Culture and Socialisation
Thus far on our travels we've introduced the concept of culture and looked briefly at some basic ideas surrounding its general use (in particular, how sociologists use the concept of culture, rather than instinct or biology, to explain social similarities and differences.
In this section, however, we need to look in more detail at both the concept itself and, by extension, the general processes involved in the creation and learning of "culturally-appropriate behaviour". To begin with, therefore, it would be useful to look briefly at how the concept of culture can be defined. As with so many things, however, this is not as straightforward a task as it might appear...
In this respect, there are two points we need to initially note and understand:
Firstly, the concept of culture, as it is often used in everyday language, normally refers, in a relatively narrow way, to activities relating to music, art, literature, cinema and the like. The cultural products created in these areas are, of course, important (they may even be used, for example, as symbols a society's uses to establish it's perception of a certain level of cultural development - think, for example, about the way playwrights such as Shakespeare have come to symbolise "English cultural development").
Sociologists, however, have adopted a much wider definition of the concept of culture (although activities such as music, art and so forth are included within this definition), mainly because they want to use it to say something about the overall nature of a society. In this respect, the concept of culture, when used sociologically, refers to every aspect of a society that involves the production and consumption of ideas about the nature of society, the individual, their relationship and so forth. In basic terms, therefore, a wider interpretation of the concept involves, initially, the idea that a "culture" can be broadly defined as a "way of life", transmitted from one generation to the next.
Secondly, although sociologists generally agree about the need for a wider definition of culture than that used in everyday social interaction, this is not to say there are not differences of interpretation involved in relation to the most significant features of the concept. In addition, although defining culture as a way of life is a start, it is not a particularly useful definition (except to give you a basic idea of the concept's meaning) and we could develop the above by looking at some more-precise definitions...
For the sake of clarity, we can assume for the moment that the definition of a culture as a "way of life" is sufficient for our present purpose. If you've looked at the sociological definitions of culture, you'll be aware, however, that most distinguish between two basic components of any culture:
1. The material
things a society creates.
2. The non-material things a society creates.