Culture & Identity

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  • Created on: 17-03-21 09:18

Functionalism & Socialisation

  • Socialisation is the process whereby individuals learn the shared norms and values around them
  • Functionalism in a consensus, macro approach to sociology
  • For functionalists the process of socialisation is positive for all members of society
  • Durkheim argued socialisation ensures a 'collective sonscience' within society - it helps bind everybody together
  • Similarly, Parsons agrees with Durkheim, arguing socialisation ensures a values consensus. Members of society internalise norms and values, making social order possible


  • Marxist Gouldner (1970) - what about the conflict within the socialisation process?
  • Interactionist Wrong (1961) - individuals can rebel and reject social norms and values - an 'oversocialised' view of man is presented by Functionalists
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Marxism & Socialisation

  • Marxism is a conflict, macro approach to sociology
  • For Marxists the process of socialisation is negative, this is a contrasting approach to Functionalism
  • Socialisation is the process whereby individuals learn the norms and values of the R/C (bourgeoisie) - again, a contrast to functionalism, not a set of agreed norms & values
  • For Marxists the aim of socialisation is social control


  • Inkeles (1968) - all societies have 'societal demands' - common ideas of what their adults should be like, therefore there must be some degree of sonsensus within the socialisation process
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Feminism & Socialisation

  • Like Marxism, Feminism is a conflict, macro approach to sociology
  • For Feminists the process of socialisation is negative
  • Socialisation is the process whereby individuals learn traditional gender roles
  • Radical feminists argue female socialisation is influences by patriarchal ideology and females are socialised into a patriarchal society
  • Oakley (1970) suggested there are differentiated gender roles for males and females which arise from culture, not biology. Although these vary, she argues there is a clear pattern of male dominance. Males and females during socialisation are orientated towards different roles, activities and behaviours


  • Risman & Myers (1997) - things are beginning to change, some households are now socialsing children into a strong 'feminist ideology' - children are being taught the importance of gender equality and to combat stereotypical gender roles
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Interactionism & Socialisation

  • Interactionism is a social action, micro approach to sociology
  • George Herbert Mead distinguished between 2 aspects of the self, namely 'I' and 'me'. Although both developed within society, he considered the 'I' to the the active, decision making aspect of the self and the 'me' to be the socialised aspect of the self
  • Socialisation is the process whereby individuals create their own identities
  • Handel (2006) - individuals are active, not passive in the process of socialisation, children do not blindly accept the norms/values they are socialised into, not everybody has the same experience of socialisation, everybody is different, e.g. class, gender, ethnicity etc.
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Giddens & Socialisation

  • Structuralism theory combines structure and action theory
  • Gidden attempts a 'middle way' between structure and action theory
  • Giddens sees the importance of both social structures and an individual's free will during the socialisation process
  • Individual's use both social structures and interactions between individuals to form a sense of self/their culture, thus they are 'interdependent' of one another
  • Introduces the ideas of the reflexive self - we are continually recreating ourselves, suing social structures and interactions
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Postmodernism & Socialisation

  • The noorms and  values of our society are not transmitted through agents of socialisation in orfer to benefit rich businessmen
  • We consumers choose our identuty and pick up the norms and customes of our society ourselves (through personal experience)
  • Baudrillard, Lyotard and Jameson, argue that culture and identity are much more important in the 21st century - the post modern era has lost faith in the grand belief systems or meta-narratives
  • Emphasise both the shifting interpretation of 'self' to an individual's degree of choice, whereas more traditional views see identity as being shaped in more determinstic manner, e.g. by class
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-> believed that when we are born, we are thrust onto a stage called everyday life, and that our socialisation consists of learning how to play our assigned roles from other people. We enact our roles in the company of others, who are in turn enacting their roles in interaction with us.

Primary Socialisation = learning the langauge, gender roles and basic norms and values. These can be formally taught but are most likely to be picked up informally by children imitating their parents

Secondary Socialisation = a lifelong process and occurs in a wide variety of orgnisations, groups and settings such as school, peers, places of work and religion etc.

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The Family


  • Agent of primary socialisation
  • Despite increasing diversity, the family is still the main source of socialisation within society
  • The family acts as a 'reference group' and allows children to imitate social norms - children can discover accpetable and unacceptable behaviour
  • The family will use sanctions when children exhibit unacceptable behaviour 
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The Family


Functionalism - Parsons views the family as a 'personality factory'. It is the role of the parents, espcially the mother, to mould the passive child into the image of society. The child is filled up with the shared cultural values and thus subscribes to the wider value consensus.

Marxism - children are socialised into a set of R/C norms and values. Zaresky argues teh family is used by the R/C to instil values that are useful to them, e.g. obedience and respect for authority. This ensures exploitation in later life as the children have learnt that power, authority and inequality are ineviatble.

