What is culture? The term culture seems to be an easy concept to define. However, if we take a look at the many contexts in which this expression can be used, we will realize that this is not entirely true.
We all have a perhaps general conceptualization of what culture is. Some people would define it to a set of traditions and principles that a certain civilization possesses, others would say that culture is nothing more than a group of traits that define the beliefs of a group of people, either through cultural heritages or research.
The truth is that there are many concepts for this term. In this article, we are going to explore all the definitions that exist about culture, understanding that context is the true determining factor in meaning. Definitions will be presented according to each context.
Culture is a term that refers to a broad and diverse set of mainly intangible aspects of social life. According to sociologists, culture consists of the values, beliefs, language systems, communication and practices that people share in common and that can be used to define them as collective.
Culture also includes the material objects that are common to that group or society. Culture is distinct from the social structure and economic aspects of society, but it is connected to them, both continuously informing and being informed by them.
Culture in sociology
Culture is one of the most important concepts within sociology because sociologists recognize that it plays a crucial role in our social lives.
It is important in shaping social relationships, maintaining and challenging social order, determining how we make sense of the world and our place in it, and shaping our everyday actions and experiences in society. It is made up of non-material and material things.
In short, sociologists define non-material aspects of culture as values and beliefs, language, communication, and practices shared by a group of people. By expanding into these categories, culture is made up of our knowledge, common sense, assumptions, and expectations.
They are also the rules, norms, laws and morals that govern society; the words we use, as well as how we speak and write them (what sociologists call “speech”); and the symbols we use to express meaning, ideas, and concepts (like road signs and emojis, for example).
Culture is also what we do and how we behave and act (eg theater and dance). It informs and is summarized in how we walk, sit, carry our bodies and interact with others, how we behave according to place, time and “audience”, and how we express identities of race, class, gender and sexuality, among others .
Culture also includes the collective practices in which we participate, such as religious ceremonies, holding secular holidays, and attending sporting events.
Material culture is made up of the things that humans make and use. This aspect of culture includes a wide variety of things, from buildings, technological gadgets, and clothing, to movies, music, literature, and art, among others.
Aspects of material culture are more commonly referred to as cultural products.
Sociologists see the two sides of culture, the material and the non-material, as intimately connected. Material culture emerges from and is shaped by the non-material aspects of culture.
In other words, what we value, believe, and know (and what we do together in everyday life) influences the things we do. But it is not a one-way relationship between material and non-material culture.
Material culture can also influence non-material aspects of culture. For example, a powerful documentary film (an aspect of material culture) could change people’s attitudes and beliefs (that is, non-material culture).
That is why cultural products tend to follow patterns. What has come before in terms of music, film, television and art, for example, influences the values, beliefs and expectations of those who interact with them, which, in turn, influences the creation of additional cultural products.
Why culture is important to sociologists
Culture is important to sociologists because it plays an important and important role in the production of social order.
Social order refers to the stability of society based on the collective agreement of rules and norms that allow us to cooperate, function as a society, and live together (ideally) in peace and harmony. For sociologists, there are good and bad aspects of the social order.
Rooted in the theory of the classical French sociologist Émile Durkheim, both the material and non-material aspects of culture are valuable because they hold society together.
The values, beliefs, morals, communication, and practices that we share in common provide us with a sense of shared purpose and a valuable collective identity.
Durkheim revealed through his research that when people come together to participate in rituals, they reaffirm the culture they have in common and, in doing so, strengthen the social ties that bind them.
Today, sociologists see that this important social phenomenon occurs not only at religious rituals and celebrations such as (some) weddings and the Indian festival of Holi, but also at secular festivals, such as high school dances and large televised sporting events. attendance (for example, the Super Bowl and March Madness).
The famous Prussian theorist and social activist Karl Marx established the critical approach to culture in the social sciences. According to Marx, it is in the realm of non-material culture that a minority can maintain unjust power over the majority.
He reasoned that subscribing to conventional values, norms, and beliefs keeps people engaged in unequal social systems that don’t work in their best interests, but instead benefit the powerful minority.
