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Principles of Sociology 3
Culture
What is Society?
• Society and “culture” are not exactly the same
thing.
• A “society” has the following features:
• A common culture that develops and changes.
• The people occupy a definite geographical area.
• Organization around a division of labor.
• Past societies were relatively independent, but the
emergence of interdependent national economies and,
most recently, a global economy, has changed this.
What is culture?
• culture = “the ways of thinking, the ways of acting,
and the material objects that together form a
peoples’ way of life” (Macionis, 60).
• Culture includes: food, religion, art, music, stories,
clothing, sports, political structures, etc., etc.
• Instead of relying on instinct, humans rely on culture
as their “tool kit” for survival.
• Culture is shared by groups of people that share life
together.
What is culture?
• material culture = the physical or tangible items
that members of a society create.
– EXs: high-heel shoes, log cabins, milk shakes, action
movies, computers, etc.
• non-material culture = the intangible ideas that
members of a society create.
– EXs: beliefs, values, political ideologies, norms,
technological methods, etc.
Elements of Culture
• cultural universals = common practices or beliefs
shared by all cultures.
Can include: appearances, activities, social institutions, or
customary practices.
EXs: hairstyles, sports, marriage, joking, religion, cooking, language
(but NOT written language!).
Cultural universals are only “universal” in a general sense; the
actual expressions of cultural universals vary from one culture
to another.
EX: all cultures feature some type of cooked cuisine, but the dishes
that are cooked vary widely.
Elements of Culture
• symbols = anything that meaningfully
represents something as recognized by
members of a culture.
– Symbols express abstract concepts with visible
objects.
– Includes: objects (heart = love), gestures (two
fingers = peace), brands (certain items indicate
class), or items (certain foods = good luck).
– Often, symbols may vary in meaning across
cultures.
Elements of Culture
• language = an abstract system of symbols
that expresses ideas and allows people in
a culture to communicate with one
another.
– Can be verbal or nonverbal (written or gestured).
– Enables us to: describe reality, share experiences and
feelings, create visual images, maintain group boundaries,
and transmit culture.
– As the world becomes sociologically smaller, more and more
societies are becoming multilingual.
Elements of Culture
• beliefs = specific ideas that members of a culture believe to
be true.
• values = the core sentiments that reflect beliefs and define
standards for a culture.
• Values can shape norms that bring sanctions.
• Social circumstances can also bring changes to which values
are prioritized.
– EX: global events (9/11, which brought the Patriot Act) and
technology (the internet, which made identity theft and govt.
surveillance easier) put a new spotlight on the “right to privacy.”
Elements of Culture
• norms = established expectations or standards of conduct.
formal norms = standards that are codified in laws and rules,
and for which there are formal penalties.
mores = norms necessary for the welfare of society.
taboos = mores whose violation is considered extremely offensive or
even unmentionable.
laws = formal norms enforced by legislatures and enforced by formal
sanctions.
informal norms = generally understood and informally
enforced by individuals and groups within society.
folkways = “understood” norms for everyday behavior.
Elements of Culture
• sanctions = penalties for violating norms
(negative), or rewards for conforming to social
norms (positive).
– Formal norms bring formal sanctions.
• EX: if you speed, you get a ticket.
– Informal norms bring informal sanctions.
• EX: if you wear a bikini to a funeral, you will get mean looks.
– Both types of sanctions can be positive (rewards) or
negative (penalties).
How Sanctions Work
POSITIVE NEGATIVE
formal The winner gets a trophy. The speeding motorist gets a ticket.
informal A child is praised for using good
manners.
A family is angry with their relative
who came to the funeral in shorts.
Elements of Culture
• technology = knowledge, techniques, and tools
that allow people to transform resources in
order to create a distinct way of life.
– “cultural information about how to use the material
resources of the environment to satisfy human
needs and desires” (Lenski).
– Includes both material and non-material culture.
– Can be modifications of existing technologies or the
introduction of new technologies.
Cultural Diversity
• high culture = “cultural patterns that distinguish a society’s
elite” (Macionis, 72).
– EXs: season tickets to the opera, $5000 per plate charity dinners,
ballroom dancing.
– cultural capital theory (Bourdieu): views “high culture” as a tool used by
elites to exclude the subordinate classes.
• popular culture = more widespread cultural patterns.
– EXs: baseball, action movies, bar-be-que, “chick flicks.”
• cultural imperialism = situation where one nation’s culture is
infused into other nations (not always welcome).
– Some see the current process of westernization as creating the condition
of imperialism by producing a global culture.
Cultural Diversity
• There are varying ranges of diversity:
– homogeneous societies = citizens share a common
culture and are from similar backgrounds (EXs:
Sweden; Japan).
– heterogeneous societies = the society is
multicultural, featuring citizens from many different
backgrounds (EX: U.S.).
– Although some nations are clearly more diverse than
others, cultural diversity is currently spreading
across the world through immigration.
Cultural Diversity
• Culture can be multi-layered, with substantial variation
between cultures and even within a culture.