Feminism - children are socialised into gendered identities and gender roles. Oakley (1981) argues that gender roles are socially constructed through socialisation. She expalins how children are socialised into their gender roles by their families in 4 ways: manipulation, canalisation, verbal appelation & different activities.

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  • Agency of secondary socialisation
  • It build upon the socialisation in early years
  • It provides children with academic knowledge to help them make sense of the world and social skills to benefit in the social world
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Functionalism - Durkheim sees education as essential. Subjects within the curriculum allow children to link the past & present, encouraging pride and belonging (collective conscience), e.g. History and RE. Parsons suggests education acts as a bridge between the family and wider society. It equips children with the 'universalistic values' they will need for work, e.g. achievement, competetion and individualism (meritocracy).

Marxism - Althusser argues education primarily benefits the R/C as children not only learn academic knowledge but also character trasits (hidden curriculum), these are essential for exploitation in later life. Subjects which promote a critical investigation of society are neglected, and instead education makes children accept their hierarchy and see failure as their own fault. Failure will keep feeding the need for an uneducated manual labour force.

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  • Agency of secondary socialisation
  • Introduces children to the 'spiritual world', however, also impacts on moral values/behaviour and attitudes
  • Overtime religious laws become intertwined with societal laws
  • However, Gullup (2015) found that the UK is one of the world's least religious countries
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Functionalism - Durkheim suggests religion socialises individuals into a value consensus. These values become internalised and become wider moral codes. Religion also acts as a form of social solidarity fot hose who 'belong' - it unites them to a community of believers and gives children further social influences (moral regulation).

Marxism - marx termed religion 'the opium of the people'. Religion suggest wealth is a reward from God, if you are poor it is a punishment from God. Religion gives the W/C something other to focus upon rather than exploitation. Religion justfies exploitation, because it promises reward in the afterlife.

Feminism - religion acts as a source of oppression, socialising women into traditional gender roles. Feminists argue it does this in 4 ways: texts, places of worship, laws &customs and religious organisations/authority.

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Mass Media


  • Agency of secondary socialisation 
  • Many argue this is the most significant agency today
  • It has far more influence than any other on the individual (especially young people)
  • The mass media offers a number of functions: information, entertainment, communication and consumption
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Mass Media


Marxism - the mass media is a form of ideological social control (I.S.A). It is responsible for spreading 'mass culture' which encourages 'false needs' and 'consumerism' and provides a distraction and discourages any critical thought by the masses. It ensures the R/C can exploit and oppress its W/C workforce.

Feminism - the mass media socialises males and females into traditional gender roles. Feminists argue the mass media's representation of females is stereotypical and overwhelmingly negative. It encourages an idealised and unrealistic ideal about femininity and contributes to the patriarchal control of females by representing females in subordinate roles or not representing them at all (symbolic annihilation).

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Peer Group


  • Agency of secondary socialisation
  • Young children learn social norms through play e.g. negotiation
  • It also allows children to undergo the process of anticipatory socialisation e.g. playing doctors/teachers


Interactionism - Handel (2006) highlights the importance of the peer group for young people, especially teenagers. Peers act as a reference group, allowing them to acquire skills and knowledge that will allow them to successfully interact/integrate with people their own age - they gain a different perspective of society and sense of self with peers then with adults.

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Places of Work


  • Agency of secondary socialisation. Part of the continuous socialisation process
  • Involves the process of resocialisation and anticipatory socialisation
  • Furthermore, it offers both formal and informal socialisation

Anticipatory socialisation = people may learn about/role play their position before enetering the place of work. E.g. children playing doctors and nurses or school children.

Re-socialisation = when beginning at a new place of work, individuals must re-learn rules, regulations and norms.

Places of work, both formally and informally socialise their employyes. Formally through organisational structures and informally through a 'canteen culture'.

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Places of Work


Marxism - workers are socialised in a way which contributes to their continued exploitation. E.g. Ritzer (2002), young people are often socialised into 'McJobs' - unskilled, low paid and part-time work in organisations where they perform predictable, precise and simple tasks repeatedly, and every action/task they perform is controlled by management. They are rarely allowed to use imagination/own initiative and therefore unlikely to question their position.

