Main Components of Culture

Topics: Culture, Anthropology, Sociology Pages: 5 (1228 words) Published: February 14, 2014
Main Components of Culture

Menuka Munasinghe
World Religion
Mr. T. Perera
1.1.1 ­Introduction

Anthropologists and other social scientists offer many different definitions of "culture." Most people understand that culture has something to do with the customs and beliefs of a group of people. It is common to explain a holiday tradition, a spiritual belief or a child-rearing practice as part of someone's cultural background. An individual's culture strongly influences his or her behavior, beliefs, attitudes and values. This is not a surprising statement; we all have an understanding that many of our present-day beliefs and behaviors have their roots in what we learned growing up in our own particular cultures. Anthropologists and other social scientists offer many different definitions of "culture." Most people understand that culture has something to do with the customs and beliefs of a group of people. It is common to explain a holiday tradition, a spiritual belief or a child-rearing practice as part of someone's cultural background. An individual's culture strongly influences his or her behavior, beliefs, attitudes and values. This is not a surprising statement; we all have an understanding that many of our present-day beliefs and behaviors have their roots in what we learned growing up in our own particular cultures.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines culture as “the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time”, “a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.” and “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)”

1.1.2 Definitions of Culture By Theorists

Edward Tylor (1871)
On the first page of Primitive Culture, Tylor provides a definition which is one of his most widely recognized contributions to anthropology and the study of religion. “Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

Franz Boas (1911)
Culture may be defined as the totality of the mental and physical reactions and activities that characterize the behavior of individuals composing a social group collectively and individually in relations to their natural environment, to other groups, to members of the group itself and of each individual to him. It also includes the products of these activities and their role in the life of the groups. The mere enumeration of these various aspects of life, however, does not constitute culture. It is more, for its elements are not independent, they have a structure.

1.1.3 Main Components of culture

Material Culture
This refers to the physical objects, resources, and spaces that people use to define their culture. These include homes, neighborhoods, cities, schools, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, offices, factories and plants, tools, means of production, goods and products, stores, and so forth. All of these physical aspects of a culture help to define its members' behaviors and perceptions. For example, technology is a vital aspect of material culture in today's United States. American students must learn to use computers to survive in college and business, in contrast to young adults in the Yanomamo society in the Amazon who must learn to build weapons and hunt. Furthermore, material culture changes rapidly over time.

Non-material Culture
This refers to the nonphysical ideas that people have about their culture, including beliefs, values, rules, norms, morals, language, organizations, and institutions. For instance, the non‐material cultural concept of religion consists of a set of ideas and beliefs about God, worship, morals, and ethics. These beliefs, then, determine how the culture responds to its religious topics, issues, and events. When...


References: Anthropology by Carol R. Ember, Melvin Ember and Peter N. Peregrine
ISBN – 81-7758-391-3
http://varenne.tc.columbia.edu/hv/clt/and/culture_def.html
Gelder, Ken (2007). Subcultures: Cultural Histories and Social Practice ISBN 0-415-37952-0)
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