In common parlance, the word culture, is understood to mean beautiful, refined or interesting. In sociology we use the word culture to denote acquired behavior which are shared by and transmitted among the members of the society.
In other words, culture is a system of learned behaviour shared by and transmitted among the members of a group. Culture has been defined in various ways by sociologists and anthropologists. Following are the important definitions of culture. Malinowski defines "Culture the handwork of man and conventional understanding manifest in art and artifact which persisting through which he achieves his ends". For a clear understanding of the concept of culture it is necessary for us to know its main characteristics.
Culture has several characteristics. Following are the main characteristics of culture. Culture is not inherited biologically, but learnt socially by man. It is not an inborn tendency. There is no culture instinct as such culture is often called learned ways of behaviour. Unlearned behaviour such as closing the eyes while sleeping, the eye blinking reflex and so on are purely physiological and culture sharing hands or saying namaskar or thanks and shaving and dressing on the other hand are culture.
Similarly wearing clothes, combing the hair, wearing ornaments, cooking the food, drinking from a glass, eating from a plate or leaf, reading a newspaper, driving a car, enacting a role in drama, singing, worship etc.
Culture does not exist in isolation. Neither it is an individual phenomenon. It is a product of society. It originates and develops through social interaction. It is shared by the members of society. No man can acquire culture without association with other human beings. Man becomes man only among men. It is the culture which helps man to develop human qualities in a human environment. Deprivation is nothing but deprivation of human qualities.
Culture in the sociological sense, is something shared. It is not something that an individual alone can possess. For example customs, tradition, beliefs, ideas, values, morals, etc. Culture is something adopted, used, believed practised or possessed by more than one person.
It depends upon group life for its existence. Culture is capable of being transmitted from one generation to the next. Parents pass on culture traits to their children and they in turn to their children and so on.
Culture is transmitted not through genes but by means of language. Language is the main vehicle of culture. The components of material culture are all the creations objects of the human kind and mind, for example, cars, faucets, computers, trees, minerals just to mention but a few. The transformation of raw material into useable forms through the employment of knowledge is paramount in the achievement of material culture.
For example, we make living abodes to shelter ourselves from the adversities of weather and for our own privacy at the basic level, beyond this we make, use, and share sophisticated, interesting and essential items relaying our cultural orientation. For instance, the types of clothes one wears reflect so much into the culture we subscribe to like school, religion, or where the last vacation was spent.
Non-material culture on the other hand is the abstract or un-seen human creations by the society fashioned towards the behavioural influence of the said society. The components for the non-material culture include symbols, languages, values, and norms. For instance, the activities a society part takes like cricket in India, social institutions such as churches, schools, family, and so forth. The use of language, the patterns of behaviour and beliefs, and values to it shape the direction of a society over time.
Language in its influence on perception, values guiding what the society should be and norms forming the customs of the society. Language in itself is the combination of symbols expressing ideas enabling people to think and communicate amongst each other, either verbally or nonverbally.
Language helps in the description of reality, share experiences, feelings, and knowledge with other people. The use of language enables the creation of visual images, distinction from outsiders thus maintaining societal solidarity and boundaries. It also serves as a unique tool in manipulation of symbols for the expression of abstract concepts and rules therefore creating and transmitting culture between generations.
Throughout the development of the entire life span, culture is learned from the society in which we live. Furthermore, in the diverse population of the United States, ethnic groups or societies will have to interact with other groups outside the realm of their individual self. In order to do so, it is necessary for the societies to exchange languages, ideas, or even, technology. In addition, the changing environments of the world population requires a need for cultural adaptation for basic survival.
For example, a move from the United States, where basic resources are plentiful, to Russia, where the resources are scarce, would force an adaptation to the cultural differences in order to develop a new lifestyle. In conclusion, culture defines who we are, how we think, and how we behave. Some kinds of culture are include better means of making life securer than others.
Cultural traits that offer some advantages, utility, or even pleasures are sought and accepted by societies.
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Culture is the common denominator that makes the actions of the individuals understandable to a particular group. That is, the system of shared values, beliefs, behaviours, and artefacts making up a society’s way of life. Culture can either be represented fin form of material or non material culture.
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