Chapter 4 Culture and Socialisation
How does the understanding of culture in social science differ from the everyday use of the word ‘culture’?
Culture refers to widely shared customs, beliefs, values, norms, institutions and other products of a community that are transmitted socially across generations.
In social perspective culture refers to the products of socialisation with an organised group, society or nation and involves a set of rules, norms and customs that are agreed by the members of that group.
In general terms, culture refers to acquiring etiquettes of society and liking for fine arts like music, painting, folk songs, folk dances etc. Therefore, basic term is used as people being cultured or uncultured.
For a sociologist, the culture of a society is the way of life of its members, the collection of ideas and habit which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation. It is a complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, customs and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of the society.
How can we demonstrate that the different dimensions of culture comprise a whole?
Culture has many dimensions, parts and units but they are interrelated and interdependent. They can’t emerge or function in vacuum, instead all the dimensions function as an organisation.
Culture maintains a balance. Culture has three components i.e., cognitive, normative and material. Cognitive part is related to understanding and information; e.g. books and documents. Normative component is the customs, convention and folkways and material component of culture is linked with man-made part of the environment
i. e. dams, roads, electric and electronic gadgets, automobiles etc.
All the above mentioned components are complementary to each other and coordinate to function as a whole.
Compare two cultures with which you are familiar. Is it difficult not to be ethnocentric?
We are quite aware of eastern particularly Indian and Western cultures. Both the cultures are quite different from each other.
Indian culture is based on agriculture and people are dependent on each other. This is a collectivistic society and emphasises on socialisation.
In collectivistic societies the boundaries between self and the group are flexible and people can intrude/interfere in each other’s life.
In such type of societies various concepts are different e.g. human body is determined by natural elements and criteria of being intelligent is very comprehensive e.g. It requires cognitive, social, emotional and entrepreneurial competencies.
Whereas western culture is technologically advanced and is individualistic society. This is based on urbanisation, schooling and child rearing practices. They emphasise on individual liberty.
The boundaries between self and group are rigid. They believe that body is a fully functioning machine. Their criteria of being intelligent demands only the cognitive competence.
Ethnocentrism refers to the use of our own ethnic group as basis for judgements about other ethnic group. There is a tendency to view the beliefs, customs and behaviours of our own group as ‘normal’ and those of other ethnic groups as ‘strange’ or ‘deviant’. There is the implicit assumption in all of this that own ethnic group is somehow superior to the others that we are judging it against.
Ethnocentrism is a natural social process because we all affiliate our silver with a larger group. For reassurance that my behaviour is right, to maintain consistency in behaviour and a belief that majority is always right we conform to the group norms. Gradually we become conditioned to the prevailing group norms in their in-group. We develop an in-group bias.
But it is not difficult to reduce ethnocentrism i.e. in-group bias.
These can minimise opportunities of learning prejudices, changing negative attitudes, deemphasising a narrow social identity based on the in-group and discouraging self-fulfilling prophecy, positive attitude, objectivity and empathy we can reduce ethnocentrism.
Discuss two different approaches to studying cultural change.
- Changes in religion, art, language or literature in turn effect interest and faith which in turn effect social relationships.
- Cultural change is primarily responsible for new discoveries, inventions and change in cultural activities.
- Scope of cultural change is large.
- Cultural changes influence social change.
- Cultural changes can be categorised as natural changes and revolutionary changes.
- Natural changes can bring absolute change in any society. Natural calamities like earthquake, tsunami, flood, famine, earthquake etc. may bring physical changes.
- Revolutionary changes bring quick changes in the values and economy of a particular place. These changes come due to political interference and significantly bring changes in the society e.g. Islamic influence on Indian culture or Western influence on Indian culture due to invaders.
Very Short Answer Type Questions
What are folkways?
The customs which are not very strict and if disobeyed the punishment, is not severe. Folkways are customary ways of behaviour, e.g., you have to wish/greet people when you see them.
What are mores?
If a person disobeys mores, the punishment can be ostrism (complete boycott). Eg. Marrying outside the caste; boycotted from village, not limited. Usually in rural areas, close knit community, don’t disobey mores.
What are traditions?
