Week 3 Lecture Notes – Starting Points Ch. 4

Estimated Reading Time 00:07:03

Lecture 3

Culture and acculturation

Multiple choice:
-don’t choose absolutes/extremes!
-avoid unfamiliar terms
-when in doubt, choose the longer answer

The controlling effects of culture
How does culture control our:
-perceptions and opinions?
-beliefs and values?
-goals and ambitions?

“We are making choices all the time, but all the choices we make are constrained.” -Teppy
“Culture structures our choices, beliefs, and opinions…” -Teppy

Culture is a choice-guiding system

Culture defines:
-Good and bad
-Right and wrong

“Our notions of right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, are cultural perceptions. They’re not fixed; they’re not universal; they’re not inevitable. Else there’d be no reason for social science.” – Teppy

“We live in a scientific civilization. In a scientific civilization there’s an attempt to develop norms.” -Teppy

Culture even has political effects
-Culture, when influenced by the state and modes of production, gives rise to *dominant ideology*.
-By influencing morality, it influences our behaviour.

“In our case, dominant ideology is a market ideology. Everything is up for exchange. Everything is priced. Some people will win, because they bring things to the market. Some people will lose, because they don’t. Ultimately what market ideology tells us is that those who win deserves to win and those who lose deserve to lose. We should respect the winners and look with contempt at the losers.” – Teppy

Cultures vary in what they teach us:
-Cultures teach different views about right and wrong choices
-That sometimes leads to cultural confusion or conflict
-It is often hard to hold *culturally relative* values
-we tend to be ethnocentric

“How is it possible for people to interact across cultural minds given our differences?” – Teppy

“In the 20th century and the 21st century, certainly cultural relativism is the predominant belief. Contrast that to the 19th century, there’s a predominant belief (especially in the West) of progress and colonization.” -Teppy

Moral evolution vs. cultural relativism
-Between 1870-1920 sociology moved away from assuming a moral evolution in human history
-Today it views cultural beliefs as non-rational and largely incomparable
-Must be understood and judged on their own terms

“It was the job of white colonizers to help less-developed savages to ‘realize the correct way to live’.” -Teppy

“That belief [cultural relativism] came to a serious reevaluation after the WWII.” – Teppy
e.g. Nazi and their culture.

Example: the subordination of women
e.g. Islamic dress code for women
“It is extremely difficult (I know it’s pretentious) for Westerners to view that in a culturally relative way!” – Teppy

Cultural change can be painful
-People who, in the process of acculturation, relinquish the home culture and reject the host culture are known as *marginal*
-e.g. hard to accept new views about women, gays, youth

“Probably the most painful experience is the marginal. They are trying to relinquish their home culture. But they either have rejected, or are not yet accepted, in the host culture.” – Teppy

An identity crisis may result
-In the transition associated with acculturation, and identity crisis is most likely to occur after migration and cultural isolation
-This identity crisis may be brief or prolonged, but painful

Traditionally, “culture” was equated with “civility”
-Culture: from the Latin verb colere – to till the soil (i.e. to work the land, or improve and refined the land in order to grow crops)

“We are blocks. For us to be in the world, we have to be ‘cultivated’ by our parents. We have to cultivate ourselves to have the skills and knowledge to make social life possible.” -Teppy
[Tabula Rasa]

Today, we hold a broader definition of culture
-Culture is the sum total of all products of the human mind.
-Cultural products can be
-concrete or abstract
-individual or collective
-material or immaterial

“When I decide how I’m dressing tonight, which I’m sure you’ll all agree to be very beautiful, I am influenced by social and cultural norms!” – Teppy

Culture never stands still
-Culture is always changing
e.g. fashions in clothing, speech, names of children
-Ideas of beauty change over time too

New cultural practices and ideas diffuse through the population
-the curve normally associated with culture of diffusion processes is referred to as the S-curve
-We can speculate about the social processes that produce this pattern
Early adopters -> opinion leaders -> take off (contagion) -> late adopters

Innovations are always in the minority
-In the cultural diffusion process, approximately 2.5% will be “innovators” and 16% will be laggards
-It is interesting that innovation is similar, no matter what is changing
-but don’t underestimate the effects of marketing

Cultural Products include
-they are all modes of “discourse”
-habitual ways of speaking about and understanding a topic
-every cultural “text” consists of key ideas, symbols, and concepts

e.g. *Anna Karenina* movie adaptations change through time.

