What Is Culture Sociology


According to sociology, culture is defined as the languages, traditions, beliefs, laws, arts, knowledge, as well as collective identities and memories formed by members of all social groups that contribute to the meaning of their social contexts. Anthropologists investigate cultural meanings through the investigation of individual and group communication; meaningfulness is manifested in social narratives and ideologies; practices; tastes; values; norms; and collective representations and social classifications; and collective representations and classifications.

In The News

Jennifer Hickes Lundquist and Celeste Vaughan Curington wrote the following: Are “hookup” applications, paradoxically, helping to a resurgence of dating culture on college campuses?

Teaching Resources

This invaluable reference, which has been published by the American Sociological Association (ASA) since 1965 and has been a best-seller for many years, provides comprehensive information for academic administrators, advisers, faculty, students, and a host of other individuals seeking information on social science departments in the United States, Canada, and abroad. There are listings for 186 graduate sociology departments in the database. In addition to their name and rank, faculty members are recognized by the highest degree they have earned, the institution and year of graduation, and the areas of particular interest they have.

the Bookstore.

Defining Culture and Why It Matters to Sociologists

When we talk about culture, we are referring to a wide and diversified collection of primarily immaterial elements that make up our social lives. Cultural values and beliefs are defined by sociologists as being those that individuals have in common and may be used to characterize them as a group. Language, communication, and customs are also defined by sociologists as belonging to a culture. The tangible artifacts that are shared by a community or society are also considered to be part of its culture.

How Sociologists Define Culture

Cultural understanding is one of the most significant notions in sociology because sociologists acknowledge that culture plays a critical role in our social interactions. It is critical in the formation of social interactions, the maintenance and challenge of social order, the determination of how we make sense of the world and our role in it, as well as the moulding of our everyday actions and experiences in a democratic society. Non-material as well as material components are included in its composition.

  1. To summarize, Using these categories as a starting point, we may say that culture is comprised of our knowledge, common sense, assumptions, and expectations.
  2. It is also the symbols we use to represent meaning, ideas, and concepts (what sociologists refer to as ” symbology “).
  3. Culture is also defined by what we do, how we act, and how we perform (for example, theater and dance).
  4. Religion, secular holidays, and athletic events are all examples of collective behaviors in which we engage.
  5. Architecture, technical devices, and apparel, among other things, are all included in this category of culture.
  6. Parts of material culture are more usually referred to as cultural products than they are as material culture.
  7. Material culture arises from and is molded by the non-material parts of culture, as well as by the material aspects of culture.
  8. In contrast to this, the interaction between material and non-material culture is not one-sided.
  9. In the case of a strong documentary film (an part of material culture), it is possible that people’s attitudes and beliefs would change (i.e.
  10. As a result, cultural goods have a tendency to follow patterns.

In the case of music, cinema, television, and art for example, what has gone before affects the values, beliefs, and expectations of individuals who engage with them, which in turn affects the development of further cultural goods in the future.

Why Culture Matters to Sociologists

Because it plays such a big and crucial part in the development of social order, sociologists place a high value on culture in their research. When we talk about social order, we’re talking about how society is stable because people have come to agree on rules and conventions that allow us to collaborate, function as a society, as well as (hopefully) live together in peace and harmony. There are positive and negative sides to social order, according to sociologists. Both tangible and non-material parts of culture, according to the notion of traditional French sociologist Émile Durkheim, are significant in that they help to hold society together.

  1. Durkheim discovered via his studies that when individuals gather together to participate in rituals, they reinforce the culture that they share and, as a result, strengthen the social bonds that bind them together even more.
  2. Karl Marx, a well-known Prussian social theorist and activist, is credited with establishing the critical approach to culture in the field of social sciences.
  3. Subscribing to popular ideas, conventions and beliefs keeps individuals involved in uneven social institutions that do not operate in their best interests, but rather benefit a powerful minority, according to his reasoning.
  4. Marx’s theory is based on the assumption that success comes from hard work and dedication, and that anyone can live a good life if they do these things.
  5. In addition to being a force for tyranny and dominance, culture also has the potential to be a force for innovation, resistance, and self-determination.

Culture and Society Defined

Culture is comprised of the ideas, habits, artifacts, and other qualities that are shared by the people of a specific group or community, as defined by the United Nations. People and organizations identify themselves, adhere to society’s common ideals, and make contributions to society through the lens of culture. As a result, culture encompasses a wide range of societal features, including language, conventions, values, norms, mores, regulations, tools, technology, goods, organizations, and institutions, to name a few examples.

