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Chapter 3: Cultural Structures Culture refers to the entire way of life of people or group; however, culture can also be defined in a narrower way as the.

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 3: Cultural Structures Culture refers to the entire way of life of people or group; however, culture can also be defined in a narrower way as the."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 3: Cultural Structures Culture refers to the entire way of life of people or group; however, culture can also be defined in a narrower way as the specific systems of meaning that we use to weigh and consider our world.

2 Explaining Fashion and Standards of Beauty Institutional explanations: Explanations that focus on the way institutions (e.g., government, the law, patriarchy) act externally-as sources of social power-to influence social behavior. Cultural explanations: Explanations that consider the way internal systems of meaning influence and dictate social behavior. Rather than emphasizing the power and material resources of institutions, cultural explanations emphasize the symbols that shape and limit our individual actions, thoughts, and feelings.

3 Components of Culture: Symbols Symbol: Something that stands for something else (e.g., a flag, a dollar sign, or a cross). Symbols gain their meaning from society and their relationship to other symbols. – Sacred symbols are emotionally charged symbols of good that are set off from the everyday world. – Profane symbols are emotionally charged symbols of bad or evil. – Mundane symbols are emotionally uncharged, everyday, and routine. Symbolic systems : A system or pattern of symbols (e.g., language or fashion).

4 Components of Culture: Codes Social code: A system or pattern of meanings that undergird specific situations. For example, a young child can eat spaghetti with her hands at a restaurant, but for an adult to do so at a business dinner would be considered inappropriate and unprofessional.

5 Components of Culture: Classifications Classifications: Groupings of events and objects that are familiar, similar, or different. By classifying unfamiliar objects or events with familiar objects or events, we are able to give meaning to unfamiliar ones.

6 Norms and Values Norms are written or unwritten rules that govern specific situations to regulate and control behavior in precise ways. Laws: Written norms that prescribe or proscribe specific sets of behaviors under threat of punishment. Values provide frameworks for ideals and anti- ideals within which norms make sense.

7 Cultural Change Countercultures: A term referring to values and behaviors that go against those of mainstream society. According to Williams (1951), the core American values of the 1950s were Achievement and Success, Activity, Science and Secular Rationality, Individualism and Freedom, Progress, Moral Orientation, Humanitarianism, and Racism and in-group Superiority.

8 Figure 3.1 Whites Attitudes Toward School Integration

9 Culture v. Civilization Culture was equated with civilization during the 18 th and 19 th centuries and identified with the beliefs and practices of the elite. Johann Gottfried von Herder ( ) contested this association and spoke of cultures rather than a single high culture.

10 Cultures as Wholes or Parts? Belief: A statement that attempts to describe some aspect of collective reality (e.g., God exists or The Earth is round). The validity of our beliefs is not as important as the way in which they shape our day-to-day experience. With recent cultural turn, sociologists now emphasize that while symbols must be shared to constitute a culture, they do not have to be shared by every member of a social group

11 Figure 3.2 Percentage of Speakers Who Include Any Pro- Abortion Rights Claim in the Womens Self- Determination & Individualism Frames

12 Figure 3.3 Inclusion of Protection Frames among Prochoice and Neutral Mean & Women Speakers

13 Attitudes vs. Behavior While culture establishes patterns and ideals, it does not define the specific ways in which these symbolic patterns are established in the world. There is necessarily some distance between the systems of symbols that constitute culture and concrete social behaviors.

14 Attitudes v. Behavior Attitudes: The statements that people make about their values and beliefs. Behavior: Anything we do. Our behaviors may or may not be consistent with our attitudes.

15 Class, Culture, and Genre Socioeconomic class: One of the most common classifications in society, closely tied to occupation and income. Members of different social classes are often seen as occupying different positions in a social hierarchy, and as having unequal access to resources, opportunities, and power. From a cultural perspective, socioeconomic class is most relevant in the context of understanding various ways of life, social codes, and classificatory schemes.

16 Class, Culture, and Genre Genre: A distinctive form of cultural expression that aims to create symbols that engage, entertain, and sensitize. Examples include commercial art, framed oil paintings, jazz, musical comedy, and evening sitcoms

17 Study Questions Describe the two standard social explanations offered for fashion and social standards of beauty. Then describe the cultural explanation of fashion. How does it differ from the first two? What are the three categories of symbols? Which categories are emotionally charged, and why? Does the meaning of a symbol come from the properties of the things to which it refers?

18 Study Questions What are norms? And why do we tend to conform to them in everyday life, even though not all norms are codified into laws? How are norms related to values? What do sociologists mean whey they use the term subculture? How does this concept facilitate the study of groups and organizations?

19 In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the term culture was used to describe the best of what has been thought and said in Western European society; it was also equated with civilization. Why do contemporary sociologists reject this definition? What alternative definition of culture do they propose? Study Questions


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