Chapter 3. CultureFigure 3.1. Graffiti’s mix that colourful drawings, words, and symbols is a vivid expression that culture—or, relying on one’s viewpoint, a psychic expression of the creator’s absence of respect because that a community’s mutual space. (Photo courtesy the aikijuanma/Flickr)

Learning Objectives

3.1. What Is Culture?

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

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3.2. Elements of Culture

Understand the straightforward elements of culture: values, beliefs, and also norms.Explain the significance of symbols and language to a culture.Describe the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.Distinguish material and nonmaterial culture.

3.3. Culture as Innovation: popular music Culture, Subculture, and an international Culture

Distinguish two settings of culture: innovation and restriction.Discuss the difference between high culture, popular music culture, and also postmodern culture.Differentiate between subculture and counterculture.Understand the function of globalization in social change and also local live experience.

3.4. Society as Restriction: Rationalization and also Commodification

Describe culture as a form of limit on society life.Explain the ramifications of rationalization and consumerism.

3.5. Theoretical Perspectives on Culture

Discuss the significant theoretical philosophies to social interpretation.

Introduction come Culture

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Figure 3.2. Quick food nation. (Photo courtesy that Jon Bunting/Flickr)

Are over there rules for eating at McDonald’s? Generally, we do not think about rules in a rapid food restaurant due to the fact that they room designed to it is in casual, quick, and convenient. However if girlfriend look approximately one ~ above a usual weekday, you will see human being acting together if they were trained because that the duty of quick food customer. They was standing in line, pick their items native overhead menus prior to they order, swipe debit cards come pay, and also stand come one side to collect trays the food. ~ a quick meal, customers wad up their file wrappers and also toss them into garbage cans. This is a food mechanism that has become highly rationalized in Max Weber’s terms. Customers’ movement through this rapid food regimen is orderly and also predictable, even if no rules room posted and also no officials straight the process.

If girlfriend want an ext insight right into these unwritten rules, think around what would happen if friend behaved follow to some various other standards. (You would certainly be act what sociologists speak to a “breaching experiment” in ethnomethodology: intentionally disrupting social standards in order come learn around them.) for example: contact ahead for reservations; asking the cashier thorough questions about the food’s ingredients or exactly how it is prepared; barter end the price that the burgers; questioning to have actually your meal served to friend at her table; or throw her trash top top the ground as you leave. Possibilities are you will elicit enemy responses native the restaurant employees and your other customers. Return the rules are not composed down, you will have violated deep sit tacit standards that govern behaviour in quick food restaurants.

This example reflects a broader theme in the culture of food and also diet. What space the rules the govern what, when, and how us eat? Michael Pollan (b. 1955), for example, contrasts the phibìc American society of fast food v the undamaged traditions of eat sit-down, family members meals that still dominate in France and other europe nations (2006). Despite eating foods that numerous North american think of together unhealthy — butter, wheat, triple-cream cheese, foie gras, wine, etc. — the French, together a whole, continue to be healthier and thinner 보다 North Americans.


The French eat every sorts that supposedly unhealthy foods, but they carry out it according to a strict and also stable collection of rules: they eat tiny portions and also don’t go back for seconds; they don’t snack; they seldom eat alone; and communal meals space long, leisurely affairs. (Pollan, 2006)

Their social rules fix and also constrain what world consider together food and how civilization consume food. The nationwide cuisine and eating habits of France space well established, oriented to pleasure and tradition, and also as Pollan argues, well combined into French cultural life together a whole.