  • The family, education, religion, labor, and health care are all examples of common institutions.
  • High culture, which is often associated with the upper class, refers to classical music, theater, fine arts, and other refined pastimes that are enjoyed by the upper class.
  • Low culture, also known as popular culture, is often associated with the working and middle classes.
  • It’s important to remember that sociologists define culture in a different way than they describe cultured, high culture, low culture, and popular culture, for example.
  • Ethnic or racial affinity, gender affinity, or common views, values and activities can all contribute to the formation of a cultural relationship.
  • Cultures developed differently between individuals who lived in polar climes and those who lived in desert conditions, as an example.
  • Culture and society are intertwined in a complex web of relationships.
  • Most people on the planet lived, worked, and worshipped in tiny groups in a single location when the terms culture and society first came to be used in their contemporary sense.

Nonetheless, people prefer to use the terms culture and society in a more conventional sense: for example, being a member of a “racial culture” inside the greater “U.S. society” is considered to be a “racial culture.”

Sociology of Culture

Culture is the symbolic-expressive feature of social activity that may be expressed symbolically and expressively. When the term “culture” is used informally, it can refer to the cultivation of “civilized” habits of thought, the creation of artistic objects, or the entire way of life connected with a particular community. In sociology, the term “culture” can refer to a variety of things, including the ideas that people have about reality, the norms that govern their conduct, the values that drive their moral commitments, and the symbols that are used to express these beliefs, norms, and values.

  • During the 1980s, the sociology of culture began to develop as a distinct topic within the study of sociology.
  • Throughout history, the sociological study of culture has been guided by a common set of fundamental questions: What are the social origins of culture?
  • May you tell me about the cultural trends that can be discovered in different groups and institutions?
  • Academic work in the sociology of culture includes anything from extremely abstract conceptual arguments to empirical research that are closely monitored.

General Overviews

Brief summaries of the sociology of culture can be found in a number of formats. Griswold 2008 is a well-known introduction to major topics and disputes in political science. It also devotes significant time and resources to the arts and cultural sectors. Battani and colleagues (2003) give comprehensive coverage, with particular emphasis on politics and power relations. Among the most comprehensive introductions to broad ideas of culture and their relationships to one another, Smith and Riley 2009 is the finest.

In this collection, you can find review papers that discuss the confluence between cultural analysis and various relevant areas in sociology.

  • Battani, Marshall, John R. Hall, and Mary Jo Neitz are among others who have contributed to this work. 2003.Sociology of culture: an introduction. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. New York: Routledge. An introduction to the sociology of culture with a focus on stratification, modernity, power relations, and social change, edited by Amy Binder, Mary Blair-Loy, John H. Evans, Kwai Ng, and Michael Schudson
  • Binder and Blair-Loy, Mary Blair-Loy, John H. Evans, Kwai Ng, and Michael Schudson, editors. 2008.Cultural sociology and the variety of its practitioners. The Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science, volume 619, is available online. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, California. Wendy Griswold has published a recent collection of papers describing how cultural approaches have been incorporated into a wide range of topical areas in sociology, including the law, education, science, sexuality, economic markets, formal organizations, social movements, popular culture, race and ethnicity, and popular culture
  • Griswold, Wendy, et al. The year 2008 is the year of cultures and civilizations in a changing world. 3D edition. Pine Forge is located in Thousand Oaks, California. A simple and succinct introduction to the sociological study of culture written in an accessible style. Griswold’s “cultural diamond” analytic framework is particularly effective in describing the many definitions of “culture” and demonstrating the importance of conceptualizing cultural processes using Griswold’s “cultural diamond” analytic framework
  • Smith, Philip, and Alexander Riley. An introduction to cultural theory, published in 2009. Blackwell Publishing, Malden, Massachusetts. Cultural theory in all of its expressions is covered in detail, but it is also made understandable. A must-have companion for navigating complicated intellectual terrain
You might be interested:  What Does Culture Mean To Me

Return to the top of the page Users who do not have a membership will not be able to view the entire material on this page. Please subscribe or log in to continue.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available to individuals and institutions through subscription and permanent access.

For additional information or to speak with an Oxford Sales Representative, please visit this page.


