THE NATURE OF CULTURE

  1. What is culture?
    1. Culture refers to all the things, material or symbolic, produced by a people.
      1. Material and ideational (symbolic) culture.
      2. The importance of ideational culture.
      3. Components of ideational culture.
        1. Symbols and language.
        2. Norms, values, and beliefs.
        3. Statuses and roles.
        4. Groups, organizations, institutions, and systems.
    2. Culture, both material and ideational, is created by human beings.
      1. There is no natural or inevitable culture.
      2. Culture is not given to humans by outside forces.
      3. Culture is negotiated and produced by interacting individuals as they attempt to order and organize their lives in a meaningful and productive way.
      4. It can be seen as collectively agreed upon patterns of meaning and interaction; agreed upoon ways of thinking, believing, acting, and feeling.
      5. The symbols, language, norms, values, beliefs, groups, organizations, institutions, and systems that make up our culture are all human products.
    3. Although the product of human interaction, culture also influences and shapes social interaction. That is, previously created and agreed upon arrangements and patterns structure subsequent interactions. Thus, culture, once produced, structures social interaction. Culture is social structure.
    4. Since the relationship between interaction and culture is reciprocal, with each influencing and shaping the other, culture is continually evolving and changing.
      1. People can and do renegotiate and change culture as social and historical environments and situations change.
      2. Cultural change is normal and inevitable.
    5. Every group and organization has a culture, not just societies as a whole.
      1. National or societal culture.
      2. Subcultures.
      3. Organizational and group cultures.
    6. Culture is transmitted and passed on through socialization.
      1. Learning culture.
      2. Passing culture from one generation to the next.
      3. Variations in socialization.
    7. Culture tends to be taken-for-granted.
      1. Culture as habit and common sense.
      2. Culture as a common stock of knowledge.
      3. Garfinkel's breaching experiments.
         
  2. The production of culture.
    1. Culture as human adaptation.
      1. Evolution, adaptation, and the survival of the fittest.
      2. The frailty of the human animal.
        1. Lack of strength, speed, defense.
        2. Lack of instincts, reflexes and drives.
        3. Dependency of infant.
        4. Cooperation and the production of culture was necessary for human survival.
      3. The anatomical basis of culture.
        1. Year round sexual availability of female.
        2. Opposing thumbs and upright posture.
        3. Large brain and immense vocal abilities.
      4. The development of language and culture.
        1. The importance of language.
        2. Words as symbols.
        3. Language as a symbol system.
        4. Interaction and communication.
        5. Language and the production of culture.
      5. Culture is produced as interacting human beings produce material goods and symbolic products (language, norms, values, beliefs, etc.) to order and organize their lives in meaningful and productive ways.
    2. Ideational (symbolic) culture is produced through a process called reification.
      1. Social construction and externalization--Through social interaction, members of a group negotiate and collectively agree upon certain meanings and understandings. These socially produced meanings and understandings are used and shared by members of the group. If use is consistent, widespread, and enduring, these meanings and understandings come to be seen as "common sense," something everyone in the group knows.
      2. Socialization and internalization--Through socialization, these meanings and understandings are passed down from generation to generation. Members born into the group take for granted the meanings and understandings they are taught. They do not question them. They accept them as truth, as fact, as reality; never realizing that they are simply collective agreements that their predecessors arrived at years ago.
      3. Alienation and objectification--With repeated and continual use, these meanings and understandings take on a life of their own. Recurrent use results in a taken-for-grantedness that makes the socially created meanings and understandings seem as if they have always been there, as if they have some greater external source, as if they are absolutes that cannot be questioned. They often come to be seen as external, objective realities that have their origins outside the group and over which the group has little or no control.
    3. The production and maintenance of mass culture in modern industrial societies.
      1. Production of culture in traditional societies vs. modern industrial societies.
      2. Mass media and the production of mass culture.
      3. Wealth, power, and cultural hegemony.
    4. Sustaining and maintaining culture.
      1. The role of ideology.
      2. Ideology, ritual and behavior.
      3. Institutionalization.
         
  3. The implications of viewing culture as a human product.
    1. Cultural diversity is inevitable. Different social collectives will produce different cultures as they organize themselves and adapt to their physical and social environment.
      1. No culture is better or worse than another. All are humanly produced. There is no natural or divinely ordained cultural order. Therefore, we must be relativistic when considering cultural differences.
      2. Avoiding ethnocentrism.
      3. Moral versus practical relativism.
    2. Cultural change is inevitable.
      1. Culture is a work in progress. It is continually developing and changing as new ideas, beliefs, and values develop or new inventions and discoveries are made.
      2. While not all cultures change in the same way or at the same rate, change is normal and should be expected.