Unit 1: Culture and Identity
Chris. Livesey and Tony Lawson
Unit 1: Culture and Identity
Contents 1. Different conceptions of culture, including subculture, mass culture, high and low culture, popular culture, global culture. 2
2. The Socialisation Process and the Role of Agencies of Socialisation.
3. Sources and Different Conceptions of the Self, Identity and Difference.
4. The Relationship of Identity to Age, Disability, Ethnicity, Gender, Nationality, Sexuality and Social Class in Contemporary Society. 5. Leisure, consumption and identity.
1. Different conceptions of culture, including subculture, mass culture, high and low culture, popular culture, global culture. Secondly, we can note a basic distinction between two dimensions of culture: Material culture consists of the physical objects (“artifacts”), such as cars, mobile phones and books, a society produces and which reflect cultural knowledge, skills, interests and preoccupations. Non-Material culture, on the other hand, consists of the knowledge and beliefs that influence people’s behaviour. In our culture, for example, behaviour may be influenced by religious beliefs (such as Christianity, Islam or Buddhism) and / or scientific beliefs – your view of human evolution, for example, has probably been influenced by Darwin’s (1859) theories. This distinction, while necessary, is not hard-and-fast because physical artifacts (such as mobile phones) have cultural meanings for the people who produce and use them. A house, for example, is not simply somewhere to live (although that, of course, is it’s primary or intended purpose). Houses also have cultural meanings – for both those who own them and those who don’t. The type of house someone owns, for example, says something about them and this illustrates a significant idea about the symbolic nature of both cultures as a whole and the artifacts they produce. There is, for example, nothing inherent in “a house” that tells us its meaning, as opposed to its purpose (or function). It can mean different things to different individuals and groups within a particular culture, just as it could conceivably mean different things to different cultures.
Culture is a significant concept for sociologists because it both identifies a fundamental set of ideas about what sociologists’ study and suggests a major reason for the existence of Sociology itself – that human social behaviour can be explained in the context of the social groups into which people are born and within which they live their lives. In this Chapter we’re going to explore a range of ideas relating to both culture and its counterpart, identity and to do this we need to develop both a working definition of culture and an understanding of its different dimensions.
Concepts of Culture: Observations
In the Introductory Chapter we offered a general definition of culture by representing it as a distinctive “way of life”. We also noted that culture involves teaching and learning (a socialisation process). However, in this Section we need to think a little more clearly about what we mean by “culture” and we can do this by noting that the concept encompasses a range of ideas and meanings relating to roles, values and norms as well as institutional structures (such as types of family, work, educational and political systems), beliefs and the variety of “arts and artifacts” produced by different cultures. In addition, we can add to this mix both Dahl’s (2001) argument that culture is “a collectively held set of attributes, which is dynamic and changing over time” and the idea that Cultural artifacts (also known societies develop as ”books”). mechanisms for the transmission of cultural signs, symbols and meanings (ideas we’ll develop throughout this Chapter) from one generation to the next.
Some types of housing may mean more to people than...