  • Adolescence, African Americans, and African Societies are some of the topics covered. Anarchism
  • Agent-Based Modeling
  • Aging
  • Spatial Analysis
  • World-Systems Analysis
  • Agent-Based Modeling Anomie and Strain Theory are two theories that have been proposed. Asian Americans
  • Arab Spring, Mobilization, and Controversial Politics in the United Arab Emirates
  • Assimilation, authority, and hard work are all important concepts. Daniel Bell is a biosociologist, and Pierre Bourdieu is a philosopher. Employment, Caste, Catholicism, Causal Inference, and more. Children
  • Chicago School of Sociology
  • Chicago
  • Chinese Cultural Revolution, Chinese Society, Citizenship, Civil Rights, Civil Society, and Class are all topics covered in this course. Cognitive Sociology, Cohort Analysis, Collective Efficacy, Collective Memory, and Community are all terms that come to mind. Sociology of History in Comparative Perspective
  • Auguste Comte
  • Conflict Theory
  • Conservatism
  • Consumer Culture
  • Consumption
  • Contemporary Family Issues
  • Contingent Work
  • Conversation Analysis
  • Corrections
  • Comte, Auguste cosmopolitanism
  • Criminology
  • Cultural capital
  • Cultural classification and codes
  • Cultural omnivorousness
  • Cultural production and circulation
  • Culture and networks
  • Culture as sociology
  • Democracy
  • Demography
  • Development
  • Deviance
  • Discrimination
  • Gender-based violence
  • Doing gender justice Du Bois, W.E.B.
  • Durkheim, Émile
  • Du Bois, W.E.B. Ethnic Enclaves, Ethnicity, Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis, Exchange Theory, Families, Postmodern
  • Family
  • Family Policies, Facist Theory, Fertility, Bourdieu’s Concept of
  • Foo
  • Field, Bourdieu’s Concept of
  • Field, Bourdieu’ Among the topics covered are Gender and Crime, Gender and Education, Gender and Health, Gender and Incarceration, Women and Professions, Women and Social Movements, Women and Work, and the Gender Pay Gap. Other topics include Gender, Sexuality, and Migration, Gender Stratification, Gender, Welfare Policy, and Gendered Sexuality, as well as Genocide and Gentrification. Goffman, Erving
  • Gerontology
  • Ghetto
  • Globalization and Labor
  • Habit
  • Health
  • Historic Preservation
  • Goffman, Erving
  • G Housing, Human Trafficking, Identity, Immigration, Indian Society, Contemporary
  • Institutions
  • Internet
  • Intersectionalities
  • Intersex
  • Interview Methodology
  • Job Quality
  • Justice
  • Knowledge, Critical Sociology of
  • Labor Markets
  • Latino/Latina Studies
  • Law and Society
  • Law, Sociology of
  • Leisure
  • LGBT Parenting and Family Formation
  • LGBT Social Movements
  • Life Course
  • Lipset, S.M.
  • Leadership, Management, Marriage and Divorce
  • Marxist Sociology
  • Masculinity Protestantism, public opinion, and qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) are all terms that come to mind. It is about race, race and sexuality, race and violence, race and youth, and race in a global context. It is also about race, organizations, and movements. Racism, rational decision-making, interpersonal relationships, religion, religion and the public sphere
  • Residential segregation
  • Revolutions
  • And other topics. Role Theory, Rural Sociology, Scientific Networks, Secularization, Sequence Analysis, and Sex vs Gender are some of the topics covered. Sexual Identity
  • Sexualities
  • Sexuality Throughout One’s Life
  • Sexuality in the Workplace Georg Simmel is a German philosopher who lived in the nineteenth century. Single Parents in the Context of Other Families
  • Social Capital
  • Social Change
  • Social Closure
  • Social Construction of Crime
  • Social Control
  • Social Darwinism
  • Social Disorganization Theory
  • Social Disorganization Theory Society, Social Epidemiology, Social History, Social Indicators, Social Mobility, Social Movements, Social Network Analysis, Social Networks, Social Policy, Social Problems, Social Psychology, Social Stratification, Social Theory Sociological Perspectives on Socialization
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Sociological Approaches to Character
  • Socialization, Sociological Perspectives on
  • Applied Sociological Research on the Chinese Society
  • Sociological Research, Qualitative Methods in
  • Sociological Research, Quantitative Methods in
  • Sociology, Historical
  • Sociology of Manners
  • Sociology of Music
  • Sociology of War (The)
  • Sports, Status, Suburbanism, Survey Methods
  • Sociological Research, History of The State
  • Symbolic Boundaries
  • Symbolic Interactionism
  • The Division of Labor after Durkheim
  • Tilly, Charles
  • Tilly, Charles Inequality in the United States
  • Values
  • Transnational Adoption
  • Trust
  • Unions and Inequality
  • Urban Ethnography
  • The Urban Growth Machine
  • Urban Inequality in the United States
  • Time Use and Childcare Thorstein Veblen was a Swedish economist who lived in the early twentieth century. Violence, as well as visual arts, music, and a sense of aesthetic experience Immanuel Wallerstein
  • Immanuel Wallerstein Max Weber
  • Wealth
  • Max Weber
  • Welfare, Race, and the American Imagination
  • Welfare States
  • Whiteness
  • Welfare, Race, and the American Imagination Between Households, Women’s Employment and Economic Inequality are discussed. Sociology of Work and Employment
  • Work and Employment, Sociology of Work-Life Balance
  • Workplace Flexibility
  • Flexibility in the workplace

culture definition

It is the concepts and physical items (or “things”) that symbolize a group or culture that are referred to as “things.”

