Exploring socialisation, culture and identity

  • Created by: Elysia
  • Created on: 18-02-13 12:52


  • A common form of behaviour which most people within a society follow
  • They are established over time - passed on from generation to generation - but are changed to fit the ever changing society
  • They are not fixed
  • Examples: wearing a seatbelt in a car, forming queues, being quiet in a doctors surgery
  • Sociologists argue that norms are a social glue and bind individuals together
  • Sociologists argue as to where norms origionate from - whether it's from the dominant or powerful groups within society (the rich) or just from tradition.
  • Underlying social norms are "values"
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  • Values are general principles or beliefs which the majority of society agrees on
  • They develop over time and are able to change
  • Values provide themes that underlie social norms, for example:
    - Wearing a seatbelt reflects the value we place on the human life
    - Forming orderly queues reflects the values of order and fairness
    - Remaining quiet in a doctors waiting froom reflects the value placed on health and
      professional advice
  • Sociologists disagree on whose values became the dominant ones in society, where it was the dominant ethnic group, the values of the rich and powerful or even the politicians that propose the laws of our society
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  • Status can be held by an individual or a group
  • It is based on social position or standing within a society
  • Associated with prestige and honour
  • Status can only come from how something/someone is percieved by others
  • There is high status and low status - both of which can be held at the same time (i.e.a racists avtivist in the BNP - they have a high status in the BNP but outside of it, they have a low social position)
  • Ascribed status: a status is given to someone and there is little they can do to change it (e.g. the royal family)
  • Achieved status: where a status is earned through merit or talent (e.g. a celebrity)
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  • Individuals and groups all perform social roles
  • A role is a pattern of behaviour acted out in everyday life
  • Our roles within life change with age and according to the society around you
  • With certain roles you also get certain responsibilities placed on you
  • E.g: as a student you are expected to attend class, participate in activities and produce homework
  • Some roles develop through social processes (e.g. student, sister, wife), but we are also born into some roles
  • The role of a son, daughter or sibling is ascribed to people, but other roles may develop within society that we can accept or reject
  • If an individual takes on too many roles they suffer from role conflict, where one role may overlap another one - e.g. your role as a part-time employee may conflict with your role as a student
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  • Used to describe the beliefs, customs and ways of life of a society or group within a society
  • There is no precise definition of  "culture"  as sociologists differ with the concepts
  • Williams (1983) - culture is about a "way of life", and includes all the aspects of a group, including values, norms, interests and ideas on life
  • Woodward (2000) suggests a culture of society is based on "shared meanings, values and practices"
  • There are many types of culture
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High Culture

  • Leavis 1930's
  • High culture is linked with the elite, upper class in society (with an ascribed status)
  • It is associated with arts such as; opera, ballet, polo, lacrosse and classical music
  • High culture is associated with a small elite in society, who opperate a system of social closure  (not allowing in outsiders) and thus ensuring that high culture remains elite
  • Sociologists question if high culture is still in the UK, as more people can now achieve their status and super-rich lifestyles, so can buy access to high culture
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Popular Culture

  • The rise of popular culture is responsible for the lack of high culture in the UK
  • Popular culture is associated with the shallow activities enjoyed by a large majority of the population
  • Strinati (1995) - argues that the media is responsible for creating popular culture in the UK, and that consumption playes a key role in popular culture.
  • Due to mass communication, the world has become more consumer orientated and feeds the obsessed with images of designer goods and placing high value on materialism
  • It is argued that popular culture takes an idea from high culture and popularises it - for example sports such as golf has become widespread whereas before it would have been strictly upper class
  • Burberry is another example of high culture that is now associated with the lower classes
  • Some sociologists argue that the popular culture is a product of the media-dominated world; it is positive because it brings people from different backgrounds together in a common culture
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  • A culture enjoyed by a small group within society
  • It is a minority part of a majority culture
  • They have distinct norms and values which make them a subsection of society
  • E.g; hipsters, skaters, emos, scientologists
  • Some subcultures develop in opposition to authority- or in some cases, people are searching for more meaning in their lives
  • Membership of subcultures chage over time, as do the subcultures within society
  • Many people associate themselves with subcultures in young adulthood, and then move away from them in time - however some people stay attached to their group for their whole life
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Cultural Diversity

  • Relates to culturally-embedded differences within society
  • Parekh (2006) identified three types of diversity:

    1.) Having distinct ways off life while still mainly serving the dominant culture within a
         society, e.g. gays and lesbians are trying to open society go diversify what is accepted
         as the norm
    2.) Some people rebel and reject the dominant values, e.g. the environmental group
         "Reclaim the streets"
    3.) Communal diversification, where ethnic groups have long-established communities
         adding diversity to the dominant way of life (such as Bangladeshi communities living 
         in East London)

  • There is a huge body of evidence showing that the UK is a culturally diverse society; class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality are all dimensions of the diversity.
  • Most areas have their distinct ways of life they are famous for, e.g. gay areas or ethically diverse areas
  • It is still possible for a society to have diversity but agree on fundamental norms and values which bind everyone together
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  • Parekh (2006) sees it as very similar to cultural diversity
  • Other sociologogists align multiculturalism with different ethnic groups living side-by-side in society
  • 8.9% of the UK population comes from ethnic backgrounds - making us a multicultural community
  • It promotes the idea that ethnic groups are all of the same status and have an equal right to preserve their own cultural heritage
  • Barker (2003) - sees a multicultural society as seeking to celebrate difference through a range of ethically-diverse festivals and the teaching of multi-faith religious education
  • It is related to patterns of migration - in terms of where migrant groups have come from
  • There is speculation as to whether a multicultural society is a positive entity or whether it encourages seperatism
  • Some argue that within the UK, multiculturalism has resulted in riots and racial conflict within society - it is thought that culturally differences make it difficult for ethnically diverse groups to live together without conflict
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Consumer Culture

  • Related to what we consume and use in society
  • It is accepted that the contemporary UK is a consumer society
  • A consumer culture is based on cultural and economic factors
  • Society portrays a sense of of its identity through the consumer goods available, but the economic conditons within a society are also crucial
  • Lury (1996) - identifies features of a consumer culture -
    - the availability of a wide range of consumer goods
    - shopping is seen as a leisure pursuit
    - different forms of shopping are available (e.g. shopping centers, internet)
    - being in debt is accepted as a social norm
    - the packaging and promotion of goods is a large scale business
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Global Culture

  • Globalisation is the process by which events in one part of the world influence what happens in other parts of the world
  • The world has become more interconnected - socially, politically and economically
  • Economically - the worlds stock markets are connected because of international investment
  • Politically - world leaders have a particular interest in who they ally themselves with and why
  • Socially - trends and fashions in large scale cities spread quickly to other cities
  • Nations are no longer individual or isolated countries
  • A global culture has emerged due to patterns of migration, trends in international travel and the spread of the media (exposing people people to the same images of globally dominant countries such as Apple)
  • McLuhan (1989) - the world has become smaller due to glabalisation - a "global village"
  • McDonalisation has been used as an example that global culture is basically American culture
  • Cultures are formed when individuals and groups learn, aquire and respond to social norms and values
  • Cultures develop over time, in relation to what we consume and take in - "social discovery"
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