Different types of culture – Culture and Identity

Lesson objectiveTo explore different types of culture
Lesson outcomes• Compare which cultures we belong to and consider why
• Evaluate them
• Explain the different types of cultures

What are the different types of culture?

There are various different types of culture which sociologists refer to. These are consumer culture, folk culture, high culture, low culture, popular culture and mass culture to describe different aspects of culture in society.

Consumer culture

Consumer culture can be defined as a culture where social status, values and activities are centred on the consumption – the act of buying goods or services. You see it every day in the street, look at how many people have the new iPhone, or smartwatches.

High Culture is linked to a culture which is usually expressed in an intellectual or artistic way. Examples are going to the museum, listening to opera etc. Do not get confused with One Direction or Taylor Swift. This is more classic music than contemporary. Davis (2000) suggests that high culture is the preserve of very few in society because it involves art, literature, music and intellectual thought, which few can create or even appreciate.

Mass culture

Mass culture is intrinsically linked to Consumer Culture. The idea of mass culture is often based on Marxist theorists such as Marcuse and Adorno. The Media plays an active part in promoting Capitalism which indoctrinates society into being a consumer. Think about how much advertising occurs on TV. From this viewpoint, the audience becomes passive members of mass society, unable to think for themselves (Giddens, 2008).

The main characteristics of mass culture, memorised by CAMP PI, are that it is:

  • Created by commercial organisations
  • Associated with industrial societies
  • Manufactured
  • Passive
  • Produced for profit.
  • Inauthentic

Low culture

Low culture incorporates popular culture and is linked to consumption by “the masses”. This form of culture is mainly experienced by working-class and poorer individuals. It focuses on spending money or watching shows with easy to understand language.

Popular culture

Popular culture refers to the pattern of cultural experiences and attitudes that exist in mainstream society. This links to many other types of culture mentioned here as it incorporates perspectives of each one. It is aimed at ensuring that all forms of society can access it, therefore it has both low and high elements of culture. Examples are soaps, tennis, romantic comedies and films, the news. While some do see popular culture as shallow and harmful, others, including some postmodernists, argue that it is just as valid and worthwhile as high culture.

Folk culture

Folk culture consists of local customs and beliefs that directly reflect the lives and experiences of the people, such as folk songs and stories that are handed down from one generation to the next. The main characteristics of folk culture, remembered by A CARAT, are that it is:

  • Authentic
  • Created by ordinary people
  • Associated with active participation
  • Rooted in the experiences of ordinary people.
  • Associated with pre-industrial societies
  • Traditional

Global culture

Global culture proposes the idea that one global culture is emerging. Social forces that are creating it include electronic communications, the mass media, the news media, the internet, international businesses and banks. Sociologists warn that the world will lose its own cultural diversity.

Additional Reading.


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