Types of Culture

  • Counterculture, dependency culture, explicit culture, high culture, ideal culture, letters, low culture, mass culture, material culture, microculture, nonmaterial culture, popular culture, real culture, subculture, tacit culture, youth culture
  • These are all terms used to describe various aspects of culture.

Culture Pronunciation

Guide to Proper Pronunciation and Usage Syllabification:cul Pronunciation of the word tureAudio Phonetic Spelling is a type of spelling that uses sounds instead of letters.

  • American English is pronounced /kUHl-chuhr/, whereas British English is pronounced /kUHl-chuh/.

Phonetic Alphabet of the International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English is pronounced /kltr/, whereas British English is pronounced /klt/.

Usage Notes

  • Plural:cultures
  • Culture may be both nonmaterial (for example, language) and material (for example, pottery)
  • Amosaic culture is a term used to describe a culture that is extremely diversified. Enculturation is the process through which accumulated cultural information is handed on to the following generation. To develop (adjective)culturally relevant observations and conclusions, sociologists investigate and analyze (adjective)cultural aspects of society.

Related Quotations

  • ‘Culture consists of explicit and implicit patterns of behavior, acquired and transmitted by symbols and defining the distinctive achievement of human groups’, according to the author. “The essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e., historically derived and selected) ideas and especially their attached values
  • Culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand, be considered as conditioning elements for further action.” It represents the conceptual categories that children acquire from their parents and other adults as they grow up. It assists children in generating action and interpreting what they are experiencing. We are deprived of culture from the moment of our conception. We do not yet have a system of beliefs, knowledge, and patterns of customary conduct that we can refer to as our own. We all engage in a form of universal schooling from that point onwards, which educates us about our local culture. But this schooling continues until we die. We learn when to grin and laugh as newborns, but we also learn when to laugh and how to laugh, which are both genetic reactions. Similarly, we inherit the ability to weep
  • Yet, we must acquire the cultural laws that govern when crying is appropriate” (Spradley and McCurdy 2008:2)
  • “Culture is one of the two or three most difficult words in the English language.” (Spradley and McCurdy 2008:2). Williams (1985:87) explains why this is the case: “Ethnographers seek out the insider’s viewpoint because of the intricate historical development of the term in several European languages, but primarily because it has now come to be used for important concepts in several distinct and incompatible systems of thought” (Williams 1985:87). In order to have a better understanding of group members’ behavior from the inside, or cultural, viewpoint, ethnographers must first grasp the information that individuals employ to create behavior and interpret experience. “Rather than seeking for a topic to watch, ethnographers hunt for an informant who can teach them about the culture.” “Such a civilization is tiny, secluded, non-literate, and homogenous, with a strong feeling of group cohesion,” (Spradley & McCurdy 2008:4). Living styles are conventionalized into a cohesive system that we refer to as a “culture.” Tradition dictates that behavior be spontaneous, uncritical, and personal: there is no law or habit of experimentation and thought for the purpose of intellectual advancement. Kinship, its relationships, and its institutions are the typecategories of experience, and the family group is the unit of action in these categories of experience. The holy takes precedence over the secular
  • The economy is based on prestige rather than on the market.” In Redfield’s words (Redfield 1947:293), “Whereas a society is formed of individuals, a culture is composed of ideas, conduct, and material goods.” In Kendall (2006), he states that “society and culture are interconnected
  • Neither could exist without the other.”

