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Chapter 2: Culture and Society

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1 Chapter 2: Culture and Society
Today we will talk about culture and society—words you likely use often—in a distinctly sociological way. You will need to think about culture a bit differently here, considering its building blocks, variations, and how it is part of what makes us and our societies uniquely human. Chapter 2: Culture and Society

2 What is culture? Culture is a set of values, norms, and behaviors shared by a social group. Values are those ideals that a society holds above all others (e.g., honesty, honor). These values are the building blocks of norms, which are basic rules of social conduct. Another part of culture is the material objects we create. The sociological study of culture began with Emile Durkheim as he attempted to understand what held societies together. What sociologists now see as crucial for understanding how societies work is that a culture is a set of values, beliefs, norms, and material objects shared by those in a particular society. While we all probably have a sense of what values are, we also need to understand what norms are. Norms are essentially the rules of our society, most of which are actually unwritten. Your textbook, for example, talks about the rules of eye contact and how these vary between societies. The material objects that help constitute culture are perhaps what people most often think of in this vein: food, clothing, art, buildings, and other things of that nature.

3 An expanded notion of culture
Culture also encapsulates the way of life of a social group. Ann Swidler (1986) described a cultural “toolkit” from which we can choose the appropriate tools—values, norms, practices—for any social situation. Key point: culture is learned, not instinctual or inherited. But now you need to have a broader understanding of what culture is. Culture is much more that those material goods: culture is an entire way of life, and it is something that we all must learn within our own society. In other words, a core characteristic of culture includes that it is acquired. Culture is not instinctive or innate to either individuals or groups and is largely learned through the process of socialization. Once learned, once internalized, that cultural knowledge is like a set of tools that we draw on throughout our lives. In fact, we typically become so comfortable—take our own culture so utterly for granted—that it is only when we are confronted with a different culture that we become starkly aware of it. 3

4 Cultural variation Culture varies both across and within societies.
What is important and seemingly “normal” in one society may not be in another. Even within a society, the dominant values and norms change over time. Another important thing to understand about culture, which I have alluded to already, is that it varies. It is likely clear to you the ways in which culture might vary between societies: foods, religions, and even ideals are different even between Western societies like the United States and Great Britain. It may, however, be less easy to perceive the ways in which cultural variation exists within a society, but an example should help. Here in the United States it used to be the norm that boys and girls had totally different paths for their education: boys (wealthy ones, that is) were to have a classical education, while girls were to achieve basic literacy and then to focus on how to run a home. Obviously these are no longer “norms” today, thus illustrating the way culture changes over time, and more broadly, the flexibility of culture. 4

5 What is society? Societies are systems of relationships between people. Societies consist of members that share some sense of common identity and be small (like a family) or large (like a nation-state). Shared culture is important in holding a society together. Now that you have a sense of what culture is, let’s turn to society. What is society? A society is any lasting system of interrelationships between people, and it may be as small as a family or as large as a nation-state. Societies are not random units, rather they are patterned with various systems of authority, norms, and cultures. Members of a society have a shared sense of identity and are usually subject to the same system of authority. he relationship between culture and society, then, is that it is having a shared culture—which is important in terms of that shared identity—that holds the society together. If it had no shared values and norms and no systems of material goods, the continuity of a society would be at risk. 5

6 Conformity and social control
Societies need a significant degree of conformity to function smoothly. Members learn norms through the process of socialization. Because people accept the norms and values of their societies as natural, they largely conform. Those who do not conform are subject to measures of social control. What culture does is provide a shared basis for social life, for life within a society. In other words, culture—which has been internalized in the members of any particular society via socialization—coerces people to stay within the norm. This coercion, which we mostly do not feel, is significant in establishing a harmonious, shared social life. Why don’t we feel it? Mostly because, through successful socialization, our culture feels natural to us; there are aspects of our culture that we even describe as “second nature.” What this means is that we do not chafe at the norms of our society because we accept them as right and proper rather than as social constructions. Even so, of course, there are people who do not conform, and as you’ll see more specifically in Chapter 6, those individuals and groups are subject to varying levels of social control (what you might think of as punishment). 6

