3.1 What Is Culture?

Though  society and  culture are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings. A society is a group of people sharing a community and culture. Culture generally describes the shared behaviors and beliefs of these people, and includes material and nonmaterial elements.. Our experience of cultural difference is influenced by our ethnocentrism and xenocentrism. Sociologists try to practice cultural relativism.

3.2 Elements of Culture

A culture consists of many elements, such as the values and beliefs of its society. Culture is also governed by norms, including laws, mores, and folkways. The symbols and language of a society are key to developing and conveying culture.

3.3 Pop Culture, Subculture, and Cultural Change

Sociologists recognize high culture and popular culture within societies. Societies are also comprised of many subcultures smaller groups that share an identity. Countercultures reject mainstream values and create their own cultural rules and norms. Through invention or discovery, cultures evolve via new ideas and new ways of thinking. In many modern cultures, the cornerstone of innovation is technology, the rapid growth of which can lead to cultural lag. Technology is also responsible for the spread of both material and nonmaterial culture that contributes to globalization.

3.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Culture

There are three major theoretical approaches toward the interpretation of culture. A functionalist perspective acknowledges that there are many parts of culture that work together as a system to fulfill society s needs. Functionalists view culture as a reflection of society s values. Conflict theorists see culture as inherently unequal, based upon factors like gender, class, race, and age. An interactionist is primarily interested in culture as experienced in the daily interactions between individuals and the symbols that comprise a culture. Various cultural and sociological occurrences can be explained by these theories; however, there is no one  right view through which to understand culture..

Introduction to Culture

  • culture: shared beliefs, values, and practices
  • society: people who live in a definable community and who share a culture

Section 3.1  What Is Culture?

  • material culture: the objects or belongings of a group of people
  • nonmaterial culture: the ideas, attitudes, and beliefs of a society
  • cultural universals: patterns or traits that are globally common to all societies
  • ethnocentrism: the practice of evaluating another culture according to the standards of one s own culture
  • cultural imperialism: the deliberate imposition of one s own cultural values on another culture
  • culture shock: an experience of personal disorientation when confronted with an unfamiliar way of life
  • cultural relativism: the practice of assessing a culture by its own standards, and not in comparison to another culture
  • xenocentrism: a belief that another culture is superior to one s own

Section 3.2  Elements of Culture

  • values: a culture s standard for discerning what is good and just in society
  • beliefs: tenets or convictions that people hold to be true
  • ideal culture: the standards a society would like to embrace and live up to
  • real culture: the way society really is based on what actually occurs and exists
  • sanction: a way to authorize or formally disapprove of certain behaviors
  • social control: a way to encourage conformity to cultural norms
  • norms: the visible and invisible rules of conduct through which societies are structured
  • formal norms: established, written rules
  • informal norms: casual behaviors that are generally and widely conformed to
  • mores: the moral views and principles of a group
  • folkways: direct, appropriate behavior in the day-to-day practices and expressions of a culture
  • symbols: gestures or objects that have meanings associated with them that are recognized by people who share a culture
  • language: a symbolic system of communication
  • Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: the way that people understand the world based on their form of language

Section 3.3  Pop Culture, Subculture, and Cultural Change

  • high culture: the cultural patterns of a society s elite
  • popular culture: mainstream, widespread patterns among a society s population
  • subcultures: groups that share a specific identification, apart from a society s majority, even as the members exist within a larger society
  • countercultures: groups that reject and oppose society s widely accepted cultural patterns
  • innovations: new objects or ideas introduced to culture for the first time
  • discoveries: things and ideas found from what already exists
  • inventions: a combination of pieces of existing reality into new forms
  • culture lag: the gap of time between the introduction of material culture and nonmaterial culture s acceptance of it
  • globalization: the integration of international trade and finance markets
  • diffusion: the spread of material and nonmaterial culture from one culture to another

Section 3.1 What Is Culture?

Cultural Universals
Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism

Section 3.2 Elements of Culture

Values and Beliefs
Symbols and Language

Section 3.3 Pop Culture, Subculture, and Cultural Change

High Culture and Popular Culture
Subculture and Counterculture
Cultural Change

 Innovation: Discovery and Invention
 Diffusion and Globalization

Section 3.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Culture

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Section 4.1  Types of Societies

  • society: a group of people who live in a definable community and share the same culture
  • hunter-gatherer societies: societies that depend on hunting wild animals and gathering uncultivated plants for survival
  • pastoral societies: societies based around the domestication of animals
  • horticultural societies: societies based around the cultivation of plants
  • agricultural societies: societies that rely on farming as a way of life
  • feudal societies: societies that operate on a strict hierarchical system of power based around land ownership and protection
  • industrial societies: societies characterized by a reliance on mechanized labor to create material goods
  • information societies: societies based on the production of nonmaterial goods and services

Section 4.2  Theoretical Perspectives on Society

  • collective conscience: the communal beliefs, morals, and attitudes of a society
  • social integration: how strongly a person is connected to his or her social group
  • mechanical solidarity: a type of social order maintained by the collective consciousness of a culture
  • organic solidarity: a type of social order based around an acceptance of economic and social differences
  • anomie: a situation in which society no longer has the support of a firm collective consciousness
  • bourgeoisie: the owners of the means of production in a society
  • proletariat: the laborers in a society
  • capitalism: a way of organizing an economy so that the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) are owned by individual people and companies rather than by the government
  • alienation: an individual's isolation from his society, his work, and his sense of self
  • false consciousness: a person's beliefs and ideology that are in conflict with her best interests
  • class consciousness: the awareness of one s rank in society
  • rationalization: a belief that modern society should be built around logic and efficiency rather than morality or tradition
  • iron cage: a situation in which an individual is trapped by social institutions

Section  4.3 Social Constructions of Reality

  • habitualization: the idea that society is constructed by us and those before us, and it is followed like a habit
  • institutionalization: the act of implanting a convention or norm into society
  • Thomas theorem: how a subjective reality can drive events to develop in accordance with that reality, despite being originally unsupported by objective reality
  • self-fulfilling prophecy: an idea that becomes true when acted upon
  • roles: patterns of behavior that are representative of a person's social status
  • status: the responsibilities and benefits that a person experiences according to his or her rank and role in society
  • ascribed status: the status outside of an individual's control, such as sex or race
  • achieved status: the status a person chooses, such as a level of education or income
  • role-set: an array of roles attached to a particular status
  • role strain: stress that occurs when too much is required of a single role
  • role conflict: a situation when one or more of an individual's roles clash
  • role performance: the expression of a role
  • looking-glass self: our reflection of how we think we appear to others

Section 4.1 Types of Societies

Preindustrial Societies
Industrial Society
Postindustrial Society

Section 4.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Society

Émile Durkheim and Functionalism
Karl Marx and Conflict Theory
Max Weber and Symbolic Interactionism

Section 4.3 Social Constructions of Reality

Roles and Status
Presentation of Self

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