Old customs e.g.; Diwali, Holi, Dussera. All activities we do during these festivals, transmitted from generation to generation; e.g. any foreign leader visiting India is taken first to Rajghat before their work.
What do you understand by sanctions?
Sanctions are rewards and punishments. They come into play in regard to norms. Sanctions are the rewards and punishments for following or not following a norm.
- Rewards or Punishment: Both help the individual to confer/follow the norms.
- Children learn cultural norms not only through clear instructions given by the family, but also by observing others and mixing to them.
- For adults, abiding or following the norm become part of their behaivour pattern.
Taking an example state situation, value, norms, belief, custom and sanctions.
Norm-We have to keep our eyes open. .
Belief-Lucky pen etc.
Custom-Praying before the exam.
Sanction-Zero for cheating-Reward from parents for doing well:
What is material culture?
- Tangible, concrete, physical, can be replaced.
- Anything materialistic – money.
What is culture?
It is a complex whole which includes our life styles, behaviour, patterns, religion, education, customs, traditions, beliefs, art etc. that an individual acquires as a member of the society.
Discuss socio-cultural shaping of behaviour.
The hormones play an important role in regulating human physiology, but they do not completely control human behaviour.
Our behaviour is more complex than the behaviour of animals. A major reason for this complexity is that unlike animals, human beings have a culture to regulate their behaviour.
Short Answer Type Questions
What do you nean by customs?
Customs: Lightening a diya is a custom. Everyone does it. It is the action. But belief is that good will happen to you if you light a diya.
- Usually related to supernatural stuff.
- Custom: Taking off shoes before entering a temple or mosque or church.
- Belief: For cleanliness/bringing in pollution to the house and goddesses disrespect etc. Custom is the religious habit which continues from generation to generation.
They are behaviour acquired in a society over a period of time and they differ from area to area and culture to culture.
Customs are social habits as they are done in a group.
People can be pressurised by society to follow customs. They are concerned with
the individual or family’s behaviour. Pressure from family, friends, teachers, ~~
- You want that person to behave in accordance with that custom whether they like it or not.
- Why do we have customs?
There is no homogeneity-everyone has his own customs.
Custom strengthens your relationships and keeps you in touch with your culture and makes you different from others.
Why do we need custom/culture?
We need material culture for survival (clothes, food) etc. Material culture refers to the basic conditions which generally include material culture that the members of the society have and are (car, science/technology/food etc.) as they are instruments of production, communication and transportation.
- It is important to increase the production which leads to a good standard of living.
- Both material/non material cultures are important.
- If we do not have material culture we will become like primitive man and have no status in society.
- N.M.C is required as the need to have certain standards, values, discipline etc. otherwise there will be homogeneity in society.
Drawbacks of Material Culture
It creates distinction between people that leads to ‘ethnocentism’.
Sometimes it leads to status symbols and brings a feeling of superiority and inferiority. NMC makes you a good human being. It’s awesome.
How culture is related to identity?
Culture and Identity
“Your identity is shaped by your culture”.
Culture influences the way we behave, it influences the personality of individuals.
- Personality can be shaped both by ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’.
- Each person has status in the society and has corresponding roles which are played as per the culture of that society.
- Carrying out the role is not as important as the society accepting and acknowledging that particular role.
- Each group has its own culture which differs from place to place, society to society.
- They create their own codes, rules etc. which have a certain meaning to that particular group.
What is culture?
Culture includes behavioural products of others who preceded us. It indicates both substantial and abstract particulars that have prior existence in one form or another. Thus, culture is already there as we begin life. It contains values that will be expressed and a language in which to express. It contains a way of life that will be followed by most of us who grow up in that context. Social and cultural contexts within which human development takes place vary widely over time and place. For example, some twenty years ago children in India would not have known several products that are now part of a child’s world. Similarly an Adivasi living in a remote forest or hilly area would not have “pizza” or “sandwich” as breakfast.
What is cultural transmission?
- As human beings we are both biological and socio-cultural creatures. As biological creatures, we have certain vital needs. Their fulfilment enhances our chances of surviving.
- In fulfilling these needs we use most of our acquired skills. We also have a highly developed capacity to benefit from experiences of our own and those of others. No other creature has learning capacity to the same extent as we have. No other creature has created an organized system of learning, called education, and none in this universe wants to learn as much as we do.
