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Culture: Definition, What are Its Functions, Characteristics, Elements of Culture?

Culture is the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a particular group of people. It includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, art, and encompasses language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.




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Definitions


According to British anthropologist Edward Taylor, he said that “Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”


Culture is an integrated system of symbols, ideas and values that should be studied as a working system and an organic whole – Kuper


Raymond Williams defined culture as to how ideas and meanings are expressed in ordinary behaviour, learning, and art. Culture could be categorized in three ways: social, ideal, and documentary.

 

Why do we have to understand Culture?


In today’s globalized world, understanding culture has become more important than ever. Cultural globalization has led to the exchange of cultural values and traditions between different countries, as well as the growth of international communication. It’s exciting to see how we can all connect and learn from each other in ways that weren’t possible before.

While having the knowledge of culture will increase your cultural awareness, or understanding of other cultures, and allows you to have more meaningful interactions with those around you. You’re developing your empathy and regard for others while also celebrating your differences and commonalities.

However, it’s crucial to recognize that every culture has its unique set of norms and values. Familiarizing yourself with the culture of the country where you’ll be doing business can provide you with guidance and knowledge of expected norms within that particular nation. Failure to research foreign culture could result in disaster.


While cultural globalization has brought us closer, it’s important to remember that preferring a unified type of art, unfortunately, sometimes results in forgetting one’s own culture. Embracing diversity and recognizing the beauty in different cultures is important for a harmonious global society.

So, if you’re looking to do business or travel to a new country, take the time to research and learn about the local culture. Understanding and respecting cultural differences can lead to more successful relationships and experiences.




Function of Culture

  • Culture provides us with essential design elements for living
  • Culture provides patterns for meeting biological and socio-cultural demands
  • Culture provides rules for cooperation and understanding of human behaviour
  • Culture functions as a guidepost for life activities
  • A culture deeply influences and controls behaviour through norms, folkways, and laws
  • Sanctions or punishment govern norms, folkways, and laws


Culture provides us with essential design elements for living. These elements are the basic building blocks that help us live in a specific environment. For example, a culture that lives in a cold climate will have specific design elements for their houses, clothing, and tools to help them adapt and expand in that environment.


Culture provides patterns for meeting biological and socio-cultural demands. These patterns are shaped by our environment, and they help us to meet the physical and social demands of our daily life. For example, culture helps us understand how to form relationships, how to raise our children, and how to find meaning in life.


Culture provides rules for cooperation and understanding of human behaviour. These rules are essential for maintaining social order and peace in any community. For instance, cultural norms help us understand how to interact with others, what behaviours/attitude are acceptable and unacceptable, and how to behave/act in different social situations.


Culture functions as a guidepost for life activities. It provides a framework for how we should spend our time, what we should value, and what we should prioritize in our lives. For instance, culture might place a high value on family, education, and hard work, which then shapes the activities and goals of individuals within that culture.


Culture deeply influences and controls behaviour through norms, folkways, and laws. These are the customs, traditions, and rules that dictate what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior within a culture. So that’s why they are enforced through social pressure, and individuals who do not conform to these norms may face punishment or social exclusion.


Sanctions or punishments are government norms, folkways, and laws. These punishments can take various forms, such as fines, imprisonment, or social exclusion. So basically they are used to reinforce the importance of following cultural norms, folkways, and laws, and to deter individuals from engaging in behaviour that is deemed unacceptable or harmful to the community.





5 Key Characteristics of Culture.

  • Culture is learned
  • Culture is shared
  • Culture is symbolic
  • Culture is merged
  • Culture is adaptive and dynamic

Culture: Definition, What are Its Functions, Characteristics, Elements of Culture?



Culture is learned.

Society teaches all aspects of culture, including beliefs, values, and traditions. Culture is not inherited naturally but rather is taught and passed down from generation to generation.


Culture is shared

A culture’s members share a set of beliefs, values, and customs. Social interactions and shared experiences shape and sustain culture.


Culture is symbolic

Language, art, and religious traditions are examples of cultural symbols that convey shared meanings that are utilized to communicate and comprehend the world around us. Symbols enable us to identify with and transmit our cultural group to others.


Culture is integrated.

All components of culture are interconnected and contribute to the formation of a coherent and integrated system that offers structure and meaning to people’s lives. The economic system, for example, is intertwined with the political and social systems.


Culture is dynamic

The culture is dynamic and adaptable. It develops with time, influenced by historical events, technical advancements, and social and economic shifts. Culture adapts to changing conditions and grows to satisfy the requirements of its members.





Few Elements of Cultures

Here are a few elements that can be divided into two broad categories: material culture and nonmaterial culture. So first of all, we will focus on the major elements of culture, which include material culture, language, aesthetics, education, religion, attitudes and values, and social organization.


Material culture

It refers to the physical objects that a society creates and uses. These can include everything from tools and machinery to buildings and art. Before marketing in a foreign culture, it is important to assess the material culture, such as transportation, power, and communication, Because they play a very significant role in the success of a business or brand in that society.


Language

It is another essential element of culture, as it is the primary means by which people communicate with one another. It is also a tool for shaping and reinforcing social norms, beliefs, and values. So knowing a society’s language is crucial for effectively communicating with its members and creating meaningful connections with them.


Aesthetics

It refers to a society’s sense of beauty and its standards of taste. This can include everything from architecture and interior design to fashion and music. It play a vital role in shaping a society’s cultural identity and can be a powerful way for brands to connect with consumers on an emotional level.


Education

It is another important element of culture. It encompasses everything from formal schooling to informal learning experiences, and it helps to shape the attitudes and beliefs of a society’s members. It is also a tool for transmitting cultural knowledge from one generation to the next.


Religion

It is another significant component of culture. It provides a framework for understanding the world, and shaping beliefs, values, and social norms. It is also an essential source of social cohesion and identity for many societies.


Attitudes and values

These are the beliefs and opinions that a society holds, which can vary widely across different cultures. They shape how individuals interact with each other and with the world around them. So understanding a society’s attitudes and values is crucial for brands to create messaging that resonates with their target audience.


Social organization

It refers to the way a society is structured, including its political and economic systems, social hierarchies, and family structures. It plays a significant role in shaping how individuals interact with each other and with larger social institutions.



References

Team Agri Info. Functions of Culture. agriinfo.in. Published March 15, 2017. Accessed February 18, 2023. https://agriinfo.in/functions-of-culture-559/

Author. 3.2 The Elements of Culture. Umn.edu. Published April 8, 2016. Accessed February 18, 2023. https://open.lib.umn.edu/sociology/chapter/3-2-the-elements-of-culture/

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