Related Videos

  • The origin of the word “culture” may be found at etymonline.com, an online etymology dictionary
  • Alexander, Jeffrey C. The Meanings of Social Life: A Cultural Sociology was published in 2006. The Oxford University Press, New York, and Bennett, Andy. In 2005, the theme was “Culture and Everyday Life.” SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, California.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste was published in 1984. Routledge
  • Simon During, ed. 2010. London: Routledge The Cultural Studies Reader is a collection of essays written by scholars in the field of cultural studies. Routledge, 3rd edition
  • Featherstone, Mike. New York: Routledge. Consumer Culture and Postmodernism, published in 2007. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, California
  • Friedland, Roger, and John Mohr, eds. 2004. Matters of Culture: Cultural Sociology in Action is a collection of essays by cultural sociologists. Robert Giulianotti and Roland Robertson (eds.) Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. “Glocalization, Globalization, and Migration: The Case of Scottish Football Supporters in North America,” published in 2006 by the University of Glasgow. International Sociology21(2):171–98, doi: 10.1177/0268580906061374
  • Griswold, Wendy. International Sociology21(2):171–98, doi: 10.1177/0268580906061374
  • Cultures and Societies in a Changing World, published in 2013. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, California
  • Jenks, Chris. “Introduction: The Analytic Bases of Cultural Reproduction Theory,” published in 1993. C. Jenks’ edited volume, Cultural Reproduction, has pages 1–16. Routledge
  • Seymour Martin Lipset
  • London: Routledge. The Continental Divide was established in 1990. Routledge
  • Robertson, Roland. New York: Routledge. In 1978, he published Meaning and Change: Explorations in the Cultural Sociology of Modern Societies, which was his first book. New York, NY: New York University Press
  • Rojek, Chris, and Bryan Turner, “Decorative Sociology: Towards a Critique of the Cultural Turn,” New York, NY: New York University Press, 2000. Sociological Review, vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 629–48. Roszak, 1969. An Essay on the Formation of a Counterculture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition Sardar, Ziauddin, and Borin Van Loon published a book in London called Faber in 2010. Introducing the field of Cultural Studies. Icon Publishing, London
  • Spillman, Lyn, ed. 2002. Cultural Sociology is a branch of sociology that studies culture. Blackwell Publishing Company, Malden, Massachusetts, and George Steiner, 1983. Some Thoughts on the Redefinition of Culture in Bluebeard’s Castle EveryCulture.com
  • Yale University Press
  • New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
You might be interested:  Why Does This Exercise Call For An Older Culture Of Bacillus

Related Terms

  • Culture jamming, culture shock, culture war, culture maker, language, multiculturalism, society, and values are all terms that come to mind.


“Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials,” by Diana Kendall, published in 2006. 5th edition. Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California. Alfred L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn published a paper in 1952 titled A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions in the Field of Culture The Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Robert Redfield is a writer who lives in the United Kingdom. “The Folk Society” was published in 1947. American Journal of Sociology, vol.

4, pp.

doi: 10.1086/220015 for further information.

McCurdy published a paper in 2008 titled Culture, Conformity, and Discord: Readings in Cultural Anthropology.

Works Consulted

Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner are the authors of this work. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology was published in 2006. Penguin Books, 5th ed., London. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is a comprehensive reference work on the English language. The fifth edition was published in 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston. Margaret L. Andersen and Howard Francis Taylor collaborated on this work. 2011.Sociology: The Essentials (Sociology: The Essentials).

  • David Brinkerhoff, Lynn White, Suzanne Ortega, and Rose Weitz are among others who have contributed to this work.
  • Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California, 8th ed.
  • The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology was published in 2006.
  • Brym, Robert J., and John Lie are co-authors of this work.
  • Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California, 3rd ed.
  • The Sociology of Healthcare was published in 2010.
  • Delaney, Tim, and Tim Madigan are three of the most talented people in the world.

McFarland & Company, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2nd ed.

Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and Their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century, published in 2014.

Joan Ferrante is a writer who lives in New York City.

Seeing Sociology: An Introduction to Sociological Thinking.

Joan Ferrante is a writer who lives in New York City.

Sociology from a Global Point of View Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California, 7th ed.

2nd edition of The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology published by Norton in 2010.

Sutton are co-authors of this work.

Polity Press, Cambridge.

Introduction to Sociology, Second Edition, 2016.

Henslin, James M., et al.

Allyn and Bacon, 10th ed.

Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J.

2011.Sociology: The Foundations of Knowledge.

Jary, David, and Julia Jary are three members of the Jary family.

Kendall, Diana, et al.

Sociology in Our Times, 8th edition.

Kimmel and Amy Aronson are co-authors of this paper.

Allyn and Bacon, Boston; Kornblum, William.

John Macionis is the author of this work.

Sociology, 14th edition.

2012.Sociology: An Introduction to the World.

Macmillan Dictionary (Macmillan, n.d.) is a dictionary published by Macmillan ().

Sociology: Making Sense of Society was published in 2006.

According to Merriam-Webster (N.d.) Merriam-Collegiate Webster’s Dictionary ().