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Self, Identity and Difference Overview

Structural Theory

  • Identity is imposed on the individual through the socialisation process
  • Individuals are passive and influenced by social institutions

Action Theory

  • Identity is created by the individual. Individuals take meanings from their interactions
  • Individuals are creators of meanings, they can reject social influences
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Mead & Identity (Social Self)

  • Belongs to symbolic interactionism - an action/micro theory
  • Mead argues: the self is not there from birth, but develops over time from social experiences and activities
  • Argues 3 things are essential for the development of the self: langauge, play and games
  • For Mead an individual's identity/sense of self is created by imagining an individual having 2 sides: 'I' and 'me'
  • The 'me' is considered the socialised aspect of the individual. This is shaped by the 'I'
  • The 'I' represents the individual's private inner self. This is controlled by the 'me'
  • The 'I and 'me' work together (fusion) to enable the individual to function in society
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Cooley & Identity

  • Belongs to symbolic interactionism - an action/micro theory
  • Our ID is constantly changing and developing throughout our daily life
  • For Cooley, an individual's identity/sesne of self is created by something called the 'looking glass self'
  • The LGS is the idea that an image of ourselves is reflected in the reactions of other people to us
  • An individual considers this image and modifies/changes our behaviour/ID. Thus or ID is socially constructed
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Goffman & Identity

  • Belongs to symbolic interactionism - an action/micro theory
  • Our ID is developed through the way we 'act' in society. Goffman's theory is dramaturgical - 'the whole world is a stage'
  • Goffman argues we use impression management to create ID/sense of self
  • Like actors we present images ('the presentation of self') to others and act like we wish to be seen. We use props or symbols to present these images
  • Society is divided into the 'front stage' and the 'back stage'. On each 'stage' we act differently
  • If we act a certain way on the 'front stage' our ID may become 'spoiled' through 'stigmatisation'
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Freud & Identity

  • Freud is a psychologist and the founder of the Psychodynamic School of Psychology
  • Our ID is split into 3 parts: ID, Ego and Superego
  • ID - this is something we are born with. It is the most basic part of our ID, and is concerned with instant gratification
  • Ego - deals with realoty, trying to meet the desire of the ID in a way that is socially accpetable
  • Superego - the superego develops last and is based on morals and judgements about right and wrong
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Postmodernism & Identity

  • Postmodernism rejects 'modernist' theories and argues today's society is too complex to be understood and theorised
  • In today's society there are so many choices available to us in relation to how we should live our lives
  • Our identity is continually created and re-created through our consumption of cultural products and symbols
  • Media-saturated society
  • Pick 'n' mix society
  • Bauman (1996) argues identity no longer has a stable basis, identity has now become a matter of choice - individuals can change their identity as and when they want
  • Instead of one mainstream culture, we now have a variety of cultures to choose from. The dominant mainstream culture is being replaced by a wide vareity of 'taste groups' and an increasing diversity of lifestyles
  • Hobswarn notes that most identities are like 'shirts' that we choose to wear, rather than the skin we are born with
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Structural Theory & Identity

  • Structural theories (e.g. functionalism and marxism) reject interactionist ideas on the formation of ID
  • Giddens (2009) - the audience become passive members of a mass society, unable to think for themselves (marxist view)
  • Marx - culture is produced by the dominant group in order to justify its dominance over others. However, critics of the marxist view of culture suggest thar marxists see society divided into 2 groups and do not really consider to role of the individual
  • Unlike action theories, structural theories aregue we are passively socialised into our IDS and have very little choice over the process
  • Functionalists argue that our ID is controlled by the value consensus within society - this defines and determines different roles for different people within society
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Feminism & Identity

  • Sue Sharpe (1976) maintains that differences in child socialisation serve to generate masculine and feminine cultural identities
  • Bryne (1978) argued that the cycle of discrimination against women is therefore created by parents and teachers to reinforce sex stereotypes, which then become the basis for discriminatory practices
  • Ann Oakley in Sex, Gender and Society (1972) notes that from birth, girls are treated differently from boys by the people who care for them
  • Fiona Norman shows that girls are expcted to play with certain toys, which develops different types of aptitude. These roles may be reflected by the aspirations of the children
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Work & Identity

  • Traditionally work represnted your family rather than individual identity. Children would in general do the same job as their parents - surnames passed on
  • Location used to also play a part - e.g. boys living in a miners town would become miners
  • In an industrial society woth increased geographical mobility, people were more likely to do different jobs to their parents
  • Functionalists - perform achieved roles because of meritocracy
  • Today people are less likely to see jobs for life and instead people are more likely to acquire transferable skills that can be used in a range of occupations
  • As such, identity has shifted from one of production to consumption
  • Following the industrial revolution, jobs tended to represent the individual rather than the family. Identity linked to a job has led to braodly associating with a social class
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Consumption & Identity

  • We don't just consume material goods, but also experiences, information and cultural products like art, music, film and TV
  • Postmodernists - consumption helps form our identites
  • Businesses develop brands with their customers in mind and what they will say about them
  • Labels are associated with particular subcultures. The label is a message to others about identity: both the individual's identity but also the shared identity - people display and promote brands that others who they consider similar to themselces also display
  • There are consumer products we associate with men or women, with different ethnic groups, social classes, subcultures or sexual orientation
  • Postmodernists - when poeple buy these products they are choosing to express that identity through consumption. It makes identity one of choice.
  • Some Marxists and Neo- Marxists criticise and point out that class is still a structural factor. If buying an expensive car is intended to express that you are part of the wealthy elite, it is not simply a choice that anyone can make
  • Also, if where you shop is supposed to say something about your identity, but there is significant differences in the cost of shopping one place or the other - could argue that the actual social structure drives consumption, not just personal choice
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Leisure Opportunities & Occupation

The functionalist Parker (1971) argues an individual's occupation and the way they expereince work has an important impact on their lesure time. He argues there are 3 patterns: opposition, neutrality and extension.

