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Society and Culture

Society and Culture

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Society and Culture

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  1. Society and Culture • PRODUCTS OF HUMAN INTERACTION - COMPONENTS OF SOCIETY • CULTURE: sets of traditions, rules, symbols that shape and are enacted as feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of groups of people. Referring primarily to learned behavior as distinct from that which is given by nature, or biology, culture has been used to designate everything that is humanly produced (habits, beliefs, arts, and artifacts) and passed from one generation to another. In this formulation, culture is distinguished from nature, and distinguishes one society from another. LANGUAGE: a system of verbal symbols through which humans communicate ideas, feelings, experiences. Through language these can be accumulated and transmitted across generations. Language is not only a tool, or a means of expression, but it also structures and shapes our experiences of the world and what we see around us.

  2. Human Society: A small speck in time • Human beings are c. 500,000 years old • Agriculture is c. 12,000 years old • Civilizations are c. 6,000 years old • In a 24-hour world: • 23.56:00 – agriculture • 23.57:00 – civilizations • 23.59:30 – modern societies • More change in final thirty seconds than hitherto

  3. Societies • First Wave - Agrarian • Second wave – Industrial • Third wave – Post Industrial, • Knowledge based • (Alvin Toffler- Third Wave) • Almost all countries are multi-wave

  4. Transition from Agrarian to Industrial to post-industrial knowledge economy

  5. Pre-modern Societies • Hunting and gathering societies • 50,000 BC, almost disappeared • Small numbers; fishing, hunting, edible plants • Agrarian Societies • 12,000 BC to present, losing their identity • Small and rural, some inequality, rule by chiefs • Pastoral societies • 12,000 BC to present, now subsumed in larger states • Domesticated animals, distinct inequalities, chiefs • Traditional societies-6,000 BC to 19th century, all now disappeared -Settlements in millions, cities, trade and agriculture, kings

  6. Culture • Generally speaking, the following elements of social life are considered to be representative of human culture: "stories, beliefs, media, ideas, works of art, religious practices, fashions, rituals, specialized knowledge, and common sense“.

  7. --- • culture is more than the object or behavior. Culture also includes, …norms, values, beliefs, or expressive symbols. Roughly, norms are the way people behavein a given society, values are what they hold dear, beliefs are how they think the universe operates, and expressive symbols are representations, often representations of social norms, values, and beliefs themselves.

  8. VALUES: ideas people share about what is good, bad, desirable, undesirable. • These are usually very general, abstract, cut across variations in situations. • NORMS: behavioral rules or standards for social interaction. These often derive from values but also contradict values, and serve as both guides and criticisms for individual behavior. Norms establish expectations that shape interaction. --

  9. Culture: Various views • “Culture. Those patterns of meaning that any group or society uses to interpret and evaluate itself and its situation.” • Bellah et. al. Habits of the Heart 1985:333. • “Culture. A system of durably acquired schemes of perception, thought and action, engendered by objective conditions but tending to persist even after an alteration of those conditions.” • Bourdieu, The Inheritors. 1979. • “Habitus. A set of historical relations ‘deposited’ within individual bodies in the form of mental and corporeal schemata of perception, appreciation, and action.” Bourdieu.

  10. “Culture. Refers to the learned repertoire of thoughts and actions exhibited by members of social groups - repetoires [transmitted] independently of genetic heredity from one generation to the next.” Harris. Cultural Materialism, 1979:47. “Culture. Symbolic vehicles of meaning, including beliefs, ritual practices, art forms, ceremonies, as well as informal ... practices such as language, gossip, stories and rituals of daily life.” Swidler, “Culture in Action” 1986:273. “Culture. The cultural is the creative, varied, potentially transformative working out ... of some of the fundamental social/structural relationships of society.” Willis, Learning to Labor. 1977:137. “ Culture. What it means to act according to one’s culture is, loosely speaking, to follow one’s inclinations as they have been developed by learning from other members of one’s community.” Hannerz, Soulside, 1969:177. ---

  11. Religion- Durkheim’s view Durkheim saw totemismas the most basic form of religion. It is in this belief system that the fundamental separation between the sacred and the profane is most clear. All other religions, he said, are outgrowths of this distinction, adding to it myths, images, and traditions. The totemic animal, Durkheim believed, was the expression of the sacred and the original focus of religious activity because it was the Emblem for a social group, the clan. Religion is thus an inevitable, just as society is inevitable when individuals live together as a group.

  12. Five elementary - forms of religious lifeDurkheim Five elementary forms of religious life to be found in all religions, from the more "primitive" to Judeo/ Christian / Moslem. These are: • Sacred/Profane division of the world; • 2. Belief in souls, spirits, mythical personalities • Belief in divinity, either local or multi-local • a negative or ascetic cult within the religion • Rites of oblation, communion, imitation, commemoration or expiation. He argued that these five forms were communal experiences, therebydistinguishing religion from magic.

  13. Religions

  14. Secularization and Religious Revival • Secularization: the process by which religion loses its influence over various spheres of social life • Dimensions: • Membership of religious organizations • Social influence, wealth and prestige • Religiosity

  15. Debates I Membership of a religious organization may not mean anything to the individual and says nothing about levels of participation of belief… …but it is still a marker of identity and affiliation which may be a significant factor in social solidarity

  16. Debates II The overall total of people in a society who are members of a religious organization says something about that organization’s authority to speak in political and moral debates… …but increasingly in Western societies the traditional churches are losing membership and smaller Christian sects, new age groups, Eastern ethical religions and the religions of immigrant groups such as Islam and Hinduism are gaining membership. Religious pluralism may say something about levels of belief but something very different about the influence of religion in social life.

  17. Debates III You don’t need to be a member of a religious organization to believe in a god or afterlife… …indeed, ‘believing without belonging’ is a term which has been used to describe the situation in contemporary Britain. However, what is the social significance of these kinds of individualized beliefs? Cut-off from social organization do they have any real significance in the organization and stability of the real world?

  18. Religion within the UK What is your religion? (2001 census, England and Wales, %)

  19. Religion within the UK Christian Communities, 2005 (in millions)

  20. Fundamentalism and Public Life Fundamentalism: strict adherence to the literal interpretations of basic religious scriptures and texts, and the belief that the doctrine they reveal should be applied to all aspects of social, political and economic life

  21. Fundamentalism and Public Life • Fundamentalism: strict adherence to the literal interpretations of basic religious scriptures and texts, and the belief that the doctrine they reveal should be applied to all aspects of social, political and economic life • Christian Fundamentalism • Response to rapid, globalized social change? • Politically significant in issues to do with family, contraception, abortion and sexuality • Politically significant in the re-election of former President George W. Bush

  22. Fundamentalism in Muslim Countries • Response to colonial occupation –Afghani pan-Islamism, Deobani, Brelvi, Tableeghi, Ahl-e-Hadis • Deliberate attempt by former colonial powers and new super power to encourage religion in the cold war against communism- early support for Ikhwan, in middle east against nationalist, Pan-Arabist, Nasserite polices of state led development; intervention in Afghanistan against pro-soviet, anti feudal revolution- use of militant fighters from all over Muslim world to fight in Afghanistan • Response to total economic, cultural, political hegemony by US • Incompetent authoritarian local governments (parliamentary, presidential, military, monarchies) employing modern state institutions (administrative, coercive )

  23. Christian Fundamentalism II • Response to rapid, globalized social change? • Politically significant in issues to do with family, contraception, abortion and sexuality • Politically significant in the re-election of former President George W. Bush