- As a result, we display many forms of behaviour that are uniquely human, and creations of what we call culture. The processes of enculturation and socialization make us cultural beings.
What is enculturation?
1. Enculturation refers to all learning that takes place without direct, deliberate teaching. We learn certain ideas, concepts, and values simply because of their availability in our cultural context.
2. Enculturation refers to all learning that occurs in human life because of its availability in our socio-cultural context. The key element of enculturation is learning by observation.
3. “Vegetable” and what is “weed” or what is “cereal” and what is “non-cereal” is defined by what is already there, previously labeled as “vegetable” or “cereal” and agreed upon by people at large. Such concepts are transmitted, both directly and indirectly, and are learned very well because they are an integral part of the life of a cultural group, and are never questioned. All such examples of learning are called “enculturation”.
What is socialisation?
‘ Socialisation is a process by which individuals acquire knowledge, skills and dispositions, which enable them to participate as effective members of groups and society’.
- It is a process that continues over the entire life-span, and through which one learns and develops ways of effective functioning at any stage of development.
- Socialisation forms the basis of social and cultural transmission from one generation to the next.
- The probability of our behaving in a particular way is greatly affected by people who relate to us. Any one who possesses power relative to us can socialise us. Such people are called “socialisation agents”.
- The process of socialisation is not always a smooth transition between the individual and the socialisation agent. It sometimes involves conflicts.
- In the case of socialisation, the learning involves deliberate teaching. In the case of enculturation, teaching is not necessary for learning to take place. Enculturation means engagement of people in their culture.
What is culture?
Culture: Literally, the human-made part of the environment. In its simplest definition, it refers to the products of socialisation within any organized group, society or nation and involves a set of rules, norms and customs that are agreed by the members of that group. It is also used to describe the people that make up that group. In this sense it is more appropriate to think of culture as an active rather than a passive thing. Each of us contributes to the culture of the next person, and in turn are affected by them.
What is cultural relativism?
Cultural relativism:The view that patterns of understanding and behaviour found in different cultures are as good as each other. One of the implications of this view is that it is impossible to judge the superiority of a particular set of values outside the specific cultural context in which they are set. Likewise, judgements of normality or abnormality depend very much on the cultural experiences and biases of the person doing the judging.
What is cultural diversity ?
Cultural diversity: A term which implies recognition that the members of different cultures, ethnic groups, socio-economic groups and genders are socialized to behave in ways that are considered ‘culturally correct’ for those groups of people. Recognizing the importance of cultural diversity in psychology is vital if we really understand the complexities of not that in many eastern cultures, the ‘group’ appears to have privacy over the individual in motivating behaviour. In most Western cultures, however, individual needs tend to be emphasized over group needs.
What is cultural bias?
Cultural bias is the interpretation of other cultures using the perspective of one’s own culture. Cultural bias occurs when people of one culture makes assumptions about the behaviour of people from another culture based on their own cultural norms and practices. Cultural bias occurs in different areas of psychology, including the diagnosis of abnormal behaviour, the construction and interpretation of intelligence tests, and our understanding of interpersonal relationships.
What is cultural anthropology?
Cultural anthropology: Normally distinguished from physical anthropology (the study of human kind from a biological or evolutionary perspective), cultural anthropology is concerned with the different social systems that make up communities, societies and nations.
The concept of cultural lag was propounded by Ogde and Nimkof. This concerns the difference that arose between material and non-material cultures. Things like tools, utensils, machines, manufactured goods, transport belong to the material culture. On the other hand, family, religion, elites, education come under non-material culture. When change occurs in society due to rapid and new inventions the change in material cultures is fast and quick whereas in comparison the speed of change in non-material culture is very slow and due to this there is a ‘Lag’ between these two. This phenomena is called cultural lag.
Main features of Cultural Lag It has the following features:
- The material cultural changes occur more rapidly than the non-material culture.
- The distinction between material and non-material culture is not scientific because of the slow speed in non-material. The resistance and slow speed of change causes that advancement of material culture and the lagging behind of non-material culture.
What are the features of culture?