Opposition - central life interest and escape from work

Neutrality - an escape from work, leisure is used for relaxation

Extension - a blurring between leisure and work

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Evaluating Parker


  • A recent survey (2012) found that only about 58% of the population over the age of 16 were in employment and about 27% of these were in part-time employment. Therefore occupation cannot explain the leisure activities of a substantial section of the population, including those who are retired, in full-time education and the unemployed.

  • Roberts (1978) and Clarke & Critcher (1995) argue that Parker over simplifies the influence of work on leisure. They suggest his ‘work-leisure typology’ doesn’t take account of the choices people can make in leisure activities and the variation among individuals in the same occupation, e.g. not every fisherman will use leisure to escape work, some may enjoy fishing for a hobby. 

  • Feminists McIntosh (1988) and Deem (1990) argue Parker neglects to take into consideration the way gender influences leisure, particularly women. They suggest, as many women only work part-time their leisure is far more influenced by the demands of domestic labour and controlled by men (patriarchy) than paid employment.

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Leisure Opportunities & Social Class

Financial resources

Cultural expectations about what is appropriate for different social classes, e.g. unsocial hours

Time considerations due to nature of work commitments, e.g. unsocial hours

The physical demands of work

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Leisure Opportunities & Age

Age-related legislation

Different levels of responsibility, e.g. family commitments

Different levels of income

Different physical capabilities

Cohort differences, e.g. familiarity with computer technology

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Leisure Opportunities & Gender

Women may have domestic duties that men do not

Women are more likely to experience double burden

Women have less disposable income than men

More public money put into provision of male leisure facilities

Women may be subject to patriarchal control

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Leisure Opportunities & Ethnicity

Cultural expectations/differences

Discrimination, e.g. racism

Time considerations due to long working hours

Langauge difficulties

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Postmodernism & Leisure

  • Argue leisure has become privatised and home-centred - leisure activities that were once available primarily outside the home (e.g. football, music, films) are now available inside the home due to technological advances (e.g. computers and TV).
  • Lyotard (1984) rejects the idea that social characteristics (e.g. class, gender, ethnicity, age), or as he terms them 'metanarratives', create our identity and therefore influence and determine leisure activities.
  • Many postmodernists suggest identity is formed through consumption activities undertaken in our leisure time: Rojek (1995) & Roberts (1978) - fluid and constantly changing identity. Bocock (2004) - consumption habits define identity. Featherstone (2007) - buying human body. Bauman & May (2004) - DIY identity kit. Taylor (1991) - shopping mall.
  • Other postmodernists suggest identity is formed through the mass media: Strinati (1995) - media shapes consumption. Baurdrillard (1970) - media saturated society


  • What about social groups?
  • Social inequalities still exis in society
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Globalisation & Identity

  • Globalists see the process as a transformation into a single global, economic, political and global system. Postmodernists cite globalisation as one of the more significant features of contemporary society.
  • The idea that society is ever more interdependent and interconnected.
  • Hyperglobalists see this is a positive transformation in society in which people increasingly become global cosmopolitan citizens, knowledgeable about cultures all around the world.
  • George Ritzer writes about Mcdonaldisation - the world has increasingly become like McDonalds . Companies operating with low-skill jobs and limited choices replicated around the world. Others have talked about coca-colonialisation - transnational corporations dominate the world in the way that empires used to in previouus eras.
  • Critics of Ritzer have suggested that McDonalds is a good example of how globalisation is a two way street, and not about cultural homogenisation and neo-colonialism.
  • Globalisation has been argued to influence identity. Stuart Hall argues that the decline in the Nation State has led to a new and aggressive form of racism. There has also been an increase in secularisation as people have become more and more aware of the great diversity of belief that exists in the world.
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Culture & Identity of Today

Strinati argues that you can no longer distinguish between 'culture' and 'reality', that cultural products, like the media leisure etc. are a fundamental part of reality, not just an expression of it.

Bauman and May argue that our behaviours, our culture and our identity, are neither determined by social structures nor entirely our own to choose and 'buy', we have a choice, flexibility and diversity, but we are also constrained by the situations we find ourselves in, and they are not always our choice.

