Chapter 3. CultureFigure 3.1. Graffiti’s mix of colourful drawings, words, and also icons is a vibrant expression of culture—or, depending on one’s viewpoint, a disturbing expression of the creator’s lack of respect for a community’s mutual room. (Photograph courtesy of aikijuanma/Flickr)

Learning Objectives

3.1. What Is Culture?

Differentiate in between culture and society.Distinguish in between biological and cultural explacountries of human behaviour.Compare and contrast cultural universalism, cultural relativism, ethnocentrism, and also androcentrism.Examine the plan of multiculturalism as a solution to the problem of diversity.

You are watching: A widely accepted way of thinking or behaving is a ____.

3.2. Elements of Culture

Understand the basic aspects of culture: values, ideas, and standards.Exsimple the definition of symbols and language to a society.Describe the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.Distinguish product and nonproduct culture.

3.3. Culture as Innovation: Pop Culture, Subculture, and also Global Culture

Distinguish two settings of culture: creation and restriction.Discuss the distinction between high society, pop society, and also postmodern-day society.Differentiate in between subsociety and also counterculture.Understand the role of globalization in cultural readjust and regional lived suffer.

3.4. Culture as Restriction: Rationalization and also Comchange

Describe society as a type of restriction on social life.Exordinary the effects of rationalization and consumerism.

3.5. Theoretical Perspectives on Culture

Discuss the major theoretical viewpoints to cultural interpretation.

Summary to Culture

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Figure 3.2. Fast food country. (Photograph courtesy of Jon Bunting/Flickr)

Are tbelow rules for eating at McDonald’s? Generally, we perform not think around rules in a rapid food restaurant because they are designed to be casual, quick, and convenient. But if you look about one on a typical weekday, you will watch people acting as if they were trained for the duty of rapid food customer. They stand also in line, pick their items from overhead menus prior to they order, swipe delittle bit cards to pay, and stand to one side to collect trays of food. After a quick meal, customers wad up their paper wrappers and also toss them into garbage cans. This is a food system that has end up being highly rationalized in Max Weber’s terms. Customers’ movement through this quick food routine is orderly and predictable, even if no rules are posted and no officials straight the process.

If you want even more insight right into these unwritten rules, think about what would take place if you behaved according to some various other criteria. (You would be doing what sociologists call a “breaching experiment” in ethnomethodology: deliberately disrupting social standards in order to learn about them.) For example: call ahead for reservations; ask the cashier detailed questions about the food’s ingredients or exactly how it is prepared; barter over the price of the burgers; ask to have your meal served to you at your table; or throw your trash on the ground as you leave. Chances are you will elicit hostile responses from the restaurant employees and your fellow customers. Although the rules are not written down, you will have violated deep seated tacit standards that govern behaviour in rapid food restaurants.

This example mirrors a more comprehensive template in the society of food and diet. What are the rules that govern what, as soon as, and exactly how we eat? Michael Pollan (b. 1955), for example, contrasts the North American culture of rapid food via the intact heritages of eating sit-down, family meals that still overcome in France and also other European nations (2006). In spite of eating foodstuffs that many North Americans think of as unhealthy — butter, wheat, triple-cream cheese, foie gras, wine, and so on. — the French, in its entirety, remajor healthier and thinner than North Americans.


The French eat all sorts of supposedly unhealthy and balanced foods items, but they do it according to a strict and secure set of rules: They eat small portions and don’t go back for seconds; they don’t snack; they hardly ever eat alone; and also communal meals are lengthy, leisucount affairs. (Pollan, 2006)

Their cultural rules fix and also constrain what people consider as food and also just how human being consume food. The national cuisine and also eating habits of France are well establimelted, oriented to pleasure and also tradition, and as Pollan argues, well incorporated right into French social life all at once.