• multiculturalism = acknowledges and celebrates cultural
diversity over total assimilation (EX: the contemporary
U.S.).
• sub-cultures = segments of society sharing distinctive
cultural patterns that set them apart.
– Can be based on: age, race/ethnicity, religion, occupation, gender,
hobby/activity, specific interest, illness/disability, class, etc.
– countercultures = groups that strongly reject dominant societal
values and norms and seek alternative lifestyles.
Cultural Change
• Culture is not static but dynamic – cultures
continually change and people adapt.
• cultural innovation = when something new is
introduced into a culture.
discovery = learning of and understanding something
previously unknown or unrecognized.
invention = creation of new cultural elements.
Both types of innovation can have significant social
consequences.
Several examples of both are on the next slide: Think
about the changes that occurred in society with those
new things.
Cultural Change
• cultural diffusion = the process where cultural ideas or
items spread from culture to culture.
– Can occur through exploration, war, the media, tourism,
immigration, intentional export, etc.
• globalization = the current process through which the
world is becoming sociologically smaller due to
international trade markets, increased
communication, and the exchange of ideas.
• McDonaldization = the process whereby the principles
of predictability, calculability, efficiency, and control
through technology have come to dominate society.
Cultural Change
• culture lag = the time-gap between technology and a
society’s moral and legal institutions.
– The “lag” time where non-material culture is struggling to
catch up with the material culture.
– The rapid advance of technology often leaves generations of
users scrambling to merge their beliefs, values, norms, and
laws with the new scientific possibilities and gadgets that
become realities.
– Think about the examples on the next slide: How many
years were car wrecks happening before laws governing cell
phone usage in cars were created?
CULTURE LAG
Culture & the Individual
• culture shock = the disorientation that people feel when they
encounter a different way of life.
• ethnocentrism = the attitude, often held subconsciously, that
holds one’s own culture as superior.
• stereotypes = the unwarranted generalization of a trait applied
to an entire group of people.
• cultural relativism = a perspective that attempts to view
cultural items from the viewpoint of those within the culture.
• xenocentrism = holding another culture superior to one’s own.
A good way to begin understanding
different cultures is to consider the
topic of food …
• Look at the next slide. Do you eat bull testicles?
Pig intestines? Insects? Cheese balls with live
maggots? Kangaroo meat? Frog legs?
• If you are grossed out, ask yourself why that is.
• The fact is, many people in other cultures and
sub-cultures eat these things. Not only this, but
many of those people are grossed out by things
you may think are edible: rare steak, pork, blue
cheese … THINK ABOUT IT!
Food

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Week 2: Culture

  • 2. What is Society? • Society and “culture” are not exactly the same thing. • A “society” has the following features: • A common culture that develops and changes. • The people occupy a definite geographical area. • Organization around a division of labor. • Past societies were relatively independent, but the emergence of interdependent national economies and, most recently, a global economy, has changed this.
  • 3. What is culture? • culture = “the ways of thinking, the ways of acting, and the material objects that together form a peoples’ way of life” (Macionis, 60). • Culture includes: food, religion, art, music, stories, clothing, sports, political structures, etc., etc. • Instead of relying on instinct, humans rely on culture as their “tool kit” for survival. • Culture is shared by groups of people that share life together.
  • 4. What is culture? • material culture = the physical or tangible items that members of a society create. – EXs: high-heel shoes, log cabins, milk shakes, action movies, computers, etc. • non-material culture = the intangible ideas that members of a society create. – EXs: beliefs, values, political ideologies, norms, technological methods, etc.
  • 5. Elements of Culture • cultural universals = common practices or beliefs shared by all cultures. Can include: appearances, activities, social institutions, or customary practices. EXs: hairstyles, sports, marriage, joking, religion, cooking, language (but NOT written language!). Cultural universals are only “universal” in a general sense; the actual expressions of cultural universals vary from one culture to another. EX: all cultures feature some type of cooked cuisine, but the dishes that are cooked vary widely.
  • 6. Elements of Culture • symbols = anything that meaningfully represents something as recognized by members of a culture. – Symbols express abstract concepts with visible objects. – Includes: objects (heart = love), gestures (two fingers = peace), brands (certain items indicate class), or items (certain foods = good luck). – Often, symbols may vary in meaning across cultures.
  • 7.
  • 8. Elements of Culture • language = an abstract system of symbols that expresses ideas and allows people in a culture to communicate with one another. – Can be verbal or nonverbal (written or gestured). – Enables us to: describe reality, share experiences and feelings, create visual images, maintain group boundaries, and transmit culture. – As the world becomes sociologically smaller, more and more societies are becoming multilingual.
  • 9. Elements of Culture • beliefs = specific ideas that members of a culture believe to be true. • values = the core sentiments that reflect beliefs and define standards for a culture. • Values can shape norms that bring sanctions. • Social circumstances can also bring changes to which values are prioritized. – EX: global events (9/11, which brought the Patriot Act) and technology (the internet, which made identity theft and govt. surveillance easier) put a new spotlight on the “right to privacy.”
