What is culture?
Culture is a term used to describe the way of life for a group of people. It refers to the beliefs, traditions and ideas that people share. The people who share these ideas form a society.
Material culture refers to the physical things that people create and attach emotional meaning to, e.g. clothing, houses, cars, food, ect. Non-material culture refers to ideas that people share, e.g. their rules, traditions, language and history. This is important as it helps understanding.
Social consutrction is any idea that is created and given special meaning by people. For example, motherhood is a lot more than giving birth, there's a distinct set of social rules for being a good mother in Western culture. Culture is a social construction as it differs from social group to social group. Collectivist cultures are cultures which tend to emphasise belonging to the group as more important than personal freedom, e.g. China and Japan. However, indiviudalist cultures are cultures that tend to emphasise indivudal freedom and personal gain, sometimes at the expense of others, e.g. European and North America.
Cultures can be very diverse, they differ a lot. Cultural diversity is the idea that things that seem normal in one culture may be unacceptable in another. A deviant is someone that breaks the cultural rules.
What is culture?
Social control is an important role in culture. Social control is where rules are created and followed by most people within the culture. If you break these rules you recieve a sanction. A sanction can be a punishment for breaking rules, or admiration for following them. Formal control - institutions in society exist to force people to behave, it's linked to power, e.g. the police, school, army. Informal control - through internalisation of moral codes, the rules act as a conscience and people won't break them otherwise they're seen as deviant.
Norms - the expected behaviour for a culture. Mores - ways of behaving that are seen as good, or moral. Values - linked to the concept of non-material culture, they're basic rules shared by most people in a culture. Beliefs - indiviudal to the person and may influence how we act. Roles - the expected behaviours for any situation that we may find ourselves in. Status - a persons standing or position in society, based on respect.
Social change are any differences in the way that people generally think or act. One of the most significant social changes in British culture is between females and males, females now have the ability to be a more active part on society. This results in males taking on a much wider range of social roles which they didn't aquire before. Functionalists view social change as a problem, however, the Marxists believe it to be a normal state of affairs for society.
The Nature vs Nurture debate
Many of our physical characteristics are inherited, as well as certain personality traits. Nativists oppose to genetics and argue that social characteristics of a person have developed due to evolution.
The nature theory is the idea that we act as we do because we are born that way. The view that human behaviour is prompted by biology rather than society is very significant. There are common examples which include the phrase 'boys will be boys'. Biological imperatives are the things that organisms do in order to survive and reproduce. For example, humans imperatives include eating and sleeping and the nature theory suggests that humans are ruled by biological imperatives, they have no chose in their actions.
The nurture theory is the idea that we act as we do as we're taught how to behave by others. This is the view that society and culture override human genetics. Sociologists argue that cultural imperatives over-ride biology and humans must learn their culture from one another, this is known as socialisation. Sociologists ALWAYS support the nurture theory. Feral children are one of the strongest arguments in favour of the nurture theory. Feral children are children who haven't recieved correct socialisation and therefore they don't have the ability to do certain things in which we can do. For example, they don't acquire speech and rarely behave according to the cultural norms for society. This contradicts the nature theory in which it suggests that they should act in a human fashion as behaviour is instinctive.
How do we learn to be social?
Talcott Parsons claimed that socialisation is the process by which humans learn and internalise their culture's norms and values. He said that people learn beliefs and forms of behaviour which are appropriate to their culture, so society becomes internalised and part of their personality development. He claimed that there are three stages to socialisation:
Primary socialisation - the child learns from the immediate family in the home, adopting the beliefs and values of the family and learning the expectations the persons have for them. Secondary socialisation - this is where the child learns what wider society expects of its members, it takes place otuside of the home. It's acquired from agencies of socialisation such as school and friends. Tertiary socialisation - this is the adult socialisation and takes place when people need to adapt to new situations in which they face, for example, becoming a parent, getting a new job or coping with illness.
Formal socialisation - processes where people are deiberately and consciously manipulated to ensure they follow the rules. This happens through education. Informal socialisation - this is a process where people learn to fit into their culture by observing others around them. They learn what is acceptable behaviour, as well as their place within society.
Parsons said that if people behaved unusual or strange, this is due to poor socialisation.
How do we learn to be social?
Agents of socialisation are any social group or organisation that passes on cultural norms and values. We learn the expected rules through these agents. These include family, education, media, peer groups, religion and work.