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Figure 3.3. French dessert of raspberry crème brulee. Go a nation’s cuisine represent a rule-bound tradition, creative and inventive art, or both? (Photo courtesy that Йоана Петрова/Flickr)

In north America, ~ above the other hand, quick food is simply the reminder of an iceberg with respect come a larger crisis of diet in which enhancing levels the obesity and also eating disorders room coupled with boosting profusion of health and wellness diets, weight reducing diets, and also food fads. When an alarming number of North American meals are consumed in car (19 percent, follow to Pollan), the counter-trend is the obsession v nutritional science. Instead of an orientation to food based on social tradition and pleasure, civilization are oriented to food in terms of its biochemical ingredient (calories, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, omega fatty acids, saturated and also unsaturated fats, etc.). There space Atkins diets, ar diets, Mediterranean diets, paleolithic diets, vegan diets, gluten free diets, load Watchers diets, life food diets, etc.; an limitless proliferation the Pollan characteristics to a fundamental anxiety that North americans have around food and health. When each kind of diet claims scientific evidence to support its health and also other claims, proof which is disturbingly contradictory, basically the selection of diet revolves about the social meanings attributed come food and its nutritional components:


that taste is no a true overview to what have to be eaten; that one have to not merely eat what one enjoys; that the important components of food can not be watched or tasted, however are discernible only in scientific laboratories; and that speculative science has developed rules the nutrition that will avoid illness and encourage longevity. (Levenstein as cited in Pollan, 2006)

It is necessary to keep in mind that food culture and diet room not infinitely malleable, however. There is an underlying biological reality that nutrition that defines the parameters of diet choice. In his documentary Super size Me (2004), Morgan Spurlock performed a variation of the sociological participant observation study by committing self to eating only McDonald’s food for 30 days. Together a result, he obtained 24 pounds, increased his cholesterol and also fat accumulation in his liver, and also experienced mood swings and sexual dysfunction. That is clear that one cannot survive on fast food alone; return many teens and college students have actually been well-known to try.

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Figure 3.4. Kentucky Fried Chicken prompt mashed potato, 1974. (Photo courtesy of Roadsidepictures/Flickr)

Sociologists would certainly argue, therefore, the everything about fast food restaurants, selection of diet, and habits of food intake reflects culture, the beliefs and behaviours that a social team shares. Diet is a product of culture. It is a product that the different interpretations we attribute to food and also to the partnership we have with our bodies. The significant point is the while diet is a solution to the an essential conditions of biological life, diet is also a tremendous website of innovation and also diversity. Society in general is a website of 2 opposing tendencies: one is the method that cultures around the human being lay under sets of rules or norms which constrain, restrict, habitualize, and fix forms of life; the various other is the method that cultures produce endlessly innovative and diverse services to difficulties like nutrition. Cultures both constrain and also continually go beyond constraints.

This raises the distinction between the state “culture” and also “society” and how sociologists conceptualize the relationship in between them. In daily conversation, world rarely distinguish in between these terms, yet they have actually slightly various meanings, and the distinction is crucial to how sociologists research culture. If culture refers to the beliefs, artifacts, and ways that life the a social team shares, a society is a team that interacts in ~ a common bounded are or region. To clarify, a culture represents the beliefs, practices, and material artifacts of a group, if a society represents the social structures, processes, and also organization that the people who share those beliefs, practices, and material artifacts. Neither society nor culture could exist without the other, however we can separate them analytically.

In this chapter, we study the relationship between society and society in better detail, paying one-of-a-kind attention to the elements and also forces that form culture, consisting of diversity and cultural changes. A final conversation touches on the different theoretical perspectives indigenous which sociologists study culture.

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. Since the dawn of Homo sapiens, almost 200,000 year ago, human being have grouped with each other into neighborhoods in order to survive. Living together, people developed forms of collaboration which created the common habits, behaviours, and ways of life well-known as society — from details methods of childrearing to wanted techniques for obtaining food. Peter Berger (b. 1929) said that this is the an outcome of a fundamental human predicament (1967). Unlike other animals, human beings lack the organic programming to live on your own. They call for an extended period of suspended in bespeak to make it through in the environment. The development of society makes this feasible by providing a safety shield versus the harsh impositions of nature. Culture provides the recurring stability that permits human existence. This means, however, the the human atmosphere is not nature per se but society itself.