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Figure 3.3. French dessert of raspberry crème brulee. Does a nation’s cuisine reexisting a rule-bound tradition, an imaginative and inventive art, or both? (Picture courtesy of Йоана Петрова/Flickr)

In The United States and Canada, on the other hand also, rapid food is simply the pointer of an iceberg via respect to a bigger crisis of diet in which enhancing levels of obesity and also eating disorders are coupled with a raising profusion of health diets, weight reducing diets, and also food fads. While an alarming variety of North Amerideserve to meals are consumed in cars (19 percent, according to Pollan), the counter-trend is the obsession via nutritional science. Instead of an orientation to food based on cultural legacy and pleasure, civilization are oriented to food in terms of its biochemical constituents (calories, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, omega fatty acids, saturated and unsaturated fats, etc.). Tbelow are Atkins diets, zone diets, Mediterranean diets, paleolithic diets, vegan diets, gluten cost-free diets, Weight Watchers diets, raw food diets, and so on.; an endmuch less proliferation that Pollan qualities to a basic stress that North Americans have around food and health. While each form of diet clintends scientific proof to support its health and wellness and other claims, evidence which is disturbingly inconsistent, essentially the alternative of diet revolves around the social definitions attributed to food and its nutritional components:


that taste is not a true overview to what need to be eaten; that one must not simply eat what one enjoys; that the crucial components of food cannot be seen or tasted, however are discernible just in scientific laboratories; and that speculative scientific research has actually created rules of nutrition that will certainly prevent illness and encourage longevity. (Levenstein as cited in Pollan, 2006)

It is necessary to note that food society and also diet are not infinitely malleable, however. Tbelow is an underlying organic reality of nutrition that defines the parameters of dietary option. In his documentary Super Size Me (2004), Mbody organ Spurlock carried out a version of the sociological participant monitoring research by committing himself to eating just McDonald’s food for 30 days. As an outcome, he acquired 24 pounds, increased his cholesterol and also fat build-up in his liver, and also skilled mood swings and sexual dysfunction. It is clear that one cannot survive on quick food alone; although many type of adolescents and also university students have been recognized to attempt.

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Figure 3.4. Kentucky Fried Chicken instant maburned potato, 1974. (Picture courtesy of Roadsidepictures/Flickr)

Sociologists would argue, therefore, that everything about rapid food restaurants, option of diet, and actions of food usage mirrors culture, the beliefs and behaviours that a social team shares. Diet is a product of culture. It is a product of the various meanings we attribute to food and to the connection we have with our bodies. The significant allude is that while diet is a response to the standard conditions of organic life, diet is also a significant site of invention and diversity. Culture in general is a site of 2 opposing tendencies: one is the way that societies roughly the human being lay down sets of rules or standards which constrain, restrict, habitualize, and also settle forms of life; the various other is the method that cultures develop endlessly innovative and diverse solutions to problems choose nutrition. Cultures both constrain and also continually go beyond constraints.

This raises the difference in between the terms “culture” and also “society” and also exactly how sociologists conceptualize the connection in between them. In day-to-day conversation, human being hardly ever differentiate in between these terms, but they have slightly different interpretations, and the distinction is vital to exactly how sociologists study society. If culture refers to the beliefs, artifacts, and also methods of life that a social team shares, a society is a team that interacts within a common bounded territory or region. To clarify, a culture represents the beliefs, techniques, and material artefacts of a team, while a culture represents the social structures, procedures, and also company of the people that share those beliefs, practices, and material artifacts. Neither society nor society could exist without the various other, yet we can sepaprice them analytically.

In this chapter, we examine the partnership in between society and society in higher detail, paying special attention to the facets and also pressures that shape society, including diversity and also social changes. A final discussion touches on the various theoretical perspectives from which sociologists research society.

3.1. What Is Culture?

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Figure 3.5. What is culture? (Image courtesy of Chris Jones/Flickr)

Humans are social creatures. Due to the fact that the dawn of Homo sapiens, virtually 200,000 years ago, civilization have actually grouped together right into areas in order to make it through. Living together, human being arisen creates of participation which developed the prevalent habits, behaviours, and ways of life recognized as society — from specific approaches of childrearing to preferred methods for obtaining food. Peter Berger (b. 1929) suggested that this is the result of a basic huguy predicament (1967). Unfavor other pets, human beings absence the biological programming to live on their very own. They call for an extensive period of dependency in order to make it through in the environment. The development of society makes this feasible by giving a protective shield versus the harsh impositions of nature. Culture provides the ongoing stability that allows human visibility. This indicates, however, that the huguy environment is not nature per se but culture itself.