7 What makes humans different
Culture versus instinct The ability to reason, to think in the abstract, allowed for the development of culture. This included the development of complex systems of communication and future-oriented thought and planning. Complex thinking also makes humans strong innovators. Let us take a step back now and try to understand the unique relationship between human beings and culture. What is different between human beings and the rest of the animal world? There are several things, but perhaps the most important comes as a result of something we lack—at least relative to other animals—and that is a highly developed set of instincts. Without instincts we need another way of approaching life, and what we have that is largely unique is the capability for abstract thought. Abstract thought allows for us to not only live in the moment, but also to look ahead, anticipate needs, plan, and eventually develop cultures. It may also be that this ability to think abstractly led to a diminished set of instinctual responses, but either way abstract reasoning is central to what makes us different. 7

8 Nature or nurture? Sociologists today largely agree that the social environment interacts with biology. Even so, we strongly resist the idea that genetics predetermine an individual’s social life and potentialities. One of the age-old questions regarding human behavior asks: are our behaviors predetermined by our “nature” or does the social environment in which we grow up shape our actions via “nurture”? By and large, the nature versus nurture debate has been reduced to a false dichotomy. In other words, most sociologists now recognize that both nature and nurture are important to consider, but as sociologists it is our task to understand the nurture side. Additionally, with the current trend in Western societies of accepting the dominance of science in explaining everything, including social life, sociologists have had to repeatedly challenge the greater acceptance among the population of genetic, or biological, explanations for a variety of behaviors. One way of thinking about the sociological perspective is to think of biology as a blueprint on which social factors can make certain kinds of alterations or revisions, but that they cannot totally rewrite. This is to say that biology is the limiting factor for certain mental and physical abilities, but that basic life orientations are the result of social environment. Such a position is a rejection of the claims made by sociobiologists that push explanations for human behavior in the direction of strongly genetic claims; this is an issue addressed in your textbook. 8

9 Nature and nurture Sociologists now study how nature and nurture interact to produce particular behaviors. The interest in nurture has led to an ongoing focus on the importance of socialization. Examining cultural variation offers evidence of the role of the social in explaining human behaviors and values. So how do sociologists approach explanations of human behavior? To start, we go to the beginning of human life and study the process of socialization, which we will be covering in much more detail very soon. Looking at how the social world affects the actions of individuals allows us to see more clearly than ever the significance of culture and of cultural variation. Since we do not accept the notion that “biology is destiny,” we must continually seek other explanations for social behaviors and values. 9

10 Cultural diversity Studying diversity is very important for sociologists; comparative research is common. Things to be aware of: Ethnocentrism—viewing one’s own culture as normal and, oftentimes, superior Cultural relativism—judging other cultures based on their own norms and standards Because we are interested in illuminating the strong influence of culture on human life and behavior, we pay a lot of attention to cultural differences. Comparative research—that is, looking at the same phenomenon in more than one location—allows us to see the ways different social groups interpret and enact similar behaviors and rituals. At the same time, it allows us to see how each society creates behaviors and rituals all its own. Can you think of any examples of this? When studying other cultures, we must be wary of the extremes of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism. Ethnocentrism causes us to look at cultures other than our own as inferior, quaint, or even morally wrong. Cultural relativism is describing other cultures in their own terms. As sociologists, we strive for the latter, but we must be aware of just how hard it can be to put all judgment aside. Your textbook, for example, talks about the practice of female circumcision, which takes place in many societies as an important cultural ritual. Why might it be difficult to approach this with total cultural relativism? 10

11 Cultural diversity Diversity within societies is also important.
There are the obvious kinds of social groups (e.g. race, gender, religion) that constitute a society, but there are also subcultures. A subculture is a group whose norms and values differ from those of the “mainstream.” Another type of diversity that we can look at is diversity within a single society. The ways we usually think about diversity have to do with things like race and ethnicity, but there are also groups, called subcultures, whose differences from the “mainstream” are primarily in terms of beliefs, values, and behaviors. It may be that subcultures sometimes line up with racial or ethnic distinctions, but there are also many subcultures that do not. As your textbook points out, groups like Goths and hackers, as well as Wiccans and Deadheads, are subcultures, and clearly race does not determine membership in these. 11

12 Diversity today In diverse societies like the United States, studies of assimilation and multiculturalism are common. These studies attempt to understand how diverse societies (and the individuals in them) can best function. Globalization has led to increased diversity in most countries. When we think about diversity more explicitly in terms of race and ethnicity, and in some cases religion, we tend to talk about culture in terms of how we can all coexist harmoniously. The two most common ways of talking about this are by thinking about assimilation and multiculturalism. Assimilation is a process wherein minority groups merge into the mainstream culture; this idea assumes that there is one culture toward which other groups will assimilate. Multiculturalism is the idea (the reality, in fact) that we live in a highly diverse society, but must still function as a society. This perspective argues that we should encourage this diversity and must respect and fully engage members of all cultural groups. When we talk about race later in the semester, we will re-examine these ideas. 12