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= a mental/physical impairment which has a substantial and long-term effect on an individual's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, e.g. entering a building.


  • Work opportunities
  • Participation in leisure activites
  • Perceived status in society
  • Verbal/physical abuse
  • Discrimination


  • Stereotyping through mass media & social attitudes
  • Prejudice & discrimination
  • Labelling
  • Disability as the 'master identity'
  • Disability as a 'stigmatised identity'

However, things are slowing changing because of the disabled people's movement creating identity and resistance.

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  • Shakespeare - disability is a label and this labelling category is more of a problem than the actual disability. Disability is a social construct rather than a biological fact.
  • Barnes - agreed and said people become forced to play a 'disabled role'. A disability becomes a handicap when it is socialised into being understood in terms of a disadvantage.
  • For Shakespeare, the important thing is to ensure quality of access.
  • In society there is a discrimination against people with disabilities.
  • Negative stereotypes from the media (weak/dependent). Disabled people are shown infrequently in the media and if they are, it is normally part of the story line.
  • Marsh and Keating - argue everyone is dependent on others so needing help in some aspects of life is not a unique feature of disability, but instead is normal.
  • Some interactionist research has suggested that inequality has reduced but is dow to a self fulfilling prophecy: the negative labelling associated with disability can lead to what Scott calls, learned helplessness.
  • Goffman - The discredited are those with the visible disabilities, whereas discreditable are those with disabilities that are not necessarily viable to the eye, such as mental illness.
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= the length of time a person has lived/an individual's lifespan.


  • Involvement in education
  • Work opportunities
  • Legal responsibilities and restrictions
  • Status in society
  • Degree of independence
  • Leisure activities

The elderly are often stereotyped and discriminated against because of their age - ageism. Johnson & Bytheway (1993) define agism as "the offensive exercise of power through reference to age". Old age is often seen as a negative life stage. 

Ageism can be seen throughout society in 3 ways: institutions, sterotypes and miss-guided assumptions.

The mass media is a key institution in much of the negativity and ageism surrounding the elderly. Through their stereotypical representations and the symbolic annihilation of the elderly - especially women.

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  • One reason different age groups have different cultures & social identities is down to socialisation.
  • General elections show how age is a significant variable when it comes to voting behaviour.
  • Social class used to be considered the biggest indicator but now age is.
  • There is an idea that younger people are more radical than older generations and this will come down to the socialised norms and values. 
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  • Functionalists would account the social identities of different age groups as being a product of socialisation and social change. 
  • Interactionists look at the different labels associated with age groups. Society has different expectations that are not always lived up to.
  • Simon Biggs (1993) looked at older adults in the media and their stereotypes. Usually presented as a problem and difficult. These labels affect how people view themselves and ties in with the ideas of the looking glass self and labeling. Ageism can come from negative attitudes and discrimination following.
  • Lambert (1984) noted that older men are often portrayed as powerful people and as people with authority, but this was not the same for older women.
  • Marxists argue capitalism causes stigmatisation of older people in contemporary society. They argue that because they stop working, they are seen as not being socially useful as the capitalist ideology feeds this prioritising work. Also traditionally they were seen as group that didn’t ‘splash the cash’ although this stereotype has sort of shifted recently.
  • Marxists see age categories as being determined by capitalism – you are a child when you are dependent, then an adult once you can work and then elderly once you are too old to work.
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= an individual's sexual charcteristic/orierntation and behaviour, e.g. heterosexual.


  • May be subject to physical/verbal abuse
  • Subject to discrimination/stereotyping
  • Different leisure activities, e.g. ghettoisation 
  • Symbolically annihilated in the media
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Gender - the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for males and females.

Sex - the biological and physiological characteristics that make up men and women.

Hegemonic Gender Identity - generalised, typical or ideal view of males and females.

Hegemonic gender identities are formed though the primary and secondary socialisation process: Family - Oakley's 4 processes. Education - hidden curriculum and subject choice. Peer group - sexual behaviour. Mass media - the beauty myth and limited roles.

Gender identities are changing for both males and females: females are becoming for independent and males are suffering a 'crisis of masculinity' and there is a 'new man' emerging.

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Is Gender Still Important?


  • Postmodernism rejects the idea that gender is still important in the formation of identity. Lyotard (1984) argues metanarratives can no longer explain the identities people adopt.
  • Postmodernist Rojeck (1995) & Roberts (1986) argue that identities are now fluid and subject to constant change, e.g. through the use of pursuit of leisure activities.
  • No longer simply 'male' and 'female'. Wilkinson (1997) argues there is a growing convergence of masculine and feminine identities.