Over the background of humanity, this has actually lead to an incredible diversity in just how humans have imagined and also lived life on Earth, the sum full of which Wade Davis (b. 1953) has actually dubbed the ethnosphere. The ethnospbelow is the whole of all cultures’ “means of thinking, ways of being, and also ways of orienting oneself on the Earth” (Davis, 2007). It is our collective social heritage as a types. A single culture, as the sphere of interpretations mutual by a single social group, is the suggests through which that group renders feeling of the world and of each other. But there are many cultures and also many type of methods of making feeling of the world. Thunstable a multiplicity of social developments, human cultures have actually adapted to the environmental and biological problems of human existence in many type of different methods. What perform we learn from this?

Firstly, practically eexceptionally humale behaviour, from shopping to marriage to expressions of feelings, is learned. In Canada, civilization tend to see marital relationship as an option in between two people based on shared feelings of love. In various other countries and in various other times, marriperiods have actually been arranged through an complex process of interviews and also negotiations in between entire households, or in various other instances, via a straight mechanism such as a mail-order bride. To someone elevated in Winnipeg, the marital relationship personalizeds of a household from Nigeria may seem starray or also wrong. Conversely, someone from a conventional Kolkata family could be perplexed via the idea of romantic love as the structure for the lifelong commitment of marriage. In other words, the way in which world check out marital relationship relies mostly on what they have been taught. Being acquainted with these composed and unwritten rules of culture helps human being feel secure and also “normal.” Most civilization desire to live their daily lives confident that their behaviours will not be challenged or disrupted. Behaviour based upon learned customs is, therefore, not a bad thing, but it does raise the difficulty of how to respond to social distinctions.

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Figure 3.6. The cultural norms governing public transport vary in Canada, Austria, Mumbai, and also Tokyo. How would a visitor from a rural Canadian tvery own act and feel on this crowded Tokyo train? (Photograph courtesy of simonglucas/Flickr)

Secondly, society is innovative. The visibility of different social practices reveals the way in which cultures find different options to real life problems. The different creates of marital relationship are assorted solutions to a common difficulty, the trouble of organizing households in order to raise kids and reproduce the species. The basic trouble is shared by the various cultures, yet the remedies are various. This illustprices the allude that society in basic is a way of solving difficulties. It is a tool created of the capacity to abstract and also conceptualize, to corun and coordinate facility cumulative endeavours, and also to modify and construct the civilization to suit huguy purposes. It is the repository of creative solutions, techniques, and innovations human beings attract on once confronting the fundamental common troubles of humale visibility. Culture is, therefore, vital to the method people, as a species, have actually effectively adapted to the setting. The presence of various cultures describes the different means through which people use creation to free themselves from organic and eco-friendly constraints.

Thirdly, society is additionally restraining. Cultures retain their distinctive patterns with time. In international capitalism, although Canadian culture, French culture, Malaysian society and also Kazakhstani culture will certainly share specific features like rationalization and also comalteration, they additionally differ in regards to languperiods, beliefs, dietary practices, and also various other means of life. They adapt and also respond to capitalism in unique manners according to their certain common heritperiods. Local cultural develops have the capacity to restrain the transforms produced by globalization. On the other hand, the diversity of local societies is progressively limited by the homogenizing pressures of globalization. Economic practices that prove inefficient or uncompetitive in the worldwide industry disshow up. The meanings of social techniques and knowledges readjust as they are turned right into assets for tourist consumption or are patented by pharmaceutical service providers. Globalization significantly restrains cultural creates, methods, and possibilities.

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There is a dynamic within culture of innovation and restriction. The social fabric of common definitions and also orientations that permits individuals to make feeling of the world and also their location within it can either adjust via call through various other cultures or via changes in the sociofinancial formation, enabling civilization to reinvision and also reinvent themselves, or it can remain rigid and restrict readjust. Many type of modern problems to execute with identity and belonging, from multiculturalism and also hybrid identities to spiritual fundamentalism, have the right to be taken within this dynamic of creation and restriction. Similarly, the impacts of social adjust on means of life, from the brand-new settings of digital communication to failures to respond to climate adjust, involve a anxiety in between innovation and also restriction.