What is culture? – Culture and Identity

Lesson objectiveTo explore what culture is
Lesson outcomes• Compare which subcultures we belong to and consider why
• Evaluate what cultures and subcultures we belong do
• Explain what culture is

What is culture?

Culture is defined by structuralists as “a way of life”.

It is considered to be something which binds us together and joins us. However, Bauman reminds us that it is a social construct and that the global culture is a set of norms and values which society wants us to follow.

There are three levels of culture that are part

of learned behaviour patterns:

  • artifacts and behaviours
  • espoused values
  • assumptions.

The body of cultural traditions that distinguish

Subcultures are a culture within a culture. If a particular subculture is characterised by a systematic opposition to the dominant culture, it may be described as a counterculture. Examples are subcultures like Goths, Geeks, etc. Have you noticed there is a street called little China in Manchester? Again, evidence of a subculture, or even counterculture.

Hebdige (1995) argued that subcultures bring like-minded individuals who feel neglected by society together and allow them to develop their identity.

Functionalists argue that those people who do not fit into the dominant culture, are subcultures.

Cultural Universals.

Cultural universals are learned behaviour patterns that are shared by all of humanity collectively. No matter where people live in the world, they share these universal traits. Examples of such ‘human cultural’ traits include:

  • communication (language)
  • classification based on age and gender (woman, man, teenager, elderly person)
  • bringing up children in some sort of family setting
  • sexual division of labour
  • regulating sexual behaviour
  • establishing and implementing rules and values
  • creating art
  • having some kind of leadership role and governing system.

​Is culture same as society?

Culture and society are not the same thing. While cultures are complexes of learned behaviour patterns and perceptions of an individual, societies are systems of structural interrelationships (made up of social institutions such as marriage and the family). Culture is something that changes over time and therefore is constantly changing and evolving.

For a list of examples of different types of culture, read below – we will use this in lesson. 


Additional Reading.


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