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Culture Chapter Two Henslin’s Sociology: A Down to Earth Approach (Rubinfield and Zumpetta)

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1 Culture Chapter Two Henslin’s Sociology: A Down to Earth Approach (Rubinfield and Zumpetta)

2 What is Culture? Culture can be defined as the language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors and material objects that are passed down from one generation to the next. Material culture includes such things as jewelry, art, buildings, weapons, machines, tools, clothing and hairstyles. Nonmaterial culture refers to a group’s ways of thinking (it’s beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world) and doing (its common patterns of behavior, including language, gestures and other forms of interaction).

3 Significance: Although we take our culture pretty much for granted, it’s significance is profound. We internalize language, values, beliefs, norms and other fundamental orientations about the social world from a very early age, becoming the lens through which we view and interpret the world around us. Cultural orientation defines social existence.

4 Ethnocentrism Ethnocentrism is the practice of viewing one’s own culture as preferable and using that culture as a yardstick to judge other people’s cultures. This can have both positive and negative consequences. Can solidify groups and enhance group loyalty and pride. But can promote prejudice, lead to exploitation, and justify discrimination against people with different cultural backgrounds.

5 Cultural Relativism Cultural Relativism is the practice of understanding a culture based on its own merits, without assessing its elements as any better or worse than one’s own culture.

6 How far should cultural relativism go? Robert Edgerton argued that some cultures endanger their people’s health, happiness and survival. He believed that if cultural practices result in the exploitation or an individual or group, it cannot be viewed as a “equally valid” culture.

7 Symbolic Culture Some sociologists refer to nonmaterial culture as “symbolic culture” including gestures, language, values, norms, folkways, sanctions and mores.

8 Gestures Gestures are the ways people move their bodies to communicate with one another. Including everything from hand movements to facial expressions, gestures vary widely in meaning from one culture to another.

9 Language The primary way people communicate with one another, language is a system of symbols strung together in an infinite number of ways to express ideas and feelings. Language is the basis of culture-critical to human life and essential for cultural development. Language allows group reflection on the past and discussion and planning for the future

10 Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: Language not only expresses people’s thinking and perceptions, but it also shapes them. The words people use and the meanings they attach to those words lead to a particular way of thinking about objects and events. In this sense language reflects and affects people’s perceptions and relationships.

11 Group Sanctions: Values are the standards by which we define what is good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly in our society. Norms are the expectations of behavior developed out of values. They can be positive or negatively sanctioned and are ‘situation specific’. Folkways are norms that are not strictly enforced accompanied by mild rebukes. Mores are norms that are believed to be essential to a group’s core value system and are strictly enforced. Breaking a more would bring about a harsher group response for correction. Laws are norms that have been formalized and codified by a society with prescribed punishments for violators. Taboos are norms so strongly engrained in society that the mere thought of violating a taboo is greeted with universal repulsion.

12 Subcultures and Counter Cultures Subcultures are groups within the larger society that function with commonly held cultural beliefs. Counter cultural groups have values and norms that place them in opposition to the dominant culture.

13 In the United States: The US is made up of tens of thousands of subcultures with distinct rituals, activities, interests and priorities. This diversity is a central component of the country’s strength.

14 Value Contradictions: Value Contradictions consist of two or more values that contradict each other, making it impossible to follow one without violating another. These value conflicts can lead to significant social change in society through the assessment; debate; and modulation of cherished beliefs. Since changing core values is strongly resisted by those who cherish the value, cultural tensions often lead to and follow periods of social change.

15 Social Values as Blinders: Social values can not only guide people, but may blind them to alterative choices. There are always some differences between what a group’s ideals are and what individual members actually do. Sociologists use the term “ideal culture” to refer to the values, norms and goals that a group of people consider worthy and important. Because people don’t always follow the ‘ideal’ group culture, sociologists call the more individualized values and norms “real culture”

16 Cultural Universals Sociologist George Murdoch drew up a list of shared universal cultural traits. He noted that while present in all societies, different cultures may have differing specific customs of carrying out these activities. Courtship Cooking Marriage Funerals Games Law Music Myths Incest taboos Toilet training

17 Some conflicts: Sociobiologists - believe that human behavior is primarily determined by natural selection and genetics Sociologists- focus on the cultural components that guide human behavior, concluding that social learning and social experiences are the primary determinants of human behavior.

18 Animals and Language While it is widely accepted that animals have the capacity to communicate with each other through the use of sounds and gestures, there is a question of whether animals have the capacity for “language”. Jane Goodall’s research with chimps in the wild demonstrated that they can use hand signals to communicate. Allen and Beatrice Gardner taught American Sign Language to Washoe, a female chimp. She eventually learned 160 words and was able to string these words into simple sentences. Irene Pepperberg taught Alex, an African grey parrot, the names of eighty objects. He could eventually identify colors and count and communicate numbers of objects in a group. Research continues in this area..

19 Technology in the Global Village The term “new technologies” refers to the emerging technologies that have a significant impact on social life. Five hundred years ago this would be the printing press Today it is the computer, cell phone and electronic media

20 Cultural Lag Not all parts of culture change at the same time…. William Ogburn noted in the first half of the 20 th century when one part of culture changes, other parts lag behind. Calling this phenomenon “cultural lag”, Ogburn observed that typically a groups material culture changes first, with the nonmaterial culture lagging behind.

21 Cultural Diffusion Cultural Diffusion – is the spread of cultural characteristics from one group to another. For most of human history this process was slow, but greatly increased with Imperialism and Colonialism from the mid 1400’s through modern day Increased inter-cultural contacts created added pressures and increased cultural diffusion.

22 Advancements: Increased communicate and transportation has made the world an interconnected village. The current direction of cultural diffusion has been from the West to the East.

23 Cultural Leveling: When cultures become similar to one another due to cultural diffusion, cultural leveling occurs. The exodus of western culture to the East followed by a cultural leveling effect, has made it difficult for Eastern cultures to protect, promote and export their own cultures. ******


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