Current General Studies Magazine (September 2014)
Art and Culture based Article
Culture as Civilization
Many people today have an idea of “culture” that developed in
Europe during the 8th and early 19th centuries. This notion of culture reflected
inequalities within European societies and between European powers and their
colonies around the world. It identifies “culture” with “civilisation” and
contrasts it with “nature.” According to this way of thinking, one can classify
some countries as more civilised than others and some people as more cultured
than others. Some cultural theorists have thus tried to eliminate popular or
mass culture from the definition of culture. Theorists such as Matthew Arnold
(1822-1888) or the Leavises regard culture as simply the result of “the best
that has been thought and said in the world” Arnold contrasted culture with
social chaos or anarchy. On this account, culture links closely with social
cultivation: the progressive refinement of human behaviour. Arnold consistently
uses the word this way: “... culture being a pursuit of our total perfection by
means of getting to know, oh all the matters which most concern us, the best
which has been thought and said in the world”.
In practice, culture referred to elite goods and activities
such as Mute cuisine, high fashion or haute couture, museum-caliber art and
classical music and the word cultured described people who knew about and took
part in these activities. For example, someone who used ‘culture’ in the sense
of ‘cultivation’ might argue that classical music is more refined than music
produced by working-class people, such as punk rock or the indigenous music
traditions of aboriginal peoples of Australia.
People who use the term “culture” in this way tend not to use
it in the plural as “cultures”. They do not believe that distinct cultures
exist, each with their own internal logic and values;, but rather that only a
single standard of refinement suffices, against which one can measure all
groups. Thus, according to this worldview, people with different customs from
those who regard themselves as cultured do not usually count as “having a
different culture,” but are classed as “uncultured.” People lacking “culture”
often seemed more “natural,” and observers often defended (or criticised)
elements of high culture for repressing “human nature”.
Culture as Worldview
During the Romantic era, scholars in Germany, especially those concerned with
- such as the nationalist struggle to create a “Germany”out of diverse
principalities and the nationalist struggles by ethnic minorities against
the Austro-Hungarian Empire
- developed a more inclusive notion of culture as “worldview.” In this
mode of thought, a distinct and incommensurable worldview characterises each
ethnic group. Although more inclusive than earlier views, this approach to
culture still allowed for distinctions between “civilised’ and “primitive”
or “tribal” cultures.
By the late 19th century, anthropologists had adopted and
adapted the term culture to a broader definition that they could apply to a
wider variety of societies. Attentive to the theory of evolution, they assumed
that all human beings evolved equally and that the fact that all humans have
cultures must in some way result from human evolution. They also showed some
reluctance to use biological evolution to explain differences between specific
cultures — an approach that either exemplified a form of or segment of society
vis-a-vis other segments and the society as a whole, they often reveal processes
of domination and resistance.
In the 1950s, subcultures — groups with distinctive
characteristics within a larger culture— began to be the subject of study by
sociologists. The 20th century also saw the popularisation of the idea of
corporate culture — distinct and malleable within the context of an employing
organisation or a workplace.
Culture is simply the result of “the best that has been thought and said
in the world”, define.
What is corporate cuture, is it very relevant in today’s world?