The Social Science Jargon Buster: The Key Terms You Need to Know was published in 2007.

Oxford University Press is a publishing house based in Oxford, England.

WordNet (2010, 2010).

Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, published by Random House in 1997 in New York.


Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective Richard Schaefer is the author of this work.

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall are the authors of this work.

A Sociology Dictionary is a collection of articles written by sociologists for sociologists.

Jon M.

Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California, 2010.

Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W.


Glencoe Publishing Company, New York.

2015.Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction (Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction).

Stolley, Kathy S., et al.

Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut.

The Sociology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained was published in 2015.

Tischler, Henry L., et al.

Bryan S.


Cambridge University Press is located in Cambridge, England.

The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding via the use of the internet ().

Contributors to the Wikipedia project (N.d.) Wiktionary is a free online dictionary. The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding via the use of the internet ().

Citethe Definition of Culture

ASA is an abbreviation for the American Sociological Association (5th edition) Kenton Bell, ed., “culture,” in Open Education Sociology Dictionary (Open Education Sociology Dictionary, 2013). The date was January 15, 2022. (). The American Psychological Association (6th edition) is a cultural institution (2013). Among the entries in K. Bell’s (ed.) Open education sociology dictionary are: This information was obtained from the Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition) Kenton Bell, ed., “culture,” in Open Education Sociology Dictionary (Open Education Sociology Dictionary, 2013).



3.1 What Is Culture? – Introduction to Sociology 3e

Caitlin traveled from Chicago, Illinois, to Madrid, Spain, over her summer vacation to pay a visit to Maria, an exchange student she had met the previous semester and been friends with. She was at the airport when she noticed people all around her speaking in a quick, melodic Spanish. Despite the excitement, she felt lonely and detached from the rest of the world. When Caitlin arrived, Maria’s mother greeted her by kissing her on both cheeks. Her intimidating father remained at a respectful distance.

  • During dinner, Maria’s family sat around the table for hours, shouting, gesticulating, and arguing over politics, which was a taboo issue in Caitlin’s household.
  • Caitlin had difficulty deciphering her hosts’ facial expressions, and she failed to see that she was supposed to make the following toast.
  • She longed for her home and was overwhelmed by the unfamiliar customs, language, and environment she had encountered.
  • What Caitlin did not comprehend was that individuals communicate not just via spoken words, but also through nonverbal cues like as gestures and facial expressions.
  • They assist people in determining when to shake hands, where to sit, how to chat, and even when to laugh in certain situations.
  • Therefore, culture shock is generally connected with travel overseas, even though it can occur in one’s own nation, state or even hometown as a result of this phenomenon.
  • However, when they engage with people from a different culture who speak a different language and use distinct regional idioms, they gradually grow more agitated.

People who are subjected to this persistent stress may begin to feel inept and insecure.

The “genuine” pizza that an American visitor to Italy would wish for, or the risky driving behaviors of the Italians that he or she could complain about.

Everyone, to some extent, is ethnocentric, and identifying with one’s own nation is a natural instinct.

And it was in no way similar to the experience of her classmate Sanai.

After spending two weeks in Spain, Caitlin had gained a greater sense of sympathy and empathy for the plight of individuals who had suffered there.

Recovering from culture shock can take many weeks or even months, and it may take years for an individual to get totally acclimated to living in another society.

Caitlin took a risk and went beyond her comfort zone.

She had gained a great deal of knowledge about Spain, but she had also gained a great deal of knowledge about herself and her own culture. Figure 3.4Experiencing other cultures provides a chance to put cultural relativism into practice. (Photo courtesy of OledSidorenko/Flickr)

2.2: Culture and the Sociological Perspective

Objectives for Learning

  • Give examples of how culture has an impact on one’s conduct. What are the reasons why sociologists would choose cultural explanations of behavior over biological explanations?

It turns out that what appears to us to be a very normal, even intuitive behaviour, such as kissing, is not that natural and biological after all, as the research on kissing reveals. It appears that kissing is best understood as something we learn to appreciate as a result of our culture, which includes the symbols, language, ideas, values and artifacts (physical items) that make up a society’s collective memory. It goes without saying that culture is an important component of any society, given that society, as described before, refers to an association of individuals who live in a specific region and who share a common culture.