What does culture express? (What is the discourse?) Consider art:
-Any work of art expresses at least three things:
-A particular genre (landscape)
-A particular period (early 20th century)
-A particular artist (Tom Thomson)
-Also, class position

Art and Cultural Capital
You learn “good taste”
-In this way you acquire *cultural capital*
-Cultural capital provides access to valued interpersonal connections
-People with more cultural capital get more education, get richer, marry “up”

“Cultural capital relates culture to class.” -Teppy

More knowledge of high culture == more cultural capital

Perceptual filter
-We can view culture as a perceptual filter, allowing us to see some things and ignore others
-Cultures teach us that some things are beautiful and others are ugly, some are sensible and others are ridiculous
-Consider the following

Art – a cultural product – distinguishes people by “taste”
Low art (and Kitsch)/folk art/high art

“People position themselves in society with the art that they display, the beer that they drink, etc etc.” – Teppy

The re-invention of taste from above
-According to Veblen, cultural tastes change because the upper class repeatedly invents new cultural elements to distinguish it from the middle class

We learn “habitus” in order to distinguish ourselves by class
-In Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital, “habitus” refers to a body of learned skills needed for distinction
-The accumulation of such learned skills creates a fund of cultural capital

“To distinguish themselves from the poor is what the rich are always trying to do.” -Teppy

Cultural literacy is basic; cultural capital gives people and advantage
-Cultural capital increases (apparent) social status
-e.g. which fork to use with salad?
-Cultural literacy improves knowledge base and interaction skills
-basic requirement
-e.g. who is Hamlet?

e.g. “The Code” – written by a U of T scholar about biblical metaphors, etc. references throughout Western history.

Some cultures (including religions) cover many countries
-Nation-staes are sometimes based on a common culture

Canadian culture
-Canadian and American cultures have many similarities
-There are distinctive norms, attitudes, and beliefs!

The Canadian Way
-more secular
-more socially progressive
-more egalitarian (e.g. Gini indices, tax rates)

Canadians are somewhat more realistic, modest, and secular
-e.g. Americans are much more likely thn other people to believe that people get rewarded for their effort

Distinctive feature of canada: Multiculturalism
-government policy
-it encourages the maintenance of cultures from immigrants’ countries of origin
Pro: ease of assimilation
Con: hinders formation of Canadian identity

Cross-cultural comparisons help us understand our own culture
e.g. Americans vs. French in the restaurant

Cultural Role of Jokes and Humour
-In every culture, jokes and humour let us discuss things that are feared or hated
-Joking is a socially accepted means of rule-breaking
-Since cultures vary in what people fear and hate, they joke about different things, or about the same things in different ways
-Here’s a North American “battle of sexes” joke

Russian joke
-many jokes about newly rich Russians

German jokes
-jokes about other nationalities and regions

Send in a joke!!
Deadline: midnight February 8.

BEST JOKE WINS A $10 GIFT CARD FROM TIM HORTONS!!!!!!?!??!?!!1111?1?!11!!?1!!!1!!!!

Cultural globalization vs. nationalism
Three processes suggest the coming of a global (trans-national) culture
1.Scientific and technological innovation
2.Polycentric cultures and policies
3.Homogenized human ambitions

Growing cultural complexity
“Global culture” featuring:
-diverse elements
-interactions between elements
-interdependence between elements (division of labour)

System-changing cultural processes
Certain social and cultural institutions are fundamentally world-changing
These institutions include:
-free markets
-democratic elections
-rule of law
-scientific inquiry
-technological innovation

Consider the role of science in changing the world

Merton’s model of the “culture of science”
-organized skepticism


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s