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Chapter 3: Culture and Society: Hardware and Software of Our Social World

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  1. Chapter 3: Culture and Society: Hardware and Software of Our Social World Soc 100 Dr. Santos

  2. Culture and Society • Society as “hardware” • Culture as “software”

  3. The Importance of Software • Culture makes societies unique. Culture is the way of life shared by a group of people. • Knowledge • Beliefs • Values • Rules or laws • Language • Customs • Symbols • Material products • Culture provides a guideline for carrying out tasks and giving meaning to human activities

  4. Society: The Hardware • Societies are composed of structures • Positions we hold • Groups we belong to • Institutions

  5. Society: The Hardware • Society develops in stages depending on many things • Availability of resources • Technological/scientific knowledge • Contact with other societies • Cultural beliefs • Political events and changes

  6. Evolution of Societies • Mechanic societies • Small, simple, pre-modern societies • Held together by common beliefs, values, and emotional ties • Labor is divided by male/female distinctions and age groupings, with little or no status inequality • Organic societies • Large, complex societies • Held together by the specialization of tasks • Division of labor that carry significant status inequalities • Efficiency is a key value • Institutions and rule-driven bureaucratic organizations begin to exist.

  7. Types of Societies • Hunting and Gathering (Band) Societies • 99% of human history • Rely on wild vegetation and animals to live (none domesticated); this includes fishing & scavenging • Organized around kinship --> spousal exchanges • Nomadic, usually in circular seasonal patterns • Small (between 20-50 members) • Gendered division of labor with little status difference • Resources shared fairly: sharing is highest value • No rulers or chiefs - stateless • Actions and behaviors dictated through tradition or survival in specific ecological niches • Lack material possessions and the desire for them

  8. Types of Societies • Herding and Horticultural Societies • Herding (pastoral) societies • produce small herds of domesticated animals for food and survival • Horticultural societies • maintain small garden plots of domesticated plants for food and survival: nomadic, semi-nomadic, settled village modes • Combined with gathering, hunting & fishing activities to various degrees • Chiefdoms emerged, from temporary to hereditary; from one village to many

  9. Types of Societies • Herding and Horticultural Societies • Semi-Nomadic • Relatively small (50 - 3,000 members) in Old World; became quite large in New World • Status differences become important and produce inequality • “Traditional” gender roles emerge: patriarchy & matriarchy • Some material possessions are unequally distributed, as casts/strata emerge

  10. Types of Societies • Agricultural Societies • Rely on raising domesticated crops for food • Use technological advances for increased efficiency and higher crop yields • Plows • Irrigation • Use of animals • Fertilization • Very labor intensive --> peasantization is accompanied with the rise of the central state & landlord classes, who exploit and oppress the peasants & dispossess them of surplus.

  11. Types of Societies • Agricultural Societies • Permanent settlements • Use of advanced technologies • Populations can be large (1,000,000 or more) • Stratification intensifies • Peasant classes • Ruling classes: kings & dynasties, landlord nobilities, priests • Institutions beyond the family are established • Religious • Political • Military organizations

  12. Types of Societies • Industrial Societies • Rely on mechanized production • Pronounced division of labor • Rise in overall standard of living • Wide gaps between owners and laborers appear and are the subject of bitter class struggle • State power and coercive apparatus become consolidated --> bigger wars & revolutions • Population concentrates in cities: urbanization and de-peasantization • Kinship patterns change: women lose status • Social change becomes ever more rapid

  13. Types of Societies • Postindustrial Societies • Technology, or scientific knowledge used for utilitarian or economic purposes, is very important • Majority of labor force in service positions • The division of labor more pronounced & globalized • Technical and professional education increasingly important • Stratification based on technological knowledge and education now overlaps wealth & status stratification • Emphasis on science to solve social problems including: • Creating alternate energy sources • Finding automated ways of completing tasks • Using computers and robots to complete tasks formerly done by individuals • Information Revolution: the internet, cable TV, etc.

  14. Culture: The Software • Culture is the way of shared life by a group of people—the knowledge, beliefs, values, rules or lays, language, customs, symbols, and material products within a society that help meet human needs & give meaning to human activities

  15. We teach new members of our society the ideal culture, or the practices and beliefs that are most desirable & avowed However, the real culture of a society refers to the way things in society are actually done, including those practices and beliefs that are unavowed or deemed undesirable Real Versus Ideal Culture

  16. Ethnocentrism is the tendency to view one’s own group and its cultural values & expectations as right, proper, and superior to others: We’re Number One! Cultural relativism is setting aside one’s own personal beliefs and prejudices to understand and value a culture by its own standards, or as a member of that culture would Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativity

