Culture is a hot topic. Scholars (Fukoyama, Huntington, to mention but two) disagree about whether this is the end of history or the beginning of a particularly nasty chapter of it.
What makes cultures tick and why some of them tick discernibly better than others is the main bone of contention.
We can view cultures through the prism of their attitude towards their constituents : the individuals they are comprised of. More so, we can classify them in accordance with their approach towards "humanness", the experience of being human.
Some cultures are evidently anthropocentric others are anthropo-transcendental. These two lingual coins need elaboration to be fully comprehended.
A culture which cherishes the human potential and strives to create the conditions needed for its fullest materialization and manifestation is an anthropocentric culture. Such striving is the top priority, the crowning achievement, the measuring rod of such a culture, its attainment - its criterion of success or failure.
On the other pole of the dichotomy we find cultures which look beyond humanity. This "transcendental" look has multiple purposes.
Some cultures want to transcend human limitations, others to derive meaning, yet others to maintain social equilibrium. But what is common to all of them regardless of purpose is the subjugation of human endeavour, of human experience, human potential, all things human to this transcendence.
Granted : cultures resemble living organisms. They evolve, they develop, they procreate. None of them was "created" the way it is today. Cultures go through Differential Phases wherein they re-define and re-invent themselves using varied parameters. Once these phases are over the results are enshrined during the Inertial Phases. The Differential Phases are period of social dislocation and upheaval, of critical, even revolutionary thinking, of new technologies, new methods of achieving set social goals, identity crises, imitation and differentiation.
They are followed by phases of a diametrically opposed character :
Preservation, even stagnation, ritualism, repetition, rigidity, emphasis on structures rather than contents.
Anthropocentric cultures have differential phases which are longer than the inertial ones.
Anthropotranscendental ones tend to display a reverse pattern.
This still does not solve two basic enigmas :
What causes the transition between differential and inertial phases ?
Why is it that anthropocentricity coincides with differentiation and progress / evolution while other types of cultures with an inertial framework ?
A culture can be described by using a few axes :
Distinguishing versus Consuming cultures
Some cultures give weight and presence (though not necessarily equal) to each of their constituent elements (the individual and social structures). Each such element is idiosyncratic and unique. Such cultures would accentuate attention to details, private enterprise, initiative, innovation, entrepreneurship, inventiveness, youth, status symbols, consumption, money, creativity, art, science and technology.
These are the things that distinguish one individual from another.
Other cultures engulf their constituents, assimilate them to the point of consumption. They are deemed, a priori, to be redundant, their worth a function of their actual contribution to the whole.
Such cultures emphasize generalizations, stereotypes, conformity, consensus, belonging, social structures, procedures, forms, undertakings involving the labour or other input of human masses.
Future versus Past Oriented Cultures