Today’s sociologists see Marx’s theory in action in the way that most people in capitalist societies believe that success comes from hard work and dedication, and that anyone can live a good life by doing these things, despite the reality that a job that pays a living wage is increasingly difficult to come by.
Both theorists were right about the role that culture plays in society, but neither was exclusively correct.
Culture can be a force for oppression and domination, but it can also be a force for creativity, resistance, and liberation. It is also a deeply important aspect of human social life and social organization. Without it, we would not have relationships or society.
What is general culture?
The general culture is all the knowledge that a person dominates around a universe of topics, which will allow him to make value judgments with respect to a specific situation or idea.
This knowledge can be acquired through normative studies (mathematics, geography, world history, language, etc.) or through own research.
Despite being general domain knowledge, that is, knowledge that everyone can access, not all people have the same level of general knowledge.
Likewise, this knowledge is not used for practical purposes, but rather for informational purposes, more specifically, to give opinions on various specific topics. In short, a broad level of general culture will allow a person to present his ideas under solid criteria, based on real events and with concrete information.
What is popular culture?
Popular culture refers to all the traditions, artistic manifestations and folkloric acts characteristic of a town or region respectively. All these knowledge and beliefs are generally proclaimed by the popular classes, that is, people from the middle and lower classes, formerly known as the plebs.
Knowledge of popular culture is one of the most distinctive aspects of a society, since it expresses its beliefs and root traditions. Musical expressions are one of the best examples of popular culture, being one of the most important symbols in explaining the origins and customs of a society.
All societies have popular culture. However, the assessment of this entire body of knowledge will be determined, mainly, by its level of development and its cultural roots.
In fact, it is very common for popular tradition to have a greater concentration in the more rural areas of a region.
What is the organizational culture?
Organizational culture is that body of values and standards applied in a company, in order to reinforce principles that allow the correct and efficient performance of tasks.
This culture is applied in order to mold all the members of a company to a specific model for carrying out their operations. All the values that make up the organizational culture are defined in a company, and then, they are instructed to the employees.
In this way, each company defines its own organizational culture, which will depend on its working methods, its products, its objectives and its vision specifically. Organizational psychology studies the concept of organizational culture, and even trains professionals in the area called organizational psychologists.
Its task is to guide all employed personnel to an assertive organizational culture, where all goals and objectives can be achieved in a timely manner.
What is culture for children?
The culture for children constitutes all those principles that, as part of a society, they must acquire as they develop in a school space.
This, in order that they have the necessary principles to perform in the areas they want in the future, offering quality training, starting from the most important principles.
This culture is based on the idea that all people must be inserted into society through the mastery of a set of knowledge. This set will allow you to understand your environment, and even more, to be part of it.
The culture for children is the link that all infants must go through to obtain all the necessary tools, specifically, those knowledge with which they can be inserted in higher fields of study, and later, become part of a guild.
What is pop culture?
Unlike the previous concepts, that of pop culture is not, for example, as concrete as in the case of organizational. The first thing we must do is rescue the concept of popular culture, but in this case, with a much broader vision as far as its scope is concerned.
In other words, pop culture is all the trends, traditions and symbols that are part of a bygone era or today. As an example, the culture of the “80s” could be defined as a pop culture, where we could observe a tradition in clothing, verbal expression, musical tastes, etc.
In this way, pop culture is made up of all the elements of the social type that stand out in a certain generation or current era.
Pop culture has been strengthened in recent years after the takeover of the media and access to information increasingly easy. The result, a greater insertion on the part of the population towards the tendencies of pop culture.
If we observe, we live in a pop culture, where different traditions around identity and customs are observed.
What is the culture of peace?
The culture of peace is a set of values that emphasizes the forceful rejection of violent behaviors or attitudes.
This culture was defined by the UN, in 1999, in order to value negotiation and dialogue as the most appropriate mechanisms for solving problems.
The culture of peace is also a way of life, where all those behaviors that promote a peaceful attitude are promoted.
