Chapter 2 culture and social
• Culture refers to the social heritage of a people—those learned
patterns for thinking, feeling, and acting that are transmitted from
one generation to the next, including the embodiment of these
patterns in material items. It includes both nonmaterial culture—
abstract creations like values, beliefs, symbols, norms, customs, and
institutional arrangements—and material culture—physical artifacts
or objects like stone axes, computers, loincloths, tuxedos,
automobiles, paintings, hammocks, and domed stadiums.
• Society refers to a group of people who live within the same territory
and share a common culture. Very simply, culture has to do with the
customs of a people, and society with the people who are practicing
the customs. Culture provides the fabric that enables human beings
to interpret their experiences and guide their actions, whereas
society represents the networks of social relations that arise among
a people.
Components of culture
• Norms
Norms are social rules that specify appropriate and inappropriate
behavior in given situations. They tell us what “should”,
“ought”, and “must” do, as well as what we “should not”,
“ought not” and “must not” do. In all cultures, the great
body of rules deal with such matters as sex, property, and safety.
--Folkways: describe socially acceptable behavior without moral
significance. Nonconformity does not threaten society. Ex.
--Mores: greater moral significance is attached, nonconformity
does threaten society, violations are defined by LAW to assure
social stability.
Components of Culture
values are broad ideas regarding what is desirable, correct, and
good that most members of a society share. Values are so
general and abstract that they do not explicitly specify which
behaviors are acceptable and which are not. Instead, values
provide us with criteria and conceptions by which we evaluate
people, objects, and events as to their relative worth, merit,
beauty, or morality. Shared beliefs on what is good and bad.
objects and the rules for using them, rules for acceptable use
Components of culture
• Symbols and language
– Symbols are acts or objects that have come to be
socially accepted as standing for something else.
They come to represent other things through the
shared understanding people have.
– Language is a socially structured system of sound
patterns (words and sentences) with specific and
arbitrary meanings. Language is the cornerstone of
every culture. Its is the chief vehicle by which people
communicate ideas, information, attitudes, and
emotions to one another. And its is the principal
means by which human beings create culture and
transmit it from generation to generation.
Levels of Culture
• Cultural trait- an individual tool, act or belief
• Combine Cultural complexes- cluster inter-related
• Culture Patterns- the entire
Inter-related whole
Football---all sports culture
Cultural Universals
• Differences, but all same basic human needs that
society must meet
• George Murdock, 1940s study, 65 cultural universals
found (music, body adornment, funeral ceremonies,
myths and folklore, gifting, medicine)
• Ex family- introduce new members to society, care until
self-sufficient, introduce to culture…look differentextended family, 1 husband several wives, single parent
• Margaret Mead, 2 societies differ, Arapesh v.
Mundugmor, temperament result of culture not biology
• Edward Sapir & Benjamin Whorf: linguistic
• 1. language shapes how people think
• 2. people who speak different languages
perceive the world in different ways
• Language conditions you to notice some
aspects and ignore others
• Inuit SNOW
• Ethnocentrism- tendency to view own culture as
superior. Can build unity. Can stagnate society as shut
off from ideas and others. Can lead to conflict.
• Cultural Relativism- Cultures should be judged only
by their own standards not those of another culture.
Understand don’t judge.
• Cows in India, Marvin Harris, Cannibals & Kings, key role in
• Cultural discontinuity- subgroups who live within a
predominant culture—what if at odds?
• Subculture-don’t need to reject all the values of the
predominant culture, ethnic, religion, age, occupational
political, geographic, gender—no threat to society, can
serve important functions
• Counterculture- REJECTS predominant values, norms of
the larger society, replaces them with a new set of
cultural values. Hippie movements of the 1960s.
What are American values?
• Robin M. Williams, “American Society”, 15
values central to American life
Personal achievement
Morality & Humanitarianism
Efficiency & Practicality
Progress & Material Comfort
Equality & Democracy
• Other core values: nationalism, patriotism,
science & rationality
• James Henslin- education, religious values
not of a particular church, romantic love
• Physical fitness, fulfillment of potential
• Environmentalim in 60s
Values can conflict
• Culture of narcissism- potential disorder to
• Capitalism is a material gain culture good?
Daniel Bell-NO focus bad, Daniel
Yankelovich- YES good
• Advertising- see 1500-3000 commercials a
• HW: magazines, pics
• Internalization of norms- people follow
because believe good, becomes part of a
persons personality
• What if reject?
• Motivate people to follow because of
rewards or punishment
• POSITIVE- use rewards, praise good
behavior. Ex. Pay raises, cheering crowd,
encourages conformity to norms
• NEGATIVE- to discourage unwanted
behavior, punishment. Ex. Ridicule,
frowns…fines, imprisonment
• FORMAL- if praise/punishment is paid by
a formal institution or regulatory agency:
school, business, government—low
grades, suspension, demotion at job vs.
raises, awards, medals
• INFORMAL- most norms are enforced
informally. Compliments, gifts v. gossip,
ridicule, ostracism
• Enforcing norms through internal or
external means.
• Societies self-regulate to maintain stability.
• How do societies change? Slow v. rapid
change? Stability risked?
• 1. Values and Beliefs- change one part of the system all
• Ideology-system of beliefs that justify the social, moral,
religious, political or economic interests held by a group
or society.
• Social Movements-long term conscious effort to promote
or prevent social change. Large numbers of people. Ex.
Civil Rights, Prohibition, Women’s Suffrage,
Environmental. Can transform the entire political
• 2. Technology- use to manipulate your
environment. Inventions material and
• 3. Population- change in the size of the
population or a new subgroup bringing a
new influence. Ex: change in average age
of population, migration, economic
• 4. Diffusion-process by which cultural traits
are spread from one society to another.
Increase contact increases sharing. Media
now constant. REFORMULATION is when
a culture adapts a trait to their own needs.
• 5. Physical environment- food= scarcity,
natural disasters, change in natural
resources- ex Oil crisis 70s.
• 6. Wars and Conquests- loss of lives, war
zone cultures, change in the status of
women on the homefront WW II.
Resistance to Change
• Ethnocentrism- if change comes from outside
• Cultural Lag- timeframe for change, material culture
changes faster than nonmaterial. Ex: summer vacations,
James Henslin-needed for agricultural reasons but
resistance to year round schooling; computers and
• Vested Interests- if satisfied with the status quo, why
risk the unknown? Workers against new technology. Oil
companies resist alternative fuels.