent in other countries as they absorb our food (McDonalds), our clothingstyles, and our music. American Missionaries and Anthropologists have lengthyhistories of attempting to diffuse elements of the American culture into othercultures. Innovation occursin one of 2 ways: something is discovered or something is invented.
Discoveryis the process of revealing new facts or knowledge. DNA strings and the genomestudies are examples of the revelation of new knowledge. Invention is takingexisting items and reshaping them to form something new. The quartz chip andthe computer chip are among 20th Century inventions. Thereare 3 significant parts to culture: Language, Norms and Values. All 3 alwaysco-exist. One cannot separate one from the others.
Language: System of word meanings andsymbols. It is the foundation of every culture. It not only describes a culturebut shapes it as well. Language includes speech (spoken sounds), writtencharacters (letters), numerals, symbols (& % J), and gestures (waving hello).
Norms: Established standards of behaviormaintained by society. Norms can be formal or informal. Formal norms arewritten and have specific consequences for adhering to them or breaking them.Informal norms are not written but are understood; consequences come in theform of praise or ridicule. Norms that are important to society’swelfare are called Mores. These behavioral standards generally carry some moral implication,are difficult to change, and result in severe punishment if violated.
(Examples areincest, child abuse, multiple marriage partners.) Norms that govern daily behavior withoutmuch concern for society’s welfare are called Folkways. These behavioralstandards 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 thanfolkways. Values: Concept of what is ‘good’, proper,desirable and what is determined to be ‘bad’, improper, and undesirable withina culture. We value specific material things (people, objects, wealth) andgeneral things (health, power, status). A culture demonstrates its value of aspecific thingby the lengths it goes to protect it. The most commonly devalued things in ourculture are women, children, Judeo Christian beliefs, and education. Cultural Variation: Ways in whichsegments of the population develop cultural patterns that differ from thedominant culture.
Subcultures and Counter Cultures are 2 types ofCultural Variations. Subculture: a segment of society thathas a distinct pattern of mores, folkways, and values different from those of the dominantculture that are recognizable to those both within the groupand those outside of the group. Subculture members belong to the dominantculture while at the same time engaging inbehaviors 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 language. Counter Culture: a segment of societythat rejects the values and norms of the dominant culture and seeks alternative norms andvalues.
The “hippies” of the 60’s and the “survivalists” of the 80’s and 90’s arethe most obvious examples. The Dominant Culture works to monitor and alter these groupsso as to limit their growth and influence. Culture Shock: Feelingdisoriented, uneasy or surprised by cultural practices different from one’sown. Culture shock can be experienced within the dominant culture or whencoming in contact with a subculture. Ethnocentrism: Our response toCultural Variations. It is the assumption that one’s culture is superior toother cultures. Wm Graham Sumner suggests that we measure other cultures againstour own.
Thus, when we experience something in another culture that is unlikeour own, we determine that culture to be inferior. Cultural Relativism: Viewing people asrelating to their own culture. Accepting the values, beliefs, customs, andbehaviors of individuals as understandable based on their culture. Multiculturalism: A broad knowledgeof the cultures outside one’s own. Represents a working knowledge of the impactof cultural influences of others in relationship to the dominant culture.
Cultural Diversity: The wide range ofcultural 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 thegreater the diversity, the stronger the Dominant Culture becomes. Cultural Sensitivity and Political Correctness:Concepts resulting from an attempt to promote acceptance for diversity. CS/PCare expected within the public and political arena and negative sanctions areoften levied if not attained. The debate remains: Whose rights are lessimportant than whose? Culture and the 3 Main Sociological PerspectivesStudy Guide Functionalism: Interested in the workings of each part ofculture. When one part changes, how are the others affected? How do the 5 MainInstitutions change as cultural variations change? As values change? Aslanguage and norms shift? For example, Marriageis defined in our culture as one man with one woman.
How will our Culture beaffected if that definition changes to include multiple marriage partners orsame sex partners? How will the change affect the Educational Institution? Whatwill be the impact on the other Institutions? Conflict:Interested inlooking at the struggle between minority groups and the dominant culture in asociety. How free are minority groups to express cultural differences? Are somebehaviors of minority groups more tolerated than other behaviors? This theoryalso identifies divisions created by language (police officer not policeman,flight attendant not stewardess), norms (dress, discipline of children), andvalues (religious or socioeconomic choices). Interactionism:Looks at daily,individual influences of our culture as expressed in language, norms, andvalues. Clothing styles, tattoos, piercings reflect what? Has computer and textlanguage (LOL, mouse, virus) impacted our Culture? How? Do we have norms? Whatare they? Have they changed? How? How does this affect our activities of dailyliving?