Culture and Identity

Looking at the Full topic, breaking it down into small bit sized chunks. Includes key terms, perspectives and theories

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  • Created by: Jessica
  • Created on: 11-05-13 10:47


Culture: is the shared norms, values, traditions, language, customs, rituals, symbols, history and knowledge of a society.

These are the features that influence the way in members of that society live their lives. 

Culture is the non-biological aspects of society, and is learned through the process of socialisation. It is socially transmitted. 

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Identity is not a straight forward concept. 

It generally refers to ourt view of ourselves. But this view is influenced by many different factors, including how we feel others think about ourselves. 

Culture and Identity are closely linked, culture is what links the individual and their sense of self to the wider society. 

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Different Types Of Culture

There are many different types of Culture. 

  • High Culture: the highest intellectual achievements. This is elitist and associated with the upper class of society. It includes opera, ballet and polo. They are considered to be superior to other forms of culture. 
  • Folk Culture: traditional cultural forms, that are authentic and associated with pre-industrial forms of society. Includes morris dancing. 
  • Mass/Popular Culture: refers to the products of the mass media in modern day society. Neo-Marxists including the Frankfurt School and Althusser believe that Mass Culture is determental to society, because it dumbs down cultural products, in order to make them accessable to the wider society. In addition to this it is considered to be limiting critical thought and has little artistic merit. 
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Functionalist View Of Culture

The Founder of Functionalism: Emile Durkhiem

He believed that society and culture were more important than the individual because society and culture were existing before the individual was born and will continue after he has died. This is a macro perspective, because it looks at the wider society, not how each individual feels. 

Durkhiem notes that society is ordered, and that people's behaviour is generally patterned and predictable, this is because people are united by a value consensus, they share the same norms and values. 

Culture, according to functionalists bonds the individual together with others and allows them to interact with each other.

It was the job of the social insititutions to socialise individuals into the value consensus. This led to high levels of conformity and social solidarity, especially in pre-industrial societies.  

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Anomie is a concept which Durkhiem coined. He believed that has society changed, becoming more industrial, people would become less like each other, and this would have negative results, because people would confused as to where they fit in, and what norms and values to follow, which would lead to normlessness. This is anomie!

Yet due to the role of social institutions in socialising us, then the effects shouldn't be too widespread. 

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Criticisms Of Functionalism

Durkheim has been criticised for over emphasising social order and consensus within the population. 

Also it is said that he ignores the individuals own choice. He also fails to  recognise conflict within society. 

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Marxism and Culture

Marixts look at social conflict, and believe that there is significant class conflict between the ruliing class, bourgeoisie and the working class, the proletariat. 

They see culture as being there to reinforce the ruling class ideology, and ensure that the class inequalities remain. Cultural values and ideas are dominanted by the ideology. All the social institutions socialise societies members into accepting the social differences and inequalities, and are led to believe that failure to succeed is down to them, and not because of societies structure. 

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Marxism could be over emphasising the idea of social class as being the main source of conflict in modern day society. 

Also it assumes that people are passively accepting the ideology that is within society. 

In addition to this people are aware of the inequalities yet they still choose to accept them. 

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Diversity Within Society

Neither Functionalism, or Marxism actually look at the diversity within society. Of which there is plenty. In modern day society there is a now globalisation, which has led to cultural diversity, with people adopting aspects of different cultures. 

Furthermore there are also subcultures within society. Social groups that are part of society, sharing some norms and values but also having their own constracting ones. These subcultures could be regarded as deviant or delinquent by the rest of society. 

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Socialisation is a life long process, it should happen without people even knowing it. It is the process by which the individual learns the culture of that society, the norms, values, traditions, beliefs, language and customs, they then internalise them and they become their own. 

Socialisation happens in two stages. There is primary socialisation and then secondary socialisation. 

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