  17. Culture and Our Social World (at the National Level) Geoculture of the world-system

  18. Micro-level Analysis: Microstructures • Microcultures – organizations that influence only a small segment of an individual’s lives or only affects an individual’s life for a small period of time

  19. Meso-level Analysis: Subcultures and Countercultures • A subculture is a social unit smaller than & embedded in a national state but large enough to sustain people throughout the life span • Elements that make them unique • Share conventions and expectations of national dominant culture • Influence people’s lives in pervasive ways • Not so “Sub:” May actually exist “repeatedly” in various contiguous or dispersed national states: oppressed nationalities (Kurds), diasporas (African, Chinese, Jewish) and culture regions (Western Hemisphere Indigenous Peoples)

  20. Meso-level Analysis: Subcultures and Countercultures • A counterculture is a group or movements with expectations and values that challenge or contrast sharply with the dominant values of a particular society • Values or practices that go against laws and regulations of the dominant culture • May wish to replace values of the larger culture • Most often short-lived, but may have lasting impact • Some aspects accepted by the dominant culture • Countercultures can challenge unfair treatment of powerless groups in society or various shortcomings in its dominant culture (consumerism, eco-toxic, violent prone or militaristic, shallow & unenchanted, etc.)

  21. Macro-level Analysis: National and Global Culture • Natural Culture and Society • Every culture intricately related to a society • Global Society and Culture • Globalization is the process where the entire globe is becoming a “single socio-cultural place” - each world era has its “geoculture” • Globalization or Westernization? • Global culture is the behavioral standards, symbols, values, and material objects that have become common across the globe

  22. Material Culture: The Artifacts of Life • Material culture includes all the objects we can see or touch, all the artifacts of a group of people

  23. Nonmaterial Culture: Beliefs, Values, Rules, and Language • Nonmaterial culture is the invisible and intangible parts of culture • Beliefs • Values • Norms/Rules • Language

  24. Nonmaterial Culture: Beliefs • Beliefs are ideas we hold about life, about the way the society works, and about where we fit into it • Based in tradition • Influence choices we make

  25. Nonmaterial Culture: Values • Values are nonmaterial shared judgments about what is desirable or undesirable, right or wrong, good or bad • So much a part of the way of life that they can be hard to identify • Groups in society can have different values • can lead to group conflict

  26. Nonmaterial Culture: Rules • Norms are rules of behavior shared by members of a society and rooted in the value system • Folkways • Mores • Taboos • Laws

  27. Non-material Culture: Sanctions • Sanctions are behaviors that reinforce norms through rewards and penalties • Formal sanctions • Positive formal sanctions • Negative formal sanctions • Informal sanctions • Positive informal sanctions • Negative informal sanctions

  28. Nonmaterial Culture: Language • Language is the spoken, written, or nonverbal use of symbols to convey meaning, objects, or ideas • Takes three forms: • Spoken • Written • Nonverbal • The foundation of every culture • Makes culture possible

  29. Nonmaterial Culture: Language • Spoken language • Uses a set of sounds to symbolize objects or ideas • Sounds generally hold common meaning to all members of a culture • Written language • Uses a set of images to symbolize objects or ideas • Societies tend to store information through written language • Makes communication over distances possible • Nonverbal language • Uses gestures, facial expression, and body posture to symbolize an object or idea

  30. Nonmaterial Culture: Language • The linguistic relativity theory posits that people who speak a specific language make interpretations of their reality based on their knowledge of that language

  31. Understanding Culture:Symbolic Interaction Theory • How we learn to share meanings of symbols • Symbols are the basic element of all cultures • “Humanness” comes from the impact we have upon each other through shared understandings of symbols • We learn meanings of symbols through interaction with others • We define how we should act through our definition of situations and symbols

  32. Understanding Culture:Symbolic Interaction Theory • Three steps through symbols gain meaning and importance • The symbol is created • The symbol is objectified, assuming a reality independent of the creator • The group internalizes the symbol

  33. Understanding Culture:Structural Functionalism • Looks for the functions or purposes behind the actions and practices of a culture • Shared norms, values, and beliefs serve the function of holding a society or a subculture together • However sometimes shared norms, values, and beliefs are dysfunctional for individuals or groups of individuals within a society

  34. Understanding Culture:Conflict Theory • Societies are composed of groups; each of which protects its own self-interests and struggles to make its own cultural ways dominant in the society • Dominant groups may impose their cultural beliefs on minorities and other subcultural groups • This practice can create conflict • People with privilege and power in society manipulate agents of socialization so people learn the values, beliefs, and norms of the privileged group(s) • However, conflict theory does not explain stable societies

  35. Policy and Cultural Change • Technology is bringing change to societies around the world • Cultural lag occurs when shifts in society occur unequally between material culture and nonmaterial culture • New technologies must be used cautiously • Some can save lives • Others can disrupt and destroy cultures