13 Multicultural knowledge
How many of the following words or phrases can you identify? The United States is a melting pot, where many cultures live side- by- side. Americans often share in the cuisines, music, holiday traditions, and even language of cultures that are very different from their own family heritages. Yet even within a single ethnic or religious subculture, further subcultures exist, such as generational subcultures— where people born in the 1990s experience culture in very different ways than their parents or grandparents. Turn the page (or ask one of your classmates) to find out the answers. 1. bhangra ushanka 2. bocce sarape 3. acupuncture djembe 4. futon sitar 5. tah deeg LP 6. pierogi kaffeeklatsch 7. jumping the broom getting pinned 8. chuppah

14 Answers bhangra: A type of music and dance that originated in the Punjab region of India, especially among Sikhs. American music fans may recognize bhangra melodies and rhythms from hip- hop artists including Beyonce and Beenie Man. bocce: Bocce is a sport similar to bowling, although it takes place outside— usually on one’s lawn or on a court made of stones or shells. The sport originated in Italy, and literally means “bowls.” acupuncture: A form of Chinese medicine that has grown in popularity in the United States over the past decade. It involves inserting fine needles into specific points on the body to relieve pain. futon: A thick mattress with a cloth cover, used for sleeping. Although futons are common in college dorm rooms, they originated as beds in Japan. tah deeg: A much- sought- after delicacy in Persian cooking; it is the crispy layer of browned rice at the bottom of a pan of cooked rice. pierogi: A boiled dumpling of unleavened dough stuffed with ingredients such as potatos or cheese. Pierogis can be found at American grocery stores, but originally are from eastern European nations such as Poland. jumping the broom: A common custom at African American wedding ceremonies. The bride and groom end their ceremony by jumping together or separately over a broom that is lying in front of the altar. chuppah: A canopy traditionally used in Jewish weddings. It symbolizes the home the couple will build together. ushanka: A fur cap with ear flaps that can be tied under the chin to protect the ears from the cold. The ushanka originates from Russia.

15 Answers sarape: A colorful shawl or poncho worn in Mexico.
djembe: A large drum from West Africa. Djembe literally means “everyone gather together.” American popular musicians Ben Harper, Paul Simon, and the Grateful Dead have added the djembe to their percussion lines. sitar: A long- necked stringed instrument that is plucked. It is used primarily in music from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Sitar music was widely introduced to the Western world when Ravi Shankar performed with the Beatles in the 1960s. LP: a long- playing record, also known as a 33 1/3 rpm vinyl record. In the 1960s through the mid 1980s, this is how most people listened to recorded music. The LP has since given way to CDs and downloaded music stored in iPods. kaffeeklatsch: An informal gathering of friends to drink coffee and chat, like on the television show Friends. This is a German word, although the idea is very familiar to Americans. getting pinned. In the 1940s and 1950s, when a dating couple decided they wanted to be “exclusive,” the boy would present the girl with a “pin”— typically earned for his athletic or academic achievements.

16 Cultural universals Social institutions found in virtually all societies are called cultural universals. Language is one of the most significant cultural universals (others include marriage and art). Languages are complex systems of communication, which are fundamental to human social life as they free us from our immediate environments. Though social life is incredibly diverse, there do remain a few cultural universals across all human societies. Cultural universals are aspects of culture that are found the world over. They may look different from place to place, but the fact is they are there. For example, all societies have a concept of family. What that means and whom it includes may vary, but family is always present. Another highly significant cultural universal is language. All cultures have some kind of highly developed system of communication that allows for the transmission and comprehension of complex, abstract thoughts. When you think back to what sets humans apart from other animals, you can see, in part, why language is so important. Without language—oral, written, non-verbal—we could not express the meaning of our lives nor think into the future. Additionally, language, or more precisely, the language of our own culture, shapes the very way we understand the world. 16

17 Pre-modern societies Hunting and gathering societies were the dominant social form for most of human history. Relatively egalitarian, with no class structures Cooperative rather than competitive Settled agrarian and pastoral societies emerged approximately 15,000 years ago. Somewhat less egalitarian More accumulation of wealth and goods; larger groups From at least 50,000 BCE until 6000 BCE we lived in relatively small hunting and gathering and then agrarian and pastoral societies (there are very few of these remaining today) . Hunting and gathering societies are considered by some experts to have been the most egalitarian in all of human history. There was very little in the way of material possessions to lead to a class structure, and the labor of all members was critical to the survival of the group. As such, all members were valuable. This changed some with the beginning of settled societies, but even so, agrarian and pastoral social groups remained small enough, and in need of labor enough, to value all members. It is important to recognize that although these were settled groups, there was still no property ownership in the way that we conceive of it today. 17

