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


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

Chapter 3 Culture and Society Hardware and
Software of Our Social World
Soc 100
Dr. Santos
Culture and Society
  • Society as hardware
  • Culture as software

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

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

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

Evolution of Societies
  • Organic societies
  • Large, complex societies
  • Held together by the specialization of tasks
  • Division of labor that carry significant status
  • Efficiency is a key value
  • Institutions and rule-driven bureaucratic
    organizations begin to exist.
  • 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

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 --gt spousal exchanges
  • Nomadic, usually in circular seasonal patterns
  • Small (between 20-50 members)
  • Gendered division of labor with little status
  • 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

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

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
  • Traditional gender roles emerge patriarchy
  • Some material possessions are unequally
    distributed, as casts/strata emerge

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 --gt peasantization is
    accompanied with the rise of the central state
    landlord classes, who exploit and oppress the
    peasants dispossess them of surplus.

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

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 --gt bigger wars revolutions
  • Population concentrates in cities urbanization
    and de-peasantization
  • Kinship patterns change women lose status
  • Social change becomes ever more rapid

Types of Societies
  • Postindustrial Societies
  • Technology, or scientific knowledge used for
    utilitarian or economic purposes, is very
  • Majority of labor force in service positions
  • The division of labor more pronounced
  • Technical and professional education increasingly
  • Stratification based on technological knowledge
    and education now overlaps wealth status
  • Emphasis on science to solve social problems
  • 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,

Culture The Software
  • Culture is the way of shared life by a group of
    peoplethe 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

Real Versus Ideal Culture
  • 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

Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativity
  • Ethnocentrism is the tendency to view ones own
    group and its cultural values expectations as
    right, proper, and superior to others
  • Were Number One!
  • Cultural relativism is setting aside ones own
    personal beliefs and prejudices to understand and
    value a culture by its own standards, or as a
    member of that culture would

(No Transcript)
Culture and Our Social World (at the National
Geoculture of the world-system
Micro-level Analysis Microstructures
  • Microcultures organizations that influence only
    a small segment of an individuals lives or only
    affects an individuals life for a small period
    of time

Meso-level Analysis Subcultures and
  • 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 peoples 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)

Meso-level Analysis Subcultures and
  • 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
  • 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.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nonmaterial Culture Language
  • Spoken language
  • Uses a set of sounds to symbolize objects or
  • Sounds generally hold common meaning to all
    members of a culture
  • Written language
  • Uses a set of images to symbolize objects or
  • 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

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

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
  • We learn meanings of symbols through interaction
    with others
  • We define how we should act through our
    definition of situations and symbols

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

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
  • However sometimes shared norms, values, and
    beliefs are dysfunctional for individuals or
    groups of individuals within a society

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
  • 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

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