  • 10. Elements of Culture • norms = established expectations or standards of conduct. formal norms = standards that are codified in laws and rules, and for which there are formal penalties. mores = norms necessary for the welfare of society. taboos = mores whose violation is considered extremely offensive or even unmentionable. laws = formal norms enforced by legislatures and enforced by formal sanctions. informal norms = generally understood and informally enforced by individuals and groups within society. folkways = “understood” norms for everyday behavior.
  • 11. Elements of Culture • sanctions = penalties for violating norms (negative), or rewards for conforming to social norms (positive). – Formal norms bring formal sanctions. • EX: if you speed, you get a ticket. – Informal norms bring informal sanctions. • EX: if you wear a bikini to a funeral, you will get mean looks. – Both types of sanctions can be positive (rewards) or negative (penalties).
  • 12. How Sanctions Work POSITIVE NEGATIVE formal The winner gets a trophy. The speeding motorist gets a ticket. informal A child is praised for using good manners. A family is angry with their relative who came to the funeral in shorts.
  • 13. Elements of Culture • technology = knowledge, techniques, and tools that allow people to transform resources in order to create a distinct way of life. – “cultural information about how to use the material resources of the environment to satisfy human needs and desires” (Lenski). – Includes both material and non-material culture. – Can be modifications of existing technologies or the introduction of new technologies.
  • 14. Cultural Diversity • high culture = “cultural patterns that distinguish a society’s elite” (Macionis, 72). – EXs: season tickets to the opera, $5000 per plate charity dinners, ballroom dancing. – cultural capital theory (Bourdieu): views “high culture” as a tool used by elites to exclude the subordinate classes. • popular culture = more widespread cultural patterns. – EXs: baseball, action movies, bar-be-que, “chick flicks.” • cultural imperialism = situation where one nation’s culture is infused into other nations (not always welcome). – Some see the current process of westernization as creating the condition of imperialism by producing a global culture.
  • 15. Cultural Diversity • There are varying ranges of diversity: – homogeneous societies = citizens share a common culture and are from similar backgrounds (EXs: Sweden; Japan). – heterogeneous societies = the society is multicultural, featuring citizens from many different backgrounds (EX: U.S.). – Although some nations are clearly more diverse than others, cultural diversity is currently spreading across the world through immigration.
  • 16. Cultural Diversity • Culture can be multi-layered, with substantial variation between cultures and even within a culture. • multiculturalism = acknowledges and celebrates cultural diversity over total assimilation (EX: the contemporary U.S.). • sub-cultures = segments of society sharing distinctive cultural patterns that set them apart. – Can be based on: age, race/ethnicity, religion, occupation, gender, hobby/activity, specific interest, illness/disability, class, etc. – countercultures = groups that strongly reject dominant societal values and norms and seek alternative lifestyles.
  • 17. Cultural Change • Culture is not static but dynamic – cultures continually change and people adapt. • cultural innovation = when something new is introduced into a culture. discovery = learning of and understanding something previously unknown or unrecognized. invention = creation of new cultural elements. Both types of innovation can have significant social consequences. Several examples of both are on the next slide: Think about the changes that occurred in society with those new things.
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  • 19. Cultural Change • cultural diffusion = the process where cultural ideas or items spread from culture to culture. – Can occur through exploration, war, the media, tourism, immigration, intentional export, etc. • globalization = the current process through which the world is becoming sociologically smaller due to international trade markets, increased communication, and the exchange of ideas. • McDonaldization = the process whereby the principles of predictability, calculability, efficiency, and control through technology have come to dominate society.
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  • 21. Cultural Change • culture lag = the time-gap between technology and a society’s moral and legal institutions. – The “lag” time where non-material culture is struggling to catch up with the material culture. – The rapid advance of technology often leaves generations of users scrambling to merge their beliefs, values, norms, and laws with the new scientific possibilities and gadgets that become realities. – Think about the examples on the next slide: How many years were car wrecks happening before laws governing cell phone usage in cars were created?
  • 23. Culture & the Individual • culture shock = the disorientation that people feel when they encounter a different way of life. • ethnocentrism = the attitude, often held subconsciously, that holds one’s own culture as superior. • stereotypes = the unwarranted generalization of a trait applied to an entire group of people. • cultural relativism = a perspective that attempts to view cultural items from the viewpoint of those within the culture. • xenocentrism = holding another culture superior to one’s own.
  • 24. A good way to begin understanding different cultures is to consider the topic of food … • Look at the next slide. Do you eat bull testicles? Pig intestines? Insects? Cheese balls with live maggots? Kangaroo meat? Frog legs? • If you are grossed out, ask yourself why that is. • The fact is, many people in other cultures and sub-cultures eat these things. Not only this, but many of those people are grossed out by things you may think are edible: rare steak, pork, blue cheese … THINK ABOUT IT!
  • 25. Food