  • The changes in hegemonic gender identities have been exaggerated, although there has been some mild improvement, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. E.g. women are still likely to undertake most of the housework and get paid less in employment. It is predominantly women/girls who are concerned with their appearnce and failure to 'live up' to female stereotypes.
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= a shared culture of a social group which gives its members a common indentity, making them different from other social groups, e.g. language.


  • Language 
  • Religion
  • Geographical origins
  • Traditions and cultural practices
  • Reaction to racism or discrimination
  • History
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White - face very little discrimination & society at large favour the 'white British'. However, other 'whites' face discrimination, ee.g. white romanian, polish etc.

Black - too simplistic to say 'black', this is homogenising the ethnicity, there are many different 'black'. Gilroy (1993) suggests there is what he argues a shared historical experience of 'black people'.

Asian - too simplistic again as thhere is much diversity. Although some commonality. e.g. extended families. Differences include: language, religion, diet, stress, dress etc. There is a changing asian identity in Britian. Johal (1998) 'British Asians' and 'Brasians'. Although still a stigmatisation of Asian IDs associated with religion, e.g. Islam.

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Socialisation & Ethnic Identity

Family - Ghuman (1991) suggests South Asian families (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi) emphasise the importance of values important to their culture, e.g. family obligation, loyalty, respectful to elders and commitment to religion.

Education - may reinforce ethnic stereotypes throughh establishing ethnic-based religious schools or through racism in mainstream schools. Sewell (1996) argues that Black afrocaribbean identities were reinforced as young BAC coped with racist teach stereotypes by forming peer-related school subcultures.

Media - Sewell (1996) suggests many aspects of 'macho - BAC' identity is derived from the mass media. The media often stereotpes the actions of BAC characteristics. Media allows EM to draw on traditional culture from their country of origin.

Religion - Jacobson (1998) found that Islam has become an important source of identity among some British Pakistani Asians, this is partly a response to the social exclusion, racism and lack of opportunities within British society.

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= a legal term which involves having rights and responsibilities attached to being a citizen of a nation state.


  • Being taught a common history
  • Participating in cultural events/activities
  • Through national symbols such as national flags
  • Having a common langauge
  • Through the experience of discrimination
  • Through sporting events
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Sociologists and National Identity

Hall (1992) - every nation has a collection of stories, images and symbold about its shared experience, which people draw on to construct and express their national identity. It is formed through agencies of socialisation through which it is passed on from one generation to the next. It is reinforced through rituals and ceremonies.

Schudsen (1994) - argues British individuals are socialised into British society in 6 ways, which occurs through the socialisation process (family, education, media, peer group, religion, work).

Palmer (1999) - national identity is promoted and maintained by heritage tourism, using historical symbols of the nation as a means of attracting tourists.

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Is Nationality Still Important>


  • Populus Survey (2011) - people are no longer identifying themselves as British, but are now adopting distincy 'Celtic Identities' (e.g. English, Scottish, Welsh). The survey found that 39% of people would rather class themselves as 'English' than 'British'.
  • The process of globalisation and the rise of 'global culture' is eroding traditional national values and customs.
  • Modood (1997) found that 2nd generation ethnic-minorities thought of themselves as most, but not entirely British. They said this is because they didn't feel fully accpeted by the majority of white, British people. They therefore adopted a 'hybrid-identity'.


  • In 2004 a British Society attitide Survey found most people defined 'Britishness' as speaking English, holding citizenship and respecting the country's laws and institutions - the concept is very difficult to define though.
  • Research by BBC Easton (2013) suggests young people are more likely to identity themselves as 'British' than their parents. 
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= a system of 'social stratification' whereby people are divided based on perceived social or economic status, e.g upper, middle and working.


  • Education
  • Family norms and values
  • Leisure activities
  • Emplyment 
  • Peer Group

Upper Class - small number of wealthy families, privately educated & prestigious universities, conservative norms & values, high culture, exclusive social events.

Middle Class - Broad & diverse membership (e.g. professional, managers, self-employed), focus upon home ownership, both state & private education, education is valued, high cultural capital, defer gratification.

Working Class - manual employment, strong sense of communal identity, extended family networks used as support, immediate gratification, new 'underclass' emerging who are often stigmatised and used as scapegoats by the media.

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Is Class Still Important?


  • Clarke & Sounders (1991) - social class is becoming fragmented into a range of different groups and is being replaced by a whole range of other influences.
  • Pakulski & Waters (1996) - class is deas for identity, it is being placed with lifestyle and communication patterns.
  • Lash & Urry (1987) - class subcultures have weakened. People's cultural choices, tastes and lifestyles have become more individualistic and less influences by close communities and work.
  • Postmodernists - identities have become much more fluid and changeable, people can now choose, 'pick 'n' mix'.
  • A rise in Hybrid-Identities, class is not the only factor.