Culture is acquired/man made.
- Learnt through observation and interaction.
- It is transmitted from generation to generation e.g., traditions, values etc.
- Culture has adaptive qualities. ,
- New people adapt, adjust and adopt the new culture.
- We retain our own qualities too.
- Society and individuals change but culture doesn’t.
- Super organism and super individual.
How values of contemporary India are different from ancient India?
List of values in Contemporary India:
Liberty, justice, equality, freedom of thought, expression, integrity, efficiency, brother¬hood, tolerance, affection, generosity, kindness, patience, work ethics.
List of values in ancient India:
- All of the above and Karma – Fate and destiny.
- What you did in this life you may have to pay for it in the second life.
- Moksha and dharma are main features of values in ancient India.
- Dharma means moral duty – what you supposed to do. e.g. as a daughter I need to respect my parents, take care of them etc.
- Moral duty of a particular status.
- Moksha – Salvation – Nirvana
- Stopping of the cycle of birth and death.
What are beliefs?
Answer: Beliefs: Something you believe in individual e.g.; lucky pen for exams.
Personal and individualistic differ from person to person.
For persons who have beliefs, what they believe is reality to them.
Ideas that are accepted as a reality to that person which may or may not be true. Beliefs may become habits e.g.; lighting the diya in front of God-belief-becomes a habit overtime.
Every society has its own system of beliefs provided by the culture of society, e.g.; doing Lakshmi pooja on Diwali is auspicious.
Many aspects in every culture are connected to the belief system and are different from person to person.
How superstitions are different from beliefs?
Superstition: It is a belief or way of behaving that is based on fear of the unknown and faith in magic or luck; a belief that certain events or things will bring good or bad luck. It results from ignorance and is absolutely an irrational object, attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition. For example, when a black cat passes your way something bad happens. There is a negative connection, passed down through generations.
Belief: It is a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing. On your own – For the good. Your believe that if you do this, something good happens. Everyone has his own beliefs. It is usually connected to God or supernatural stuff. If a certain belief comes true for a person that person starts believing in it too and that becomes a belief for the person.
What do you mean by norms in sociology?
Norms are unwritten rules.
- Accepted criteria developed by individuals, groups and society so that everyone behaves in an acceptable way.
- They are present to regulate the behaviour of members in a society.
- They are as important as written rules.
- They are prescriptions which have to be followed by society.
- If they aren’t followed it can lead to chaos and disorder in society.
Discuss the sources of culture.
Sources of culture:
Internal (Endogenous cause)
- Inner pressure, stress and conflicts
- Conflict between ideals and realities
- Change in individual
External (Exogenous cause)
- Means of communication
- Movements of their societies.
- Destruction of wildlife
- Ecological changes.
Long Answer Type Questions
Discuss dimensions of culture.
Cognitive-Ideas and beliefs
Normative-Norms (Value, norms, sanctions).
Customs or normative something is right or wrong-not an idea of something. Cognitive, myths, superstition, belief, customs, stories (mostly not true)
- Ideas etc. which refer to the thinking of the people, our understanding, how we absorb all information we get from the society. ‘
- Little tradition: It is transmitted orally from generation to generation in the form of songs/plays, stories (folklores) etc. It moves in illiterate and rural societies.
- Great tradition: It is transmitted from generation to generation through written work. Usually in literate societies ideas are recorded, written down and are available to us in the form of books etc.
- It is the cognitive dimension of culture which helps us to comprehend and relate to the societies.
- Little and great tradition can be converted into each other.
- Universalisation—converting great to little tradition.
It deals with controlling people’s behaviour by rules, norms, customs, values. It is basically different ways of controlling deviant behaviour.
To make society disciplined, to behave in a particular way etc.
How laws are different from norms?
Laws may be formal and written exercised by institutions e.g.; Parliament, police.
Laws are explicit-very clear on paper and are the same for everybody in that society. They also provide severe, specific, unchangeable punishment. Rewards in forms of citations, medal, honor, cash prize, Bharat Ratna. Formal laws are the same everywhere and depend upon societal requirement.
Norms: Norms are informal and unwritten. They are exercised by the primary group which includes family and friends.