18 Pre-modern societies “Civilizations” or city-states developed about 8,000 years ago. These societies were typically large and had a significant degree of inequality. They were also usually imperial, meaning that the conquest of other peoples and societies was commonplace. From 6000 BCE onward, we see the beginnings of traditional “civilizations” or city-states. These were much larger societies, occasionally with a population of a million or more. Civilizations—so called because of the flourishing of literature, science, and art—were much more centralized, and more settled, and perhaps as a result of these things along with more material ownership, had more advanced systems of inequality. An additional change was that these societies had political systems in place, meaning that authority was now located in the hands of a king or governor (an appointed figure). 18

19 Industrialization Beginning in the eighteenth century in Britain, mass production, via mechanized factories, rapidly changed the economy. The Western European countries and the United States were the early industrializers, experiencing fast-paced innovation simultaneous with their development as nation-states. Beginning in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, societies in Western and Northern Europe underwent a major and rapid shift toward an industrial economy. This was visible in the shift from the guild system to the factory system and was accompanied by dramatic changes in nearly all aspects of life. Thousands of people migrated to the growing industrial cities, leaving their rural villages and homes behind for a life where they would sell their labor in a proto-capitalist market. This trend led to changes in family life, religious life, the work life, and even the internal lives of individuals. It is interesting that it was just this shift that inspired the investigation of sociology’s own classical theorists: Marx, Durkheim, and Weber. 19

20 Industrialization and colonialism
Early industrializers colonized other countries for economic gain (and political power). Such relationships frequently interfered with social structures already in place in destructive ways. Though now independent nation-states, these formerly colonized countries largely constitute what we call the “developing world.” One of the darker sides of the history of industrialization is the relationship of the new economy with global colonialism. The first countries to industrialize became imperial in both economy and politics, taking over the control of regions the world over. At its core, this colonization was for economic gain and political power, and success brought both for the colonizers. These nations typically justified such action with claims of saving the lives and souls of savages and ideologies of superiority. Not surprisingly, colonialism served to interfere in many ways with social systems already in place, breaking down political structures, separating tribesmen and families, and even constructing national boundaries in places where they made no sense to local groups. Though nearly all such countries are now independent, the devastation to their development is clear in that they make up most of what we today call the developing world. 20

21 Modern, industrial societies
In these societies, greater than 90 percent of the population lives in urban settings. Work is almost exclusively non-agricultural. Such societies are often characterized as impersonal and anonymous, though not all sociologists agree with this representation. As for how industrial societies look today, there is some debate over whether we are still an industrial society or if we are now post-industrial, post-modern, or something altogether new—maybe an information society. Regardless, some of the trends of industrialization remain in place: we are increasingly urban, almost none of us work in agriculture, and there are concerns about lack of community or lack of connection to one another. This image of our time—whether it is modern, industrial, or something different, is not one that all sociologists agree about. In fact, one fascinating new trend in sociology is to talk about multiple modernities, which is a way of indicating that social processes like industrialization may indeed be taking place in many places, but looking different from one place to the next. 21

22 Globalization and culture
There is virtually no escape from globalization today as a result of technology. Television, the “global economy,” multinational corporations (MNCs), and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), along with e-communication, have changed the face of culture the world over, leading to increased interdependence. Of course with globalization continuing all around us, some wonder if we are all becoming part of some global, industrial, mass produced culture. It is without question true that there really is no escape from a certain kind of global culture that takes place in the public sphere: on television, in sports, in music, through large multinational corporations like Walmart and Nike, and through international aid organizations like the World Bank. We are interdependent, but in a highly non-egalitarian way. 22

23 Map 2.1 The Exploding Internet, 2008
Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company Map 2.1 The Exploding Internet, 2008

