Sample Material of Our IAS Mains GS Online Coaching Programme
Subject: General Studies (Paper 1 - Indian Heritage and
Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)
Topic: Culture Introduction
Culture has been called “the way of life for an entire
society.” As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion,
rituals, norms of behaviour and systems of belief. Various definitions of
culture reflect differing theories for understanding — or criteria for
evaluating— human activity. Sir Edward B.Tylor writing from the perspective of
social anthropology in the UK in 1871 described culture in the following way:
“Culture or civilisation, taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that whole
complex which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other
capabilities and habits acquired by “man as a member of society.”
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”:
Culture as Civilisation
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”.
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
— 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 culturei— 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 as Symbols
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.
They are the “webs of significance” in Weber’s sense that, to quote Pierre
Bourdieu (1977), “give regularity, unity and systematicity to the practices of a
Culture as a Stabilising Mechanism
Modern cultural theory also considers the possibility that (a) culture itself
is a product of stabilisation tendencies inherent in evolutionary pressures
toward self-similarity and self-cognition of societies as a whole or tribalisms.
Steven Wolfram’s A new kind of science iterated simple algorithms from genetic
unfolding, from which the concept of culture as an operating mechanism can be
developed and Richard Dawkins’ The Extended Phenotype for discussion of genetic
and memetic stability over time, through negative feedback mechanisms.
Cultures within a Society
Large societies often have subcultures or groups of people
with distinct sets of behaviour and beliefs that differentiate them from a
larger culture of which they are a part. The subculture may be distinctive
because of the age of its members or by their race, ethnicity, class or gender.
The qualities that determine a subculture as distinct may be aesthetic,
religious, occupational, political, sexual or a combination of these factors.
CULTURE OF INDIA
The culture of India was moulded throughout various eras of history, all the
while absorbing customs, traditions and ideas from both invaders and immigrants.
Many cultural practices, languages, customs and monuments are examples of this
co-mingling over centuries.
In modern India, there is remarkable cultural and religious
diversity throughout the country. This has been influenced by the various
regions of India, namely South, North and North-East, have their own distinct
identities and almost every state has carved out its own cultural niche. In
spite of this unique cultural diversity, the whole country is bound as a
civilisation due to its common history, thereby preserving the national
Regions; Indian culture can be classified into many varied
form which are existent in their totality throughout the territory of India. The
culture of India has been influenced by various religions and customs of the
world, which resulted in the mingling of religious values, folk idioms and art
forms. While the religious influence is quite evident in the “classical” Indian
culture mostly found in smaller towns and villages, the urban India is now
widely influenced by globalisation.
India is a fascinating country where people of different communities and
religions live together in unity. Indian Population is polygenetic and is an
amazing amalgamation of various races and cultures.
It is impossible to find out the exact origin of Indian
People. The species known as Ramapithecus was found in the Siwalik foothills of
north western Himalayas. The species believed to be the first in the line of
hominids. (Human Family) lived some 14 million years ago. Researchers have found
that a species resembling the Austrapithecus lived in.
India some 2 million years ago. Even this discovery leaves an evolutionary
gap of as much as 12 million years since Ramapithecus.
There are diverse ethnic groups among the people of India. The 6 main ethnic
groups are as follows:
2. Proto-Australoids or Austrics
4. Mediterraneans or Dravidians
5. Western Brachycephals
6. Nordic Aryans