Culture: meaning and definitions, structure and types, functions, difference between culture and civilization

Culture: meaning and definitions, structure and types, functions, difference between culture and civilization

Culture encompasses the shared beliefs, values, customs, and behaviors of a group, with a complex structure comprising material and non-material elements, diverse types such as material, symbolic, and sociocultural, serving functions like providing identity and shaping behavior, and differs from civilization by encompassing broader aspects of a society's way of life beyond technological and organizational advancements.

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What is Culture?

Culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, customs, traditions, worldviews, behaviors, artifacts and overall way of life that give a social group, organization, or society a distinctive identity and outlook.

Definitions of Culture

  • Tylor defines culture as Complex whole including knowledge, morals, traditions, customs and capabilities acquired as a member of society.
  • Parsons defines culture as Patterned and shared way of thinking and behaving instilled through social learning.

Elements of Culture

  • Observable things like food, clothing, language, techniques, rituals
  • Values, rules, customs, ideology as deeper layers regulating observable forms

Types of Culture

Culture can be differentiated in terms of scale or expanse.

For example: national, regional, group, organizational and political cultures. It can also vary by elements like high vs folk culture based on sophistication.

Functions of Culture

  • Shapes collective identity and belonging for social groups
  • Enables sharing of ideas through common communication systems
  • Promotes social control and conformity to expected norms as it is learned
  • Provides solutions to fulfill society’s basic needs
  • Transmits knowledge from generation to generation

Culture vs Civilization

Civilization denotes the advanced stage in human social and technological development historically associated with progress, urbanization and industry in a population. Culture denotes shared patterns of living, understanding and behavior that may or may not reflect a high level of societal sophistication or development. Every society has a culture but not every culture reflects an advanced civilization.

Culture is a complex social construct embedding the essence of communities while continuously evolving across history.

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