Lecture 4 (C. Morais)

Estimated Reading Time 00:04:42

Notes by Camilla Morais

Lecture 4 – Culture and Acculturation


  • Traditionally, “culture” was equated with “civility”
  • Comes from the latin verb colere – to til the soil (i.e. work the land, or improve ad refine the land in order to grow crops)
  • It is the sum total of all products of the human mind
  • Cultural products can be:
    • concrete or abstract
    • individual or collective
    • material or non-material (i.e. ideas)

The controlling effects of culture

  • Even when we have “free choice”, our choice is socially and culturally structured
  • Culture controls and structures and choices, perceptions and opinions
  • Culture is a choice guidance system
  • Defines good and bad, basic common sense (true vs. false, normal vs. abnormal etc.)
    • Varies from one culture to another, not fixed, not inevitable
    • Human beings are structures in certain directions and there is variation between one social structure to another

Political Connections

  • Culture by controlling us can put power in the hands of those who want to control us
  • Dominant ideology – way of thinking that prevails in society: rises when culture is influenced by the stay
  • Our society is a market ideology – everything is for sale, priced according to its value
  • By influencing morality, if influences our behaviour
  • The maker appropriately sorts people into positions of wealth and power and some into poverty and weakness on the other end: Dominant Ideology of our society
  • There is a link between the economic marketplace and the social marketplace 

Cultures vary in what they teach us

  • Often there is conflict between those brought up in different cultures due to different ideas – cultural confusion
  • It is often hard to hold culturally relative values – we tend to be ethnocentric
  • We tend to believe that the way we view the world is the right way
  • You cannot reasonably impose those kinds of standards on other cultures
  • 20th & 21st Century been the main motif
  • Moral evolution versus cultural relativism
  • Nations who were most economically developed had higher cultures and moral standards than those they were colonizing
  • Therefore the colonizers had to go and “correct” this
  • Today we are at a place of confusion in regards to cultural/moral relativism
    • i.e. Western people have difficulty viewing the way dressing of Muslim way in a culturally or moral way
    • Current debate in the “right” way to think of this

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
  • i.e. hard to accept new views about women, gays, youth
  • Marginals – reject host culture and relinquish home culture – unclear on how you should be thinking about things** View slide
  • Identity crisis may result

Culture never stands still

  • always changing within music clothing speech beauty etc.
  • New cultural practices and ideas diffuse through the population
    • took off in agricultural sociology
    • Curve associated with this is called the “S-curve”
    • Contagion

Innovators are always in the minority

  • In the cultural diffusion process 2.5% will be “innovators” and 16% will be laggards
  • People who are innovators or opinion leaders – a lot of contact and information – influence on the community – people are inclined to follow them
  • We don’t know as much as we need to about how and why people innovate and adopt new cultural patterns

Cultural Products Include:

  • Paintings, Books, Music, 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
    • Everything we read, see, hear can be conceived as a text – something we read and interpret
    • Everything we use is culturally used and culturally interpreted – meaning behind wearing black to a gig
    • Any work of art expresses at least three things: genre, particular period, particular artist
    • Also, class position

Art and Cultural Capital

  • People with more cultural capital get more education, get richer, marry “up”

Culture is a “Perceptual Filter”

  • Cultures teach us how to look at things
  • Art as a Cultural Product – distinguishes people by “taste”
  • According to Veblen, Cultural tastes change because the upper class repeatedly invents new elements to distinguish it from the middle class
  • The lower class cannot keep up and the middle class is always trying
  • In order to maintain distinction – “habitus” as described in Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital
  • Cultural literacy is basic; Cultural capital gives people an advantage
  • Cultural capital increase (apparent) social status
  • Cultural literacy improves knowledge base and interaction skills
    • Basic requirement
    • i.e. who is Hamlet

The Canadian Way

  • Canadians are more secular, more socially progressive, more egalitarian
  • Canadians are more realist modest and secular
  • Americans are much more likely to believe that people get rewarded for their efforts

The Cultural Role of Jokes and Humor

  • Socially accepted means of rule breaking

Cultural Globalizations vs. Nationalism

  • Are local cultures going to survive?
  • System changing cultural processes:
  • Certain social and cultural institutions are fundamentally world-chning: i.e. change the way cultures operate
    • i.e rule of law


Starting Points Chapter 3:

Social Scripts are lines and behaviours we are supposed to follow to fulfill roles as seamlessly as possible pg. 66

Becker’s perspective on deviance largely talks about labeling theory and that once people are labeled deviant they tend to set themselves apart, develop their own language identity etc. However they are learned behaviours – Normal people learning deviant behaviours – pg. 67-68



  1. Reflexive sociology, gathering data statistically pg17-18
  2. Pg 49 / Pg30 – Become more apparent, more fragmentary on the et as people surf from site to site and image to image Focus on fragmentary quality
  3. p.33  — linked to neo liberalism – rise in religion when there is a lot of instability

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