  • Social class is still a major limitation on people choosing any identity they desire.
  • The British Social Attitude Survey (2007) - 95% of people still identify with a social class.
  • Savage (2013) - class has grown to be more compex than U/C, M/C and W/C and is still an important factor in identity today.
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Folk Culture

= the habits/customs of traditional rural communities emerging directly from their lived experience.


  • Authentic and actively created
  • Created by local communities
  • Rooted in the experience, customs and beliefs of everyday ordinary people
  • Associated with pre/early industrial society
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High Culture

= culture that is seen to have an artistic and/or intellectual merit which is highly valued in society, e.g. classical music, fine art.


  • Seperate/set apart
  • Found in special places
  • Superior
  • Associated with the elites of society
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Mass/Low Culture

= an inferior quality culture. Often it is in contrast to high culture and is associated with those from lower socio-economic groups.


  • Created by commercial organisations
  • Passive
  • Associated with industrial societies
  • Is produced for profit
  • Inauthenticity
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Changing Distinction Between High & Mass Culture

  • There has been a huge expansion in creative & cultural industries e.g. advertising, films, music, TV, publishing. This has resulted in a greater availability of cultural products.
  • There has been a technological advancement in industrial societies which makes all cultural products reproducible, e.g. the internet. This now allows everybody access to cultural products.
  • There is now a greater range of cultural products avilable, individuals can 'pick 'n' mix' their cultural pursuits.


  • Strinati (1995) - argues elements of high culture have now become mass culture & elements of mass culture have been incorporated into high sulture. No longer any real distinction.
  • Storey (2003) - suggests both the middle and working classes are consuming 'high' and 'mass' culture, e.g. Andy Warhol's art work.
  • Giddings (2010) - forms of high culture are now being used to produce mass culture, e.g. video games combine art, architecture, classical music and writers. The distinctions between 'high' and 'mass' culture 'are only there because we are told they are there'. It is now impossible to draw this distinction.
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Popular Culture

= culture that is commercially produced and includes objects, images, artefacts, literature and music of ordinary people, e.g. films, TV, magazines.


  • Reflects the norms, values, institutions and activities of the majority
  • Culture of the working class rather than the ruling class
  • It assumes its consumers are active, not passive
  • Challenge mainstream ideas
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Theorising Subcultures: Functionalism

Subculture: a group that develop their own norms & values that are different to mainstream society, e.g. ethnic groups, working/upper classes, youth, sexuality.

Theorising Youth Subcultures: Functionalists, e.g. Eisentadt (1956) & Parsons (1956) suggest youth subcultures emerge as a way of dealing with status frustration. They suggest that they are a fairly normal and transitional stage from childhood to adulthood. They are often short-lived & expressed through pleasure seeking activity often in the company of the peer group.


  • Functionalism doesn't explain the wide variety of subcultures. It doesn't account for the differences between them because of class, age, gender, etc.
  • What about the negative aspects of youth subcultures? What about their dysfunctions, e.g. links to racism and anti-social behaviour.
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Theorising Subcultures: Marxism

Theorising Youth Subcultures: Marxism looks at the diversity of subcultures. It focuses on the differences between subcultures because of social class.

  • Hall & Jefferson (1976) - examined the youth styles of Skinheads, Punks, Teddy Boys & Mods as subcultures of resistance to the dominant class & culture of society.
  • Hebdige (1976) - examined the Mods and found their style was used as a reaction to the tedium of their life and work. They also saw the bricoloage of punk subcultures as a form of resistance to dominant culture norms & values. They deliberately sought to be offensive, shocking & ugly, e.g. spitting & swearing to express their view that society is also ugly.
  • Brake (1985) also saw W/C youth subcultures as expressions of hostility & resistance to the dominant class.
  • Cohen (1972) saw W/C subcultures as a means of re-establishing a sense of community and social cohesion lost due to the break-up of traditional W/C communities because of unemployment and rehousing. This is supported through the work of Clarke at al (1976) & Hebdige (1979) who examined 'Skinhead Style' and found items of clothing (e.g. Dr Martens) were used as an attempt to recreate the traditional working class community.
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Evaluating Marxism

Marxists focus their attention on high-profile, white, male, W/C, youth subcultures. They ignre MC, ethnic minority and female subcultures.

The Interactionist Cohen (1972) rejects the idea subcultures are created by factors such as class, gender, ethnicity and location - they are manufactured by the mass media.

Postmodernists e.g. Bennett (2001) suggest that subcultures may not be formed out of resistance, but instead just for fun. In a postmodern, media-saturated society, Thornton (1995) argues young people develop their identity and position in society through what they see and hear in the media.

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Theorising Subcultures: Feminism

Feminism suggests female participation in subcultures is ignored.