There are many aims of family socialisation and these include: the ability to do certain things, such as read and dwim, the desire to achieve ambitions, the ability to survive the outside world and avoid danger, to learn soial roles to support them in adulthood and the ability to think about the social roles of others. Pierre Bourdieu claimed that members of the family belong to the same social backgrounds so children learn a set of behaviours and perceptions that mark the out from other backgrounds. A habitus is a social situation in which we feel comfortable and at home.
The family teach the basic social attitudes, norms and values of the culture. Children aquire their sense of identity from their family. Imitation - children learn social skills by watching and copying. Role models - people that children will copy. Sanctions - punishment or praise.
Talcott Parsons believed secondary socialisation helped people to develop a separate identity in order to deal with strangers. Agencies which pass on secondary socialisation include the mass media, education, friendship, peer groups, and work.
How do agencies of socialization pass on culture?
Social control refers to the idea that people's behaviour and thoughts are regulated by society. Agencies of socialisation are also agents of social control as they teach people to fit into their cultures.
Formal control - this is the deliberate training of people to follow rules. Many social organisations and even society itself have strict rules. These are generally written down so that everyone is aware of them. If these rules are broken people can expect a formal sanction. An example of this is that a murderer would go to priston for breaking a written down rule, a law.
Informal control - this form of control isn't really obvious. It consists of people following unwritten rules such as the norms, values, mores and rules of their culture. Breaking an unwritten rule is just as dangerous as breaking a written rule, however, informal sanctions are less obvious. An example of this is someone who doesn't wash will be punished my members of society by being ignored, and thus, rejected.
There are many different agencies of socialisation and they all pass on culture. (Read next cards for each individual agency)
Agency of socialization: the family and children
The family is the most important agency of socialisation. We acquire the basic rules of our culture from our families and they remain the most important agency of socialisation throughout peoples lives. However, for some people agencies of secondary socialisation may become dominant. The family is an agent of primary socialisation as it's the first agency in which we are exposed to.
Parents will pass on cultural rules and norms through many actions such as: Protection of the child from harm and social disapproval, this is taught very early. Guided and deliberate teaching of the traditions and rules of a culture, children are taught family history or traditions in their culture. Social control occurs when children are sanctioned through praise or punishent, a child may be grounded for disobeying the family rules, or praised for getting a good school report. Children will imitate the behaviour of family members who become role models, this will allow children to then learn their social roles from the adults surrounding them within the home.
However, family socialisation isn't a one-way process with adults controlling children. The child may also influence the adult.
AOC: Family and adults
Taclott Parsons believed that marriage performed a vital function for both society and the indiviudal. The most important function of the family was stablisation of the adult personality. Parents have separate roles within the family. The male has an instrumental role, so his task is to earn money for the family. However, the female has an expressive role so her task is to look after the emotional well-being of the family and take care of the children. Family socialisation is therefore a continuing process with adults passing on their expectations to their partners and encouraging them to fit into socially expected patterns of behaviour.
This theory is very controversial and has been heavily criticsed, mainly by feminists. The idea that adults need to adapt to changing life situations is an area that's becoming more of interests to sociologists. Life course research shows how socialisation is a lifelong process as an indiviudals beahviour changes over time as they move into new roles with different expectations.
Agency of socialization: peer groups
Peer groups are an agency of secondary socialisation. They are made up of people who are in the same age and status as oneself. Your peer group may be the first people that you encounter as you develop independence away from your family, they can be very influential, particularly in teenage years.
Early friendships - young children are very responsible to other children and begin to form friendships when they are about three or four years of age. Children develop group norms and behaviours and these may differ to those of the families that they're a part of.
Peer pressure - this is the process where people modify their behaviour in order to fit in with the group. It can be an extremely powerful force, particularly for young people, and anyone of any age can experience it. Research has shown that people are very fearful of social rejection, so groups can exert a powerful pressure on indiviudals who fail to conform to group norms.
Agency of socialization: education
Education is one of the most powerful agencies of secondary socialisation. Sociologists agree that schools socialise children and also prepare them for the world of work. Functionalists see this as a good thing but Marxists are very critical of what may be being taught to children.
The formal curriculum - schools deliver knowledge of culture to children. It's what is taught in timetabled lessons. It can be influential as 'facts' may be given to children. Althusser, a french Marxist, said that education exists to teach children that an unfair society is perfectly accceptable. He argued that chcildren are taught that failure is their own fault and not that of the unjust society. The formal curriculum can also be used to pass on false 'facts' to children.
The hidden curriculum - there are a number of different definitions of the hidden curriculum. The general opinion is that it's a set of assumptions and beliefs that are taught unintentionally by schools, it includes the values and beliefs that are implicit in textbooks rules, uniforms and the daily life of school.
