The Social And Pragmatic Aspects Of Culture

1826 words - 8 pages

Although, the term “culture” is in many ways undefinable and constantly changing in meaning, this does not make it any less worthy of study, particularly in the realm of sociology. Culture and the social world are separate fields, yet they rely on each other in order to be understood and observed. As Peterson argues, culture is characterized by the norms, values, beliefs, practices and symbols that individuals express and enact within society (Griswold 2013:3). If this is so, then culture is deeply intertwined with the social world, and by extension, the study of sociology, as people's interactions work to develop, perpetuate and alter the aforementioned collective aspects of culture. This ...view middle of the document...

Ergo, culture is in itself a social act. An example might be the unwritten norm of giving one's seat up on the bus for an elderly passenger. An individual may learn this type of polite behaviour from seeing other people give up their seats; they may also realize that perhaps an older person may have physical difficulty standing up for long periods of time, or even recognize that the older person appreciates the gesture. In one respect, this example shows how interaction with others can help perpetuate and establish norms and cultural practices, and thus exemplifies the influence that the social world can have on culture; showing the link between the two. However, in another respect, culture can also influence the social world, such as in the Weberian perspective wherein Protestant religious beliefs (culture) encourage monetary success and hard work (values), thus resulting in development of capitalist economies (social world) (Cairns, Week 3, Slides 14-16). In the case of the elderly individual, culture would inform the other passenger’s social behaviour to give up their seat. This may be because of a cultural norm and belief that entails valuing and respecting the elderly members of a society as a result of their life experience and wisdom, which may also be valued traits. Additionally, valuing the practice of manners and kindness may also play a role in this type of situation. Thus, just as the social world influences culture, culture may also influence society, which truly shows how the two aspects work together to establish one another and the foundations of society generally.
Culture can be a product of the social world, and it can also be what influences and aids in the evolution and development of society. In either case, this makes culture an important and even necessary field of study, as it is difficult to detach it from society and the study of sociology. One cannot evaluate the social world without asking the question about why people behave the way they do, or why they choose to do certain things over others and so on; areas of culture often answer the question of “why” in many of these cases. One may ask, “In a given society, why do younger individuals tend to be respectful to the elderly such as giving them his/her seat on the bus?” The answer cannot be found without referring to some aspect of culture, whether it is influenced by socially common behaviour or whether culture itself influences behaviour through beliefs and values. This ability for culture to answer both the macro and micro related sociological questions makes it quite useful and pragmatic sociologically speaking. However, culture is also practical in the social world, and by extension, sociology in additional ways that involve further influence in society that also work to strengthen the relationship between culture and sociology.
According to the Durkheim and the “Functionalist” perspective, culture serves a pragmatic purpose in society as it binds people...

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