- Implicit: Ambiguity can be there, depends upon the people and situations.
- Punishment given in indifferent contexts.
- Informal reward like pat on back etc. hug etc.
- Differs from person to person, place to place, based on values/cultures of society.
What do you mean by cultural lag? Discuss its main features.
Answer: Cultural lag: When the material culture is moving ahead and fast with times, but the non-material culture is not able to keep up with the fast pace of material culture propounded the theory a cultural lag.
- Let us consider the basic need of hunger. We know that it has a biological basis, which is common among animals and human beings, but the way this need is gratified by human beings is extremely complex. For example, some people eat vegetarian food, while others eat non-vegetarian food.
- Sexual behaviour can be taken as another example. We know that this behaviour involves hormones and reflexive reactions in animals and human beings alike.
- While among animals sexual behaviour is fairly simple and reflexive (all animals indulge in sexual behaviour almost in the same manner).
- It is so complex among human beings that it can hardly be described as reflexive.
- Partner preferences are a key feature of human sexual behaviour. The bases of these preferences widely differ within and across societies.
- Human sexual behaviour is also governed by many rules, standards, values, and laws.
- These examples illustrate that biological factors alone cannot help us very much in understanding human behaviour.
- Human nature has evolved through an interplay of biological and cultural forces. These forces have made us similar in many ways and different in others.
Explain the concept of culture.
Concept of culture
Human behaviour is fundamentally social. It involves relationships with other people, reactions to their behaviour, and engagement with innumerable products made available to us by our predecessors. Although many other species are also social like us, human beings are cultural as well.
In the simplest terms, culture refers to “the man-made part of the environment”. It comprises diverse products of the behaviour of many people, including ourselves. These products can be material objects (e.g., tools, sculptures), ideas (e.g., family, school). We find them almost everywhere. They influence behaviour, although we may not always be aware of it.
Let us look at some examples. The room you might be in now is a cultural product. It is the result of someone’s architectural ideas and building skills. Your room may be rectangular, but there are many places where rooms are not rectangular (e.g., those of Eskimos).
You might be sitting on a chair that some people designed and built some time ago. Since sitting in a chair requires a particular posture, this invention is shaping your behaviour. There are societies without chairs. Just try to think how people in those societies would be sitting in order to do some reading.
Much of our life as human beings involves interacting with various cultural products and behaving in accordance with them. This means that culture shapes our behaviour in a significant manner.
How culture and society are related to each other?
The terms ‘culture’ and ‘society’ are often considered to carry similar meaning. Let us note at this point that they are not the same thing. A society is a group of people who occupy a particular territory and speak a common language not generally understood by neighbouring people. A society may or may not be single nation, but every society has its own culture. It is culture that shapes human behaviour from society to society. Culture is the label for all the different features that vary from society to society. It is these different features of society whose influences psychologists want to examine in their studies of human behaviour. Thus, a group of people, who manage their livelihood through hunting and gathering in forests, would present a life characterised by certain features that will not be found in a society that lives mainly on agricultural produce or wage earnings.
Discuss various socialisation agents of society.
Socialisation agents of society:
- A number of people who relate to us possess power to socialise us. Such people . are called “socialisation agents”.
- Parents and family members are the most significant socialisation agents.
- Legal responsibility of child care, too, lies with parents. Their task is to nurture children in such a manner that their natural potentials are maximized and negative behaviour tendencies are minimized or controlled.
- Parents have most direct and significant impact on children’s development. Children respond in different ways to parents in different situations.
- Parents encourage certain behaviours by rewarding them verbally (e.g., praising) or in other tangible ways (e.g., buying chocolates or objects of child’s desire). They also discourage certain behaviours through non-approving behaviours.
- They also arrange to put children in a variety of positive experiences, learning opportunities, and challenges. While interacting with children parents adopt different strategies, which are generally known as parenting styles.
- A distinction is made between authoritative, authoritarian and democratic or permissive parenting styles.
- Studies indicate that parents vary enormously in the treatment of children in terms of their degree of acceptance and degree of control.
- The conditions of life in which parents live (poverty, illness, job stress, nature of family) also influence the styles they adopt in socialising children.