People are committed to agreeing under peace, undoing all those forms, whether physical or verbal, that involve a violent act, and, therefore, damage.
The purpose of the culture of peace is to eradicate all violent behavior from world society, giving greater value to peace as the only feature and alternative towards which to direct solutions to the most complex social problems.
What is civic culture?
Surely we have heard the expression “duties” just before or after the expression “rights”. Typically, a person is entitled to his rights to the extent that it corresponds to his duties.
Citizen culture plays an important role in this order. In this regard, civic culture constitutes all the actions, customs and traditions that a group of citizens, as part of a given country, must comply with in accordance with the regulations.
All these features are part of the values that a citizen must preserve to enjoy coexistence and harmony among a group of people.
The application of a correct civic culture will guarantee actions both at the private and public levels that allow the quality of life, as well as joint respect for norms that facilitate the holding of different processes, such as the right to vote.
What is corporate culture?
Company culture is a set of values, affirmations, traditions, and thoughts that the employee body of a company practices. Unlike the organizational culture, the corporate culture is oriented to shape the way in which employees live in the company, that is, the way in which they communicate, dress and carry out their work.
Let us remember that the organizational culture is aimed at improving work dynamics so that the company can effectively achieve all its objectives for work.
Meanwhile, the corporate culture focuses on the habits that a specific company has characterized in all its personnel.
In the body of the corporate culture, are the forms of customer service, the way in which the company transmits its image from its employees and the treatment of its partners.
The corporate culture speaks of the behavior of a company, while the organizational one, of the way in which a work team appropriates the necessary tools for its objectives.
What is environmental culture?
Environmental culture is also a set of customs that aim to conserve the environment. More specifically, environmental culture is the way humans create a relationship with the environment.
In this case, the purpose is to generate a beneficial exchange for the ecosystem, and in that sense, for human life. To this end, attitudes towards the constant improvement and conservation of green spaces are fostered in environmental culture.
Subsequently, actions are characterized in which one or more people make different efforts to promote care for the environment, not only in those who belong to this culture, but also in the average citizen.
Surely, we all have a certain level of environmental culture, although we do not conceptualize it in this way. In this regard, it comprises a series of practices that, together, promote care for the environment.
The first, promoting awareness of the space in which we live, the second, creating positive habits for the environment from everyday life. It is also possible to find warning and education campaigns on the importance of caring for the environment.
What is the culture of legality?
The culture of legality is the knowledge that the citizens of a country dominate in the face of the rule of law. In other words, it is the full knowledge of a person of all the rights and duties that he possesses as part of a nation.
The culture of legality is committed to full respect for the laws of a country, appealing to compliance with them. Naturally, this represents a disregard for non-compliance with legal regulations.
Citizens of a country know, respect and enact the laws of its constitution, making reference to the regulatory instruments or institutions necessary in a given situation.
Thus, the culture of legality is defined as the respect, application and recognition of the laws of a society by its members.
What is political culture?
Citizens of a country have different knowledge and criteria about the political landscape of its population. They exchange ideas and make different value judgments, trying to find the most effective solutions for the needs of their nation.
This set of criteria and knowledge is what is called political culture. Political culture is a practice that all citizens practice at some point in their lives, where they put their criteria to the test in the analysis of political events in their country.
The massification of information has significantly reinforced this pillar in society, which is why many people today have a significant political culture.
What is physical culture?
Physical culture is all those practical and theoretical knowledge that a society has regarding different sports practices or physical activities.
This, with the aim of guaranteeing your well-being, beyond your physiological health, of the relationship between your mind and your body respectively. Physical culture corresponds to the level of mastery and practice that a person performs in a certain sport or physical activity.
Your objectives may vary, as it will be defined by the degree of involvement of the person. For example, professional athletes have a high level of physical culture, while amateurs cannot match this.
A concept with multiple semantics As we can see, culture is a concept that has different meanings.
Each one, depending on the context, which will be specified according to the word after culture, where we can understand what it is about, or, in other words, what type of culture we could be talking about.