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Institutional Economic Theory Economics 451 University of Missouri-Kansas City. Institutional View – assumptions about human nature/behavior humans have a natural (biological) existence nature of the species genetic structure etc – relationship of head and hands
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University of Missouri-Kansas City
Institutional View – assumptions about human nature/behavior
Primacy of individuality – start with the “basic nature of man” to explain the antics of man
The Concept of Culture – What is a culture ‑ how has the concept evolved
White writes, "Man is unique: he is the only living species that has a culture. By culture we mean an extrasomatic, temporal continuum of things and events dependent upon symboling. Specifically and concretely, culture consists of tools, implements, utensils, clothing, ornaments, customs, institutions, beliefs, rituals, games, works of art, language, etc. All peoples in all times and places have possessed culture; no other species has or has had culture. In the course of the evolution of primates man appeared when the ability to symbol had been developed and become capable of expression. We thus define man in terms of the ability to symbol and the consequent ability to produce culture."
White's definition clearly is a tongue twister. Yet the terms once defined do clarify the concept of culture.
White discusses the "extrasomatic" character of culture using the baby as illustrative of the process
Soma" is the Greek term for body. Thus somatic is of or relating to the body; physical or corporal.
which it will speak and the beliefs which it will hold to be either sacred or profane is a learned condition.
These are transmitted to the child by adults.
Still another example ;is the transmission of traits from one isolated culture to another.
The contacts of Europe with non‑Europeans during the age of discovery. Before that, again with
respect to the Europeans, was the transmission of the culture of the East to the West following the
contact of the Polos with the Khans of China.
To future emphasize the nature of the extrasomatic assumption regarding culture White stresses
the fact that the English language does not exist independent of those who speak it or listen to it.
Yet we treat it as if it had a life of its own independent of those who use it.
It is possible to view humankind as a whole as a nontemporal system.
That is there is a collection of conditions which in their entirety constitute the culture of humankind or the culture of the sub‑group.
The pattern when identified with all humankind is "culture." When the patterns of a specific group are identified it is referred to as "a culture.“
As a final point, obviously even within the pattern of a group there are sub‑cultures. The most evident are those of caste, class and race. "
Note that the concept assumes the existence of a set of conditions or a set of patterns which transcends the individual or any group of individuals.
Only a slight difference in the brain makes the difference between being just able to carrying on the symbolic process and not being able to.
Symbolingability is illustrated in the capacity of the species to assign a religious significance to water as holy water.
A second example is the ability of human kind to trace out extended family relationships.
White divides the components of culture into four categories: ideological, sociological, sentimental or attitudinal, and technological.
Of the four mentioned categories of culture‑‑ the technological is that which is most basic. White writes: "The technolgical basis of cultural systems is rather easily demonstrated. All living organisms can maintain themselves as individuals and perpetuate themselves as species only if a certain minimum adjustment to the external world is achieved and maintained. There must be food, protection from the elements, and defense from enemies. These life‑sustaining, life‑perpetuating processes are technological in a broad, but valid, sense; i.e., they are carried on by material, mechanical, biophysical, and biochemical means."
White continues, "It is fairly obvious that the social organization of a people is not only dependent upon their technology but is determined to a great extent, if now wholly, by it. both in form and content. As a matter of fact, a social system might well be defined as the way in which a society makes use of its particular technology in the various life‑sustaining processes: subsistence, protection forom the elements, defesne from enemies, combating disease, etc.... A hunting people will have one type of social organization as a consequence of this kind of activity, i.e., the use of certain technological implements; an agricultural, pastoral, or industrial people will have another cast to its social system."
The influence of the technology upon the social organization of a particular culture is expressed in two ways.
There is the direct effect of the technological instruments upon the behavior of human organisms.
Second on the social level the instruments relate to one another in a manner designed to make an integrated coherent, social system possible.
Standards of behavior vs real behavior
Trobriand Islanders ‑ incest taboo‑ they show horror at it and seek ways to thwart supernatural punishment.
Trobrinaders‑ spirit conception of offspring ‑ matrilineal, mothers brother has important social position and it would be subversive for father to be biologically connected.
Forces in Culture: Creative—Permissive—Restrictive
Culture as the combination of symbols and tools S x T = C
What is a symbol?
What is a sign?