- School is another important socialising agent. Since children spend a long time in schools, which provide them with a fairly organised set up for interaction with teachers and peers.
- Nowadays school is being viewed as a more important agent of child socialisation than parents and family. Children learn not only cognitive skills (e.g., reading, writing, doing mathematics) but also many social skills (e.g., ways of behaving with elders and age mates, accepting roles, fulfilling responsibilities).
- They also learn and internalise the norms and rules of society.
- Several other positive qualities, such as self-initiative, self-control, responsibility and creativity are encouraged in schools.
- Friendship acquires great significance in this respect.
- It provides children not only with a good opportunity to be in company of others, but also for organising various activities (e.g., play) collectively with the members of their own age.
- Question ualities like sharing, trust, mutual understanding, role acceptance and fulfilment develop in interaction with peers.
- Children also learn to assert their own point of view and accept and adapt to those of others.
- Development of self-identity is greatly facilitated by the peer group. Since communication of children with peer groups is direct, process of socialisation is generally smooth.
- In recent years media has also become the medium of socialisation.
- Through television, newspapers, books and cinema the external world has made/ is making its way into our home and our lives.
- While children learn about many things from these sources, adolescents and young adults often derive their models from them, particularly from television and cinema.
- There is a need to use this agent of socialisation in a better way in order to prevent children from developing undesirable behaviours.
What is acculturation?
Culture is determined by dynamic and evolving process. It is not static. Cultural changes occur due to acculturation and defusion.
- Acculturation refers to cultural and psychological changes resulting from contact with other cultures.
- Contact may be direct (e.g., when one moves and settles in a new culture) or indirect (e.g., through media or other means).
- It may be voluntary (e.g., when one goes abroad for higher studies, training, job, or trade) or involuntary (e.g., through colonial experience, invasion, political refuge).
- In both cases, people often need to learn (and also they do learn) something new to negotiate life with people of other cultural groups. For example, during the British rule in India many individuals and groups adopted several aspects of British lifestyle.
- Acculturation can take place any time in one’s life. Whenever it occurs, it requires re-leaming of norms, values, dispositions, and patterns of behaviour.
- For any acculturation to take place contact with another cultural group is essential. This often generates some sort of conflict. Since people cannot live in a state of conflict for a long time, they often resort to certain strategies to resolve their conflicts.
- Studies carried out with immigrants to western countries and native or tribal people in different parts of the world have revealed that people have various options to deal with the problem of acculturative changes. Thus, the course of acculturative change is multidirectional.
- Changes due to acculturation may be examined at subjective and objective levels. At the subjective level, changes are often reflected in people’s attitudes towards change. They are referred to as acculturation attitudes. At the objective level, changes are reflected in people’s day-to-day behaviours and activities. These are referred to as acculturation strategies.
Discuss differences between social change and cultural change.
Malinowike, Gillin and Gillin and others gave their same opinions regarding social and cultural changes.
However Prof. Dawis has pointed out some difference between the two. According to him, change in social structure only represents social change.
Some important differences between social and cultural changes are:
- Change in social relations
- Change in social structure and relationship is a must.
- Scope of social change is limited.
- Social change effects culture.
- Society has its roots in the present, hence change in it has relative implications.
- Changes in religion and art, language or literature which in turn effect social relationships.
- Cultural change is primarily responsible for new discoveries, inventions and change in cultural activities.
- Scope of cultural change is large.
- Cultural change effects social change.
- As culture has got its roots in their past, hence change in it has relatively less implications.
If society is a tributary while culture is the main river, cultural changes are more relevant. Still both the changes cannot be taken independently from each other as they effect mutually.
How material culture is different from non-material culture?
Material Culture: Anything paid for stuff or money related is example of material culture. Material culture is tangible, concrete, physical, quantified and can be replaced. Non-material Culture: Values, respect, honesty, consideration, gratitude etc. are non-material culture.
Values are basically morals.
Values are those which are concerned with the morals of human beings. They are either right or wrong. They guide us as to how we are supposed to behave in society.
They define, what is proper and improper for an individual in order to reach his/her goal as per societal norms.
Non-material culture is standard of social life. Certain values which everyone has to follow in social life are: honesty, respect, integrity, responsibility.