The Foundation of Social Life! Elements of Culture Breaking norms

The Foundation of Social Life!
• Culture
– The beliefs, values, norms of behavior, symbols,
and material objects shared by a particular people
– Culture is also the social process through which
meaning is constructed and disseminated
Elements of Culture
• Norms
– Culturally defined standards or rules of conduct
• Mores – high moral consequences, e.g. murder
• Folkways – considerable leeway, e.g. farting in class or
picking your nose
• Sanctions
– rewards or punishments for violating norms
Breaking norms, an example:
Elements of Culture
• Values
– Standard of judgment by which people decide on
desirable goals and outcomes
– Standards of judgment or desirability
• Like what?
• Examples: people might value health, privacy, freedom,
education, success, hard work, personal property,
money, youth, solidarity, etc.
Elements of Culture
• Symbols
– Something used to represent or stand for
something else
Elements of Culture
• Language
– Written or spoken system of symbols that conveys
– Language is the most powerful symbol through
which social reality is constructed and maintained
• E.g. “Layoff” or “workforce reduction”
• E.g. “Collateral damage” or “dead civilians”
Power and Culture
• Assigning meaning to symbols is often
contentious and contested
The Significance of Culture
• Humans need culture to survive
• Culture guides human behavior
• Culture gives meaning to our lives
Power and Culture
• Influence over culture increases power to
define social reality
Culture is Learned
• Learned behavior is not instinctual
– “Greed” is not human nature
• We are, for the most part, not instinctual
creatures; we are cultural creatures
• Specifics of culture change, but culture itself is
Our entire base of
knowledge is a
cultural artifact
• Identify a FOLKWAY and violate it. Write a
brief essay providing a sociological analysis
being sure to:
1. Identify the specific norm you violated
2. Describe the reactions of the people around you
3. Explain how you felt while you were violating the
4. Discuss what this experiment taught you about
socialization and social control