24 Response to globalization
Not everyone is happy with globalization. There has been a rise of nationalism, tribalism, and other forms of protest that is largely a rejection of Western culture (often seen as Americanization). Part of the response has also been an emphasis on the importance of local culture. At the same time, there is a great deal of resistance to this process, which finds its face in anti-globalization movements of every type and size. In France, McDonalds restaurants were fire-bombed in protest of the “Americanization” of French culture. In Davos, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum is bombarded with (globally organized) protestors year after year. The most successful forms of protest seem to be proactive rather than reactive. In some places a pro-local culture movement has emerged which seems to strengthen group ties in a way that really works for people. As humans, we need connections with each other, and very often working for a cause provides that connection in a more favorable way than working against something. The bottom line is that globalization and a certain kind of global culture are not going to be stopped, but there is no zero-sum game on culture: local cultures may have to adapt, but they can survive alongside the global. Our cultures are what hold us together, but we must recognize that they are not static. Throughout human history cultures have been changing alongside the many other changes in the structure of social life, and that process will likely continue. 24

25 Chapter 2: Culture and Society

26 Clicker Questions 1. The goods we consume, from the clothes we wear, to the cars we drive, to the houses we live in, are all part of: a. symbolic culture. b. material culture. c. modern culture. d. popular culture. Answer: B Ref: What Is Culture?, p. 41 26

27 Clicker Questions 2. What is a signifier? a. A signifier is the name given to the meaning of a spoken or written word. b. A signifier is any vehicle of meaning, such as speech, writing, dress, or buildings. c. A signifier is the meaning of a symbol. d. A signifier is an electronic sign. Answer: B Ref: How Does Human Culture Develop?, p. 55

28 Clicker Questions 3. Computer hackers could be said to be an example of which of the following? a. a culture b. a subculture c. a society d. a cultural composite Answer: B Ref: How Does Human Culture Develop?, p. 47

29 Clicker Questions 4. Which of the following is an example of a cultural universal? a. the prohibition against incest b. the right to political protest c. a concept of individual rights and freedoms d. the idea of a teenager Answer: D Ref: How Does Human Culture Develop?, p. 53

30 Clicker Questions 5. What is the position of sociologists on the nature/nurture debate? a. Sociologists believe that “biology is destiny.” b. Sociologists ask how nature and nurture interact to produce human behavior. c. No sociologists today acknowledge a role for nature. d. Sociologists do not have a position. Answer: B Ref: How Does Human Culture Develop?

31 Clicker Questions 6. What happened to destroy the forms of society (hunter-gatherer, pastoral, agrarian and traditional/civilization) that dominated the whole of history up to two centuries ago? a. cultural relativism b. the cultural turn c. globalization d. industrialization Answer: D Ref: How Has Industrialization Shaped Modern Society?, p. 59

32 Clicker Questions 7. Which of the following is an example of a cultural universal? a. the prohibition against incest b. the right to political protest c. a concept of individual rights and freedoms d. the idea of a teenager Answer: D Ref: How Does Human Culture Develop?, p. 53

33 Art Presentation Slides
Chapter 2 Culture and Society Anthony Giddens Mitchell Duneier Richard P. Appelbaum Deborah Carr

34 Chapter Opener Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition
Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company Chapter Opener

35 A woman looks at a dish of worms during the
Taipei Chinese Food Festival in Taiwan. Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company

36 Members of a 1960s commune pose together for a group portrait
Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company

37 Harajuku girls stroll down a street in Tokyo, Japan
Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company Harajuku girls stroll down a street in Tokyo, Japan

38 Globalization and Everyday Life
Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company Globalization and Everyday Life

39 Globalization and Everyday Life
Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company Globalization and Everyday Life

40 Papua New Guinean men in traditional clothing and
face paint at the Sing- Sing Annual Cultural show. Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company

41 Spinach Pierogi Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition
Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company Spinach Pierogi

42 Bocce Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition
Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company Bocce

43 Cologne Cathedral, built in the Middle Ages, stands at the
center of Cologne, Germany, and towers over the city, symbolizing the central role Christianity played in medieval European life. Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company

44 Over 90 percent of the people who live in industrial
societies live in cities or towns. Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company

45 Women waiting in line for food in Calcutta, India
Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company Women waiting in line for food in Calcutta, India

46 Map 2.1 The Exploding Internet, 2008
Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company Map 2.1 The Exploding Internet, 2008

47 Using the Internet to connect with the world around
them is common among young people across cultures. Essentials Of Sociology, 3rd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company

48 Essentials Of Sociology
W. W. Norton & Company Independent and Employee-Owned This concludes the Art Presentation Slides Slide Set for Chapter 2 Essentials Of Sociology THIRD EDITION by Anthony Giddens Mitchell Duneier Richard P. Appelbaum Deborah Carr

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