Agency of socialization: religion
Religion can be a powerful force of socialisation. British society and family law is based on Christian traditions such as monogamy (practice of maintaining marriage to one person at a time).
Collective conscience - Emile Durkhein, claimed that it was impossible to have any form of social life without a set of socially accepted and shared norms and values. He called these shared beliefs the collective conscience. He argued that religion embodied the collective conscience as it established the principles and beliefs that make society stable and well-ordered.
Parental faith - children in religious families will be profoundly affected by the belif of their parents. Erikson stated that children have little or next to no choice but to take on the beliefs of their parents who will train their children in the community aspects of religious beliefs. There may be rites of passage and they may wear items associated with their religion and attend ceremonies.
Agency of socialization: media
The media is a very powerful agency of socialization. There's claimed to be a link between youth violence and the media as early as the 1960's, Albert Bandura claimed that exposure to watching violence results in violent play among children. Despise criticism, it's still seen by many as powerful evidence that the media has a large impact on children.
Copycat behaviour - Bandura's claim is that children model their behaviour on the behaviour of the role models they see on TV. The level of concern is that in some countries, the laws governing chidlren's TV and gaming are very strict indeed.
Hypodermic syringe model - early Marxist theories of the media suggest that the media act as a drug directly injecting into people's minds and affecting their beliefs. People can't escape from the media as it is constantly surrounding us, therefore they accept the messages passed on to them. Children are more vulnerable as they can not establish the difference between reality and fiction.
Agency of socialization: work
Work is a very important agency of adult socialisation. People need to adapt to the demands of their work position and this can be done through formal training and also informal.
Canteen culture - a term often associated with the police force, it exists in all workplaces. Workers need to understand the practices of their employees, their beliefs, how to deal with certain problems and the attitudes they need to sruvive. They expect to be punctual and work hard and may also learn how to survive a full day at work through tricks and tactics
McDonalidastion of work - Ritzer (1993) described how workers in certain industries, such as fast food, were trained not to show initiative. This is so when people go to a chain restraunt anywhere in the world, the food and behaviour of the staff will be the same. This is achieved as staff wear uniforms, the menus remain standard and workers behave the same.Work becomes repetitve, boring and routine.
Link between socialization and identity
Identity can be variable, depending on our social situations. This is because it reflects the view of others. Sociologists have identified two elements to identify: primary identity is our sense of self, secondary identity consists of the roles we play in society.
We develop a sense of meaning of who we are, our identity, in a number of ways: we're told who we are by others, we may choose different identites depending on where we are, identity may give us meaning, some identities may be imposed on us, for example, an ascribed status is a status which is automatically given to you, however, some identities may be chosen, for example, an achieved status is a status you have worked for, you've had to do something to get into that position or role.
One of the most important identites we have is gender. Our biological sex will carry with it a set of cultural expectations. These cultural expectations are our gender roles. Farley (1990) pointed out that in Western cultures, expected male identities include: leadership, control of social situations, decision making, active, unemotional and agressive behaviours. However, expected feminine behaviours include: physical dependency and weakness, emotionalism, lack of control, passive, caring and family orientated.
Link between socialization and identity
Ann Oakley described gender socialisation and claimed children learned the expected behaviour for their gender through the following primary socialisation process: Manipulation - parents encourage behaviour that's normal for the gender, Cannalisation - boys and girls are channeled into appropriate activities, Verbal appellations - girls will be called 'angel' and 'princess' boys will be called 'little monster' and Different activities - girls are taken to dance classes whereas boys are taken to football.
The media also sterotype gender roles so it's difficult to avoid gender socialisation and gendered behaviour. This is due to photos being photoshopped, expectations and this contributes to eating disorders and emoitonal problems.
Social class is an important concept in sociology. Sociologists refer to two basic class groupings which include: the middle class who are generally employed in professional work and have good incomes/high levels of education and the working class who include those who have never worked or had jobs before.
People may take pride in their social class background and position. Lifestyles of the middle class differ from the working class, they have more dispoable income and can spend it on a comfortable lifestyle, nice house, nice cars holidays and leisure activitiies. (continued..)
Link between socialization and identity
Children of the middle class can expect to attend good schools, go to university and gain high-paying jobs.
The working class experiences lives of negativity, lack of culture and over-exposure to the media. As they have no jobs, they have limited money and find it difficult to participate in the more active social lives of the wealthy. It's lack of work and poor working conditions that teach people their class. Charlesworth (1999) explored working-class life and claimed that people had always gained class identity from work.