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Flashcards in Culture and sociocultural systems Deck (30)
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The concept of culture has a diversity of meanings ascribed to it, for example:

- “The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity”, which starts by stating: “Culture takes diverse forms across time and space.”
- The Arts and Culture Trust promotes cultural life in South Africa, through funding individuals and organisations that contribute to dance, theater, music, art and literature.
- Time's magazine states technology will shape and determine the culture.
- UNESCO/NEPAD conference said, “The nurturing and valuing of diversity among cultures is critical” “We must abandon our contempt for the culture of rural people – use (their) culture and traditions – for the new African culture”
- Research has shown that Europeans are no longer voting for political parties’ economic policies, but on grounds of ethnic and cultural factors.
- President Jacob Zuma, upon being asked why he has never responded to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s criticism of his activities and leadership, said that, in his culture, respect for an older person forbade him to do this.
- To attend a recital of a philharmonic orchestra to, as he put it, “to catch some culture”.


Four basic objections as far as the concept of culture is concerned:

1. The use of the plural, “cultures”, of the word, “culture”. The plural, “cultures”, divides human beings in that it emphasises differences between groups of people.
2. Culture encourages delineation and the identification of differences between groups – yet there are often significant differences within a group. Also, globalisation has resulted in a transnational (transcultural) flow of cultural elements, and particularly younger people, throughout the world, now acquire the same cultural references.
3. The political use of the concept of culture. The anthropological concept of cultural relativism has been used (and abused) to promote the claims of a particular group, to discriminate against others and to justify exclusion by means of aggressive nationalism. This kind of use of the word culture reduces the complexities of societies to a few simple categories and encourages a kind of “us” versus “them” attitude.
4. The whole concept of culture is rather general and vague, and is used to refer to a conglomerate of various things. There is a need to be more precise and to closely consider specific circumstances, context and the historical development of people’s behaviour.


Cultural universals

Revolve around basic human survival, such as finding food, clothing and shelter, and around shared human experiences such as birth, aging and death.


Cultural particulars

Specific practices that distinguish one culture from another. For example, all people become hungry, but what, how and when they eat varies between cultures.


The three R

- Race, Religion, and Reason.
- Forms of explanation of social difference in the 19th century, they incorporated hierarchical and unidirectional notions of progress and advancement but they end by putting the beliefs and values of white, Christian, Euro-American males at the top.


A sociocultural system

- People who share similar ideas and values and behaviour patterns are recognised as belonging to the same group.
- All individuals are members of multiple groups, with distinct cultural characteristics, that they identify with.
- Sociocultural systems are generated and transmitted from one generation to the next by individuals interacting with each other in a specific social and physical environment



A way of referring to a group, such as a society or community, which shares similar sociocultural characteristics.



A distinctive set of standards and behaviour patterns by which a smaller group of people functions, while still sharing some common practices with the larger culture, society or community.



An organised group of interdependent people, who generally share a common territory, language and sociocultural system and who acts together for their wellbeing and survival.



A community is at a lower systemic level than a society, more localised, self-perpetuating and has more easily identifiable boundaries, in other words, it is a “natural” unit. It is worth pointing out that a new dimension of ‘virtual communities’ is evolving through the World Wide Web.



Refers to a gradual process by which organisms – including animals and humans, adjust to the conditions of the area in which they live


Technologicalor material cultureof a community.

By adapting their culture and manipulating the environment, human beings are able to live in different, and even extreme, environments, from the dry, hot Kalahari Desert to the icy Arctic regions.


How a kinship system comes into being.

People associate with each other in order to reproduce, they marry and start family units and organise themselves in other social units so that they can live together in an orderly manner.


Every community has an informal or formal education system..

.. To pass on accumulated knowledge and the rules for correct behaviour to children and young people. All education systems are based on the deep-seated values and norms of the community.


How a community’s economic systemcomes come into being.

The production, as well as the distribution and consumption of food, takes place in an organised manner.


Why do people create a medical system?

The human body is exposed to disease and ailments as well as psychological and psychic deviations. In order to prevent disease and restore health, people create a medical system


What necessitates a military system?

People may be threatened or attacked by other people. To protect and defend themselves, often in a highly organised manner, is what facilitates a military system.


Political systems develops..

.. Through the appointment or recognition of a leader or an authoritative body which governs a community.


A judicial system ensures..

.. That people live together in an orderly manner. The system is headed by recognised appointees, such as elders or judges, who enforce the rules and laws by means of sanctions or penalties.


How religious systems are created.

People not only try to live in harmony with others, but mostly believe in the existence of non-human forces or supernatural beings, whom are perceived to have a influence on the life the people who make up that community. To remain in harmony with these forces and beings, prayers are said and ritual acts are performed.


Communities’ artistic life,

People also have certain emotional experiences that they express by means of sound, colour, rhythm and movement. This is the basis of all communities’ artistic life, which includes art, literature, music and dance.


Characteristics of culture

1. Culture is learned
2. Culture is shared
3. Culture is symbolic
4. Culture is integrated
5. Culture is dynamic


Culture is learned

- We learn our culture by growing up in and with it, from families, peers, institutions and the media.
- Culture is not biologically inherited.
- Much of learning culture is unconscious. Anthropologists refer to this process as enculturation


Culture is shared

- Action, belief or particular kind of behaviour to be regarded as cultural, it must be shared by most of the people in a group.
- They share these because they grew up together and learned this shared culture by observing, imitating, listening, learning, talking and interacting with each other in a group context
- Even if not everybody practices the behaviour, it is still considered cultural, if most or a significant number of people regard the behaviour as appropriate.


Culture is symbolic

- What sets human beings apart from other animals is the ability to use symbols.
- As long as people agree on their meaning, symbols have significance and can be communicated.
- Symbols enable human beings to communicate in a complex manner.
- The most important symbolic feature of culture is language.
- Other symbols also play a role in most aspects of a culture, for example, money, flags and emblems.
- More often than not, such symbols evoke emotions, fervour, patriotism or devotion.


Culture is integrated

- Different “parts” or sociocultural systems function together as an organised whole – integrated and interdependent.


Culture is dynamic

- All cultures are dynamic and are, to a lesser or greater extent, changing all the time.
- Change is often the result of influences from beyond a community or society.
- The contact between people from different sociocultural systems has increased in the last century, as a result of travel and tourism and through electronic and other media, including the internet.
- Cultural exchange is touching every corner of the globe; the term “globalisation”, through which, as we all know, the pace of change has greatly accelerated
- Through diffusion, new technology, ideas, values or behaviour are adopted, people respond to trends, follow fashions and popularise the ways other people do things.



Enculturation is the way culture is transmitted or carried over from one generation to the next.



Diffusion is the transmission of cultural elements or traits (such as technological innovations, fashions, ideas and practices) from one society to another


Human agency

Human agency refers to the concept that each individual has the ability and free will to determine and choose according to their personal convictions and beliefs