Chapter 3: Culture and Society:

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Nov 14, 2013 (4 years and 8 months ago)


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.




Rules or laws




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


Society: The Hardware

Society develops in stages depending on
many things

Availability of resources

Technological/scientific knowledge

Contact with other societies

Cultural beliefs

Political events and changes

Evolution of Societies

Mechanic societies

Small, simple, pre
modern societies

Held together by
common beliefs,
values, and emotional

Labor is divided by
distinctions and age
groupings, with little
or no status inequality

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

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
> spousal exchanges

Nomadic, usually in circular seasonal patterns

Small (between 20
50 members)

Gendered division of labor with little status difference

Resources shared fairly: sharing is highest value

No rulers or chiefs


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
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


Relatively small (50

3,000 members) in Old
World; became quite large in New World

Status differences become important and
produce inequality

“Traditional” gender roles emerge: patriarchy & matriarchy

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



Use of animals


Very labor intensive
> 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



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
> bigger wars & revolutions

Population concentrates in cities: urbanization
and de

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 important

Majority of labor force in service positions

The division of labor more pronounced & globalized

Technical and professional education increasingly important

Stratification based on technological knowledge and
education now overlaps wealth & status stratification

Emphasis on science to solve social problems including:

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, etc.

Culture: The Software


is the way of shared life by a
group of people

the 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


is the
tendency to view
one’s own group and
its cultural values &
expectations as right,
proper, and superior
to others:

We’re Number One!

Cultural relativism

setting aside one’s
own personal beliefs
and prejudices to
understand and value
a culture by its own
standards, or as a
member of that
culture would

Culture and Our Social World (at the
National Level)

Geoculture of the


level Analysis: Microstructures


organizations that
influence only a small segment of an
individual’s lives or only affects an
individual’s life for a small period of time

level Analysis:

Subcultures and Countercultures


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 people’s 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)

level Analysis:

Subcultures and Countercultures


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 impact

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.)

level Analysis:

National and Global Culture

Natural Culture and Society

Every culture intricately related to a society

Global Society and Culture


is the process where the entire
globe is becoming a “single socio

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 people

Nonmaterial Culture: Beliefs, Values,
Rules, and Language

Nonmaterial culture is the invisible and
intangible parts of culture





Nonmaterial Culture: 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


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





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


is the spoken, written, or
nonverbal use of symbols to convey
meaning, objects, or ideas

Takes three forms:




The foundation of every culture

Makes culture possible

Nonmaterial Culture: Language

Spoken language

Uses a set of sounds to symbolize objects or ideas

Sounds generally hold common meaning to all members
of a culture

Written language

Uses a set of images to symbolize objects or ideas

Societies tend to store information through written

Makes communication over distances possible

Nonverbal language

Uses gestures, facial expression, and body posture to
symbolize an object or idea

Nonmaterial Culture: Language

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 symbols

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 importance

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 together

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 society

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