  1. Someone who grows up in the United States varies from someone who grows up in China, Sweden, South Korea, Peru, or Nigeria in a variety of ways, some of which are evident and others which are less so, in a variety of ways.
  2. We could not have a civilization if we did not have culture.
  3. Consider the symptoms of morning sickness and labor pains, both of which are extremely known to pregnant women before and after childbirth, and how they are related.
  4. During their wives’ pregnancies, we wouldn’t be astonished if the husbands of pregnant women woke up unwell in the morning or suffered terrible stomach pains during their wives’ deliveries.
  5. Despite this, anthropologists have uncovered some civilizations in which males who are about to become fathers exhibit exactly identical symptoms.
  6. The termcouvade refers to these symptoms, which are not associated with any recognized biological cause or cause of genesis.
  7. Moreover, because they should be experiencing these symptoms, they really do.

When things are viewed as real, as sociologists William I.

You might be interested:  What Causes A Culture To Change

These guys learn how they should feel as aspiring dads, and as a result, they experience these feelings.

A second illustration of how cultural expectations impact behavior that is often believed to have biological reasons is provided by the case of drinking.

In most cases, their inhibitions are reduced and they become raucous and even unruly as a result of the situation.

(PageIndex): Figure (PageIndex): People’s responses to alcohol are influenced by their cultural background.

(Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0; Wizardstaffsking) It turns out that how alcohol impacts our conduct is influenced by our cultural background, which is consistent with the explanation provided above for its effect.

Other cultures consume copious amounts of alcoholic beverages and behave in a boisterous but not noisy manner.

The anthropological data is unequivocal: alcohol as a substance does have an effect on human behavior, but the sorts of effects that occur are influenced by cultural factors.

We learn how to act while we are intoxicated from our society, just as we learn how to behave when we are sober (McCaghy, Capron, Jamieson,Carey, 2008).

Culture Versus Biology

This collection of cases suggests that human conduct is more a product of culture than it is a product of biology. This is not to suggest that biology is insignificant in the modern world. Take, for example, the biological need for food that people have. As a result, they eat. Compared to other animal species, especially other primates such as monkeys and chimpanzees, humans are, on the other hand, far less under the direction of biology. These and other animals are guided in great part by biological impulses that have complete control over them and their behavior.

  • It is true that various breeds of dogs have varying personalities, but even these are a result of genetic variances across breeds that have been handed down from one generation to the next.
  • It is an old biological impulse that a dog responds to when the doorbell rings and it begins to bark.
  • Therefore, the crucial issue is: to what extent does our biology impact our behavior?
  • The majority of sociologists and anthropologists would certainly agree that culture has a significantly greater influence on behavior than biology.
  • Many essential human behaviors and emotions, like competitiveness, hostility, and compassion, according to some academics, may be traced back to our biological composition, according to a school of thought known as sociobiology.
  • What is there about culture that makes sociologists choose it over biology?
  • First and foremost, as kissing and the other examples demonstrate, many behaviors change substantially between civilizations in ways that demonstrate the significant influence of culture on behavior.

Pick, for example, the question of what biological cause may explain why suicide rates west of the Mississippi River are greater than those east of it, to take a difference explored in the previous chapter, or why the homicide rate in the United States is so much higher than that in Canada.

Many sociologists have also expressed concerns about the ramifications of biological theories.

Because it is difficult to modify biology, any problem that has biological causes is unlikely to be readily resolved in the short term.

The lower testosterone levels in women, as well as their different brain architecture, have been attributed to this discrepancy by some studies (Halpern et al., 2007/2008).

What, therefore, can we do to raise the math SAT scores of female students?

Do you want to give them extra testosterone?

Women’s arithmetic ability will not improve if these are the only alternatives available to them, and gender imbalance in math (as well as in high-paying occupations requiring excellent math ability) will continue to exist.

None of these elements will be simple to modify, but at the very least, it is more likely that they can be altered than that biological conditions can be altered.

There is another possible implication of biological explanations that some sociologists are concerned about, and it dates back to an earlier time.

70,000 individuals were sterilized in the United States in the early 1900s as part of the eugenics movement’s belief that certain types of people were biologically inferior and should not be permitted to breed.

A few decades later, the Nazis used a similar eugenics rationale to justify their extermination against Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, and homosexuals (Kuhl, 1994).

Many academics are concerned that biological explanations of human behavior will continue to be used to promote beliefs of biological inferiority in the future (YorkClark, 2007).


  • In any society, culture can be defined as the symbols, language, beliefs, values, and artifacts that make up the fabric of the society. Because people’s ideas and actions are influenced by their cultural backgrounds, culture is a fundamental notion in the sociological perspective. There is considerable skepticism among sociologists regarding biological explanations of behavior, in part because such explanations implicitly support the status quo and may be used to justify claims of biological inferiority.