Feminists suggest females are less involved in male-dominated subcultures for 3 main reasons: gender role socialisation, strict control of leisure time by parents, concerns about personal safety.

Traditionally, girls have been confined to the private sphere of their home. McRobbie & Garber (1976) found that female subcultures took the form of what they called 'bedroom culture' - these focused of activities such as: listening & discussing music, make-up, beauty, talking about boys & dance routines. Tody, However, Lincoln (2004) suggests this 'bedroom culture' still exists but the internet and sites like Facebook make these activities difficult to studdy.

Hollands (1995) found that girls today are much more involved in youth subcultures outside of the home and is becoming similar to men, females are now going out more and becoming more involved in dance and drug subcultures.

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Theorising Subcultures: Postmodernism

Postmodernism rejects the concept of subculture, as they regard them as metanarratives trying to fit people into social structures. Postmodernists reject structural factors (e.g. class, gender, age & ethnicity) have become less significant as sources of identity and the formation of groups.

Culture is so fragmented it is no longer possible to talk about things such as dominant, mainstream or subcultures because all culture is now just many different tastes chosen through consumerism. 

Bennett (1999) suggests the cultural activities of today's youth no longer revolves around the formation of young subcultures but neo-tribalism - the young are no longer interested in forming fixed subcultures around their social status, instead they use consumer choice to identify themselves with a range of groups (tribes). Life in the postmodern, individualised, media-saturated, consumer-driven world is so fluid, nobody knows what will happen next.

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Global Culture

= people in different countries sharing the same norms/values/attitudes/products, e.g. world music.

Globalisation = the growing interdependence & interconnectedness of societies across the world - events which happen in one part of the world are influencing what happens in another - socially, politically & economically.


  • Global products
  • Global media corporations
  • The internet
  • International tourism
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Globalisation: Positive or Negative?


  • Storey (2003) - although American culture is having an impact on global cultures he denies that is has resulted in Americanisation. Individuals are not simply passive, they adopt commodities and change them to meet their local contexts.
  • Roberston (1997) - Glocalisation - this is a process whereby global products or services are altered to meet the needs of each locality of culture in which it is sold.


  • Friedman (2000) - homogenisation of culture - the world has undergone a process of Americanisation. Symbols of American culture have now become dominant globally - this has destroyed/eroded indigenous cultures and has imposed an American way of life on 'local populations'.
  • Ritzer - cultural convergence - 'McDonaldisation Thesis'.
  • Schiller - cultural imperialism - there has been a reduction of cultural differences around the world - the spread of Western & American cultural practices & ideologies - 'coca-colonisation' - global companies use global marketing to promote/create similar lifestyles.
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Sociological Explanations of Culture: Functionalis

  • Durkheim (1903) believed that a shared culture is necessary if society is to run smoothly. This shared culture is passed down from generation and exists over & above the wishes and choices of individuals. People must conform to the culture of their society if they are to avoid the risk of punishment.
  • Parsons (1951) - society is not possible without a shared culture. It allows people to communicate and to work towards shared goals.
  • Parsons & Bales (1955) argue that culture is passed on to children through socialisation, particuarly through primary socialisation in the family.
  • Parsons & Durkheim generally saw culture as slow to change although they believed that major changed in culture do occur as societies evolve.


  • The functionalist explanation of culture seems suited to more traditional societies than contemporary society. Today we are far too diverse.
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Sociological Explanations of Culture: Marxism

  • Marxists argue culture maintains class inequality - it is used by the powerful to ensure control.
  • Capitalist messages are spread through culture to ensure a continued large profit for the R/C.


  • Focuses its attention on mass culture - argue the mass media is key in creating mass culture. 
  • Horkheimer & Adorno argue a key feature of 'mass culture' is the power of the advertising industry and its ability to create false needs and desires within the masses. Advertising is a tool used by capitalists to ensure high consumption levels, this will maintain & increase profits for the capitalists. The Frankfurt School termed the desire for community goods: 'commodity fetishism'.
  • Further support for the idea of a 'mass cuulture' can be seen in the work of Marcuse - argues individuals are today worshipping consumer goods & consuming them on a large scale. This he argues devalues them. Mass/low culture is therefore cheap, vulgar and is used as a tool to dominate the W/C and stop any revolutionary thought - produces a 'one-dimensional man' since the masses are socialised into only one thought - that of the R/C dominant class.
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Sociological Explanations of Culture: Marxism - Ev

Functionalists diagree with Marxists broadly about the nature of society, and therefore do not see a unifying culture as only benefiting one group in society. They also see subcultures as deviant and the cause of criminality & delinquency, rather than being the source of positive social change.

Feminists agree with Marxists in that the dominant culture only benefits the powerful in society, but they argue that it is men who benefit, rather than the ruling class.

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