Current General Studies Magazine (August 2014)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organisation UNESCO (2002) described culture as follows:”... culture should be
regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and
emotional features of society or a social group and that it encompasses, in
addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value
systems, traditions and beliefs”.
Key Components of Culture
A common way of understanding culture sees it as consisting of four elements
that are “passed on from generation to generation by learning alone”:
Values comprise ideas about what in life seems important.
They guide the rest of the culture. Norms consist of expectations of how people
will behave in various situations. Each culture has methods, called sanctions,
of enforcing its norms. Sanctions vary with the importance of the norm; norms
that a society enforces formally have the status of laws. Institutions are the
structures of a society within which values and norms are transmitted.
Artifacts–things or aspects of material culture—derive from a culture’s values
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”.
From the 18th century onwards, some social critics have
accepted this contrast between cultured and uncultured, but have stressed the
interpretation of refinement and of sophistication as corrupting and unnatural
developments that obscure and distort people’s essential, nature.
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.
The symbolic view of culture, the legacy of Clifford Geertz
(1973) and Victor Turner (1967), holds symbols’ to be both the practices of
social actors and the context that gives such practices meaning. Anthony P.
Cohen (1985) writes of the “symbolic gloss” which allows social actors to use
common symbols to communicate and understand each other while still imbuing
these symbols with personal significance and meanings. Symbols provide the
limits of cultured thought. Members of a culture rely on these symbols to frame
their thoughts and expressions in intelligible terms. In short, symbols make
culture possible, reproducible and readable.
Culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive virtues, does they
symbolizes our society?
What do you mean by Mute cuisine? What is the difference between ‘having
a different culture’ and ‘being uncultured’?