For Your Review

  1. Have you ever had the opportunity to go outside of the United States? If yes, please describe one cultural difference you noticed while traveling in the country you visited. Have you ever been inside the United States to a region that is vastly different from the one in which you grew up (for example, urban vs rural, or another section of the nation) from where you were born and raised? If yes, please describe one cultural difference you noticed while traveling across the location you visited. How much of a worry do you have about biological explanations of behavior, as do many other sociologists? What are the reasons behind this or that?


  • A. Doja et al (2005). Thecouvade is being rethought. Anthropological Quarterly, 78, 917–950
  • Freese, J. Anthropological Quarterly, 78, 917–950
  • (2008). Individual outcomes can be explained using genetics and social science theories. Halpern, D. F., Benbow, C. P., Geary, D. C., Gur, R. C., Hyde, J. S., and Gernsbacher, M. A. (2007/2008). American Journal of Sociology, 114, S1–S35
  • Halpern, D. F., Benbow, C. P., Geary, D. C., Gur, R. C., Hyde, J. S., and Ger Success in math and science, as well as in the bedroom. Lombardo, P. A. Scientific American Mind, 18, 44–51
  • Lombardo, P. A. Scientific American Mind, 18, 44–51
  • Lombardo (2008). No cretins in three generations: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell, to name a few examples. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Kuhl, S. (1994). German national socialism, eugenics, and racism in the United States are all linked to Hitler. Oxford University Press, New York, NY
  • McCaghy, C. H., Capron, T. A., Jamieson, J. D., and Carey, S. H. New York, NY: Oxford University Press
  • McCaghy, C. H., Capron, T. A., Jamieson, J. D., and Carey, S. H. (2008). Crime, war, and special interest groups are all examples of deviant conduct. Allyn & Bacon
  • Penner, A. M. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon
  • Penner, A. M. (2008). A comparative study of biological and societal variables that influence exceptional mathematical achievement in men and women. 114, S138–S170
  • Thomas, W. I. and Thomas, D. S. (2001)
  • American Journal of Sociology, 114, S138–S170 (1928). The American child: Problems with behavior and methods to help them. Knopf
  • York, R., and Clark, B. (eds.). New York, NY: Knopf (2007). Biological determinism has taken its toll on both gender and mathematical aptitude. Monthly Review, 59,7–15
  • Monthly Review, 59,7–15

What is Cultural Sociology?

978-1-509-52280-4 is the ISBN for this book. Politics in January 2020160 Pages Product Flyer may be downloaded.

Download Product Flyer

The Download Product Flyer button will open a new tab with a PDF of the product flyer. This is a fictitious description. The Download Product Flyer button will open a new tab with a PDF of the product flyer. This is a fictitious description. The Download Product Flyer button will open a new tab with a PDF of the product flyer. This is a fictitious description. The Download Product Flyer button will open a new tab with a PDF of the product flyer. This is a fictitious description.


Cultural differences, as well as conflict across cultures, are always in our midst. By exploring processes of meaning-making, cultural sociologists want to get a better understanding of their place in all aspects of social life. Lyn Spillman illustrates many of the conceptual tools that cultural sociologists use to investigate how individuals make sense of their lives in this concise and accessible book. She provides a fascinating analytical framework within which to analyze the whole area of cultural sociology, drawing on vivid examples to support her argument.

Both a short definition of cultural sociology and an overview of the major methods to the topic are provided in this volume.

About the Author

Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, Lyn Spillman has a Ph.D. in sociology.

Table of contents

1. Greetings and introductions 2. Making Meaning the Center of Attention 3. Meaning and Interaction4. The Process of Creating Meaning 5. 5. In conclusion, landscapes, stages, and fields are all mentioned.


When it comes to analytical synthesis, Spillman’s exceptional capacity to synthesize is on display, and her knowledge of (sometimes little-known) empirical research lends welcome richness to her theoretical debate. To the contrary, Spillman recasts cultural sociology as a rather cohesive model of social existence, providing an elegant and persuasive framework that serves as an organizing frame for the whole subject of cultural sociology,” the author writes. Distinguished Professor of Cultural Sociology at Yale University and Co-Director, Center for Cultural Sociology The author, Spillman, has developed a particularly sharp and solid explanation of the state of the area of cultural sociology that is clear and up-to-date.

Her work should become a standard reference for all sociologists, as well as a popular source of information.” Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Harvard University and past President of the American Sociological Association, Michèle Lamont Students and teachers at all levels, from undergraduate to graduate, will find What is Cultural Sociology?

to be a helpful resource. It will also be of interest to academics interested in cultural sociology, meaning production, and the social construction of reality.” Acta Sociologica is a journal that publishes research on social issues.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *