Culture is a term that is often thrown around but totally understood. This post will define what culture is along with definitions of other terms related to it.
Culture is the beliefs, values, and practices people learn in a specific context or society. A society is a group of people who hold to a similar culture. From this definition alone, we need to understand what beliefs and values are and, naturally, terms related to these.
Values are the standard for what is good in a culture. The idea of good is related to axiology in philosophy. The ideal culture is how people ought to behave, while the real culture is how people actually behave. For example, ideally, a child will not talk back to their teacher, but the reality is different. It is important to understand the difference between ideal and real culture because people are unaware of this distinction.
Beliefs are ideas that a group of people holds to be true and relate to epistemology. For example, different cultures have different views on religion, the role of women, and or communication. Whatever they believe is essentially a truth to them, even if this is not the best assumption.
Norms are another term related to culture, and these are the proper behaviors in a culture. These norms can be formal and informal. Mores are norms related to moral behaviors such as lying. It is okay in many cultures to lie in specific circumstances. Folkways are norms that are missing this moral component. An example of a folkway would be a handshake. Shaking hands has nothing to do with right or wrong but Is an expected custom in the West.
When people violate these values, beliefs, norms, etc., social controls are implemented. Social controls are ways employed to force people to comply with the local culture.
Types of Cultures
There are also different types of cultures. High culture is the culture of the elite or royalty. They usually have a distinct way of behaving. Popular culture is the culture of the masses. A subculture is a culture within a culture such as any migrant community in the West.
Counterculture is a subset of the majority culture that rejects the beliefs and values of the majority culture. Essentially, when a group of people is numerous enough to reject the mores of the majority, there is potential for a subculture.
Problems with Culture
There are problems with culture, but they are normally associated with people’s perception of culture rather than with the culture itself. FOr example, ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own culture is superior to others. IT is generally assumed that ethnocentrism is bad. However, this is generally coming from a perspective of cultural relativism, which states that a culture should be judged by its standards and no one else’s. Whether this is right or wrong depends on who you ask.
When ethnocentrism becomes extreme, it can lead to cultural imperialism, which is imposing one’s culture on someone else. The best example of this is looking at any colonial period and or empire that conquered another people. A group with more power thinks their way is better and looks to force this on the people they defeated.
However, when cultural relativism goes to an extreme, it leads to xenocentrism, which is the belief that another person’s culture is superior to one’s own. Again, what a person believes is their own business, but these are terms that people should be aware of when looking at culture.
All cultures are different and how people view them is different as well. The approach a person takes to a culture depends varies based on the culture they come from. Whether a culture is good or bad, right or wrong, is ultimately left to the individual to decide.