Over the background of humanity, this has actually lead to an remarkable diversity in just how humans have imagined and also lived life ~ above Earth, the sum total of which wade Davis (b. 1953) has dubbed the ethnosphere. The ethnosphere is the entirety of all cultures’ “ways the thinking, ways of being, and also ways that orienting oneself top top the Earth” (Davis, 2007). That is our collective cultural heritage together a species. A solitary culture, together the ball of meanings shared by a single social group, is the way by i beg your pardon that team makes sense of the world and also of each other. But there are countless cultures and also many methods of making feeling of the world. Through a multiplicity of social inventions, human societies have adjusted to the environmental and biological conditions of human being existence in plenty of different ways. What do we discover from this?

Firstly, almost every human being behaviour, from shopping to marriage to expressions of feelings, is learned. In Canada, people tend to view marriage as a an option between two people based on mutual feelings of love. In other nations and also in various other times, marriages have actually been arranged with an intricate procedure of interviews and negotiations in between entire families, or in other cases, through a direct system such as a mail-order bride. To someone increased in Winnipeg, the marriage customizeds of a household from Nigeria might seem weird or even wrong. Conversely, who from a traditional Kolkata family might be perplexed v the idea the romantic love together the structure for the lifelong commitment of marriage. In other words, the method in which civilization view marital relationship depends mostly on what they have actually been taught. Being acquainted with these written and unwritten rules of society helps civilization feel secure and “normal.” Most world want to live their daily lives confident the their behaviours will not be tested or disrupted. Behaviour based on learned customs is, therefore, not a negative thing, but it does raise the trouble of just how to answers to social differences.

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Figure 3.6. The social norms administer public transportation vary in Canada, Austria, Mumbai, and also Tokyo. How would a visitor from a landscape Canadian city act and feel top top this crowded Tokyo train? (Photo courtesy of simonglucas/Flickr)

Secondly, culture is innovative. The presence of different cultural practices discover the way in which societies find different solutions to genuine life problems. The different forms of marital relationship are various solutions to a usual problem, the difficulty of organizing families in order to raise children and also reproduce the species. The basic problem is shared by the different societies, yet the services are different. This illustrates the point that society in general is a method of solving problems. That is a tool composed the the volume to abstract and conceptualize, come cooperate and also coordinate complex collective endeavours, and to modify and construct the human being to suit human being purposes. That is the repository of creative solutions, techniques, and also technologies humans attract on when confronting the simple shared problems of human being existence. Society is, therefore, key to the method humans, as a species, have successfully adjusted to the environment. The visibility of different societies refers to the different method by which humans use creation to free themselves from biological and also environmental constraints.

Thirdly, culture is additionally restraining. Cultures retain your distinctive patterns through time. In worldwide capitalism, although Canadian culture, French culture, Malaysian society and Kazakhstani culture will share specific features like rationalization and also commodification, they also differ in regards to languages, beliefs, diet practices, and other means of life. Lock adapt and also respond to capitalism in distinctive manners according to their specific shared heritages. Local social forms have actually the volume to restrain the transforms produced by globalization. Top top the various other hand, the diversity the local cultures is increasingly minimal by the homogenizing pressures of globalization. Economic practices that prove inefficient or uncompetitive in the global market disappear. The meanings of social practices and knowledges change as they are turned into products for tourist intake or space patented by pharmaceutical companies. Globalization increasingly restrains social forms, practices, and possibilities.

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There is a dynamic within society of innovation and restriction. The cultural fabric of common meanings and also orientations that enables individuals come make sense of the world and also their location within it have the right to either readjust with contact with other societies or with transforms in the socioeconomic formation, permitting people come reinvision and also reinvent themselves, or it can remain rigid and also restrict change. Many modern issues to execute with identity and also belonging, native multiculturalism and also hybrid identities to spiritual fundamentalism, deserve to be understood within this dynamic that innovation and restriction. Similarly, the impacts of social adjust on methods of life, native the new modes of electronic communication to failures come respond to climate change, indicate a tension in between innovation and also restriction.