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What does it mean that culture is all-encompassing?

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What does it mean that culture is all-encompassing?

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  • April 8, 2003
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By describing culture as all-encompassing, anthropologists are referring to the fact that culture not only includes, but is largely responsible for all human behavior. It is my opinion that humans, for the most part, can be characterized as a sum of their learned behaviors. There are, however, some human behaviors, such as eating, drinking, and reproducing, that are often assumed to be instinctual. I feel, however, that they may not be. Humans are born with biological needs to eat and drink along with an innate desire for reproduction, which is visible in all cultures, but the expression of these necessities are widely varied. It is my belief that one's culture dictates how a person acts on these instincts by teaching them what is "normal" and acceptable. Cultures force natural or instinctive drives to adapt to suit the well being of a much larger group of people.

But these three fundamental components of life (food, drink, and reproduction) are not the only possible examples that can be used to explain the broadness of meaning behind the idea of culture. Culture shapes the way people think, act and react to changes within their society and within their environments. But, culture also refers to the creative expressions of peoples, (written and oral stories, artwork, craftsmanship, and ideas) the beliefs people hold (religion, morals, laws, tradition, and societal structure) and how they live (adaptation to environment, tools, homes, and foods). Culture plays a role in all human expression.