In common parlance, the word ‘culture’ stands for taste or refinement. In anthropology, the word covers all sides of our social life and attainment, including our knowledge, belief, codes and behaviour, and art. The wider anthropological meaning does not merely cover activities that are material, such as agriculture, mining of mineral resources and invention of machines.
It has its spiritual or aesthetic side also, and, even in the fulfilment of his basic needs, man looks for aesthetics, some kind of upliftment from the basic or the ordinary. Tylor says that culture is ‘that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. McIver holds that ‘culture is the total social heritage” of man.
If different social systems are studied, it will be noted that social life in a society differs vastly from that of another. This difference lies not only in the mere biological equipment of certain people, but also in other activities like communication, values and norms.
Schneider and Bonjean maintain that culture means the total ‘learned behaviour’ of the members of a society, including their languages, values and norms and the resulting material artifacts that compose their way of life, while Schneider and Bonjean do not find any difference between culture and society, Ralph Linton observes that a society is an organized group of individuals, while culture stands for the organized group of learned responses that characterize a particular society.
When the Great Cave of Shanidar was dug earlier this century, man’s knowledge about himself was changed in a revolutionary manner and the finds, including three skeletons that were unearthed in 1960, established the culture of the Neanderthal man some 45,000 years ago.
In fact, as McIver says, culture is not a unit that is common to every society; each society has a distinct social heritage and such heritage can be described as a ‘culture’ of that society. A culture, therefore, differs from another, and it can grow from one stage to another, just as the culture of modern man has grown from that of the Neanderthal man.
It will at this point be necessary to caution the reader that the term ‘culture’ must not be confused with the word ‘civilization’. According to Matthew Arnold, civilization is an external phenomenon, while culture is an internal process.
Weber explains by saying that while civilization primarily means scientific and statistical knowledge and man’s power of control over nature, culture refers to his artistic, religious and philosophical attainments. According to McIver and Page, technical and technological developments may speak of a civilization, and within such standards, higher aesthetic demands are known as culture.
In the advance of human civilization from the Australopithecus to the Neanderthal man, there has not been any significant onward march which may be described as the beginning of culture. The Neanderthal man used bone tools and saw-like blades, spoke a crude language and his principal occupation was hunting.
The Cro-Magnon that came to exist around 35,000 b.c. showed distinct signs of evolving cultural patterns, for in this period one finds the earliest cave paintings and the use of a developed language. The culture of modern man has shown from the ancient times a desire for advanced tool making and the establishment of elaborate social organisations.
Since 4000 b.c. the Homo Sapiens have indulged in horticultural activities, while his agrarian occupation dates from about 800 b.c. The advances of man for the last 50,000 years has been described by Alvin Toffler (in his Future Shock) as a development of 800 life-times, each life-time being taken by him as a span of 62 years.
According to him, 650 life-times were spent in caves. Language has existed for the last 70 life-times, the printing press for the last 6, and the electric motor for only 2 life-times. The chart for the advance of human occupation tells us that man picked up industrial activities only from 1800 a.d. In the beginning, therefore, the growth of culture was very slow and only recently has culture begun to change rapidly. In fact, culture seems to have appeared on earth with the evolution of Homo Sapiens.
It will appear that ‘innovation’, which is a complex process of discovery, alteration and invention, is the chief activator in culture. To sociologists, innovation does not necessarily refer to machines and mechanical things. Innovation begins with invention, which is any rearrangement of existing cultural knowledge and thought for the
production of anything new.
As such, invention would be an advance upon existing knowledge and, therefore, the higher the existing knowledge, the higher will be the cultural value of inventions. With each new invention, as the use of copper, bronze and then iron, the base of culture is enlarged, leading to the possibilities of a further development of cultural elements.
In recent times, the growth of culture has been rapid, particularly because of the fact that societies have been able to extend their cultural attainments for the benefit of others, and this has helped human society in general.
Diffusion of Culture:
When any society borrows cultural elements from another society and allows the elements to condition its own indigenous elements, diffusion of culture takes place. Diffusion must be distinguished from the processes of civilization. If a highly advanced culture enters a primitive society and conditions it, we shall not call it diffusion.
In order that culture is diffused, we shall pre-suppose ‘the existence of two distinct cultures that have existed long enough in two distinct societies and have conditioned their respective ways of life. The diffusion of culture expands the culture base of societies and the rate of culture growth becomes considerably high.
However, the expansion of the culture base of a society does not take place in an unplanned manner; the demands of the existing level of development determine the avenues of expansion. Some writers maintain that culture has a directional role.
According to them, not only that technology of a society affects its culture, but culture in turn affects technology. Sorokin maintains that economic, political and cultural processes are cyclical in character, that they follow a repetitive pattern without possessing definite periodicity in the succession of their stages.
According to McIver, though social change is not strictly cyclical, there is a rhythm implicit in it. Cultural life selects between expression in valuation and style an the potentiality of such expression. In free countries, these changes take place between orthodoxy and tolerance, and between asceticism and liberantarianism.
Ogburn explains in his book on Social Change the difference between ‘material’ and ‘non-material’ culture. Culture relates itself to values, norms, attitudes and beliefs obtainable in a society, and it would not be proper to use the term in respect of such material objects as a building, an automobile or a rocket.
By the term ‘material culture’, therefore, one means that there is also a definite influence of culture upon material objects that are produced by it. Learning and advanced knowledge help the improvement of tools and instruments, and that itself brings in products which have in them the distinct imprint of culture. Societies, therefore, do not differ merely in language, customs and rules of behaviour. They differ also in the level of technological development and in the material goods that are produced with such technology.
Ogburn suggests that the rate of material invention increases with the passage of time, but the rate of non-material progress does not show itself in the corresponding manner. According to Ogburn material and non-material culture change in different ways. Since material culture has a definite standard of efficiency and a positive directional role to play, its progress can be measured.
One can measure the advance made in models of cars and aeroplanes and their corresponding utility. In the case of non-material culture, however, there is no such yardstick to measure with, and one cannot with definiteness say whether or not we have progressed in the fields of religious, governmental, administrative or artistic activities. Material culture, therefore, can change faster than the non-material one.
The use of the radio, the television, the computer and such other devices may now be current among many peoples of the world, but it cannot be maintained that all the societies concerned are culturally advanced in their values, norms and beliefs. This difference between the rates at which material and non-material culture develop is called by Ogburn as the cultural lag.
Cultural lag can then be defined as the time taken between the appearance of a new material invention and the making of a proper adjustment of society to such higher technology in the fields of non-material culture. It is the failure of adjustment with advanced technology.
McIver prefers the use of the term ‘technological lag’ to that coined by Ogburn for, according to him, there is a failure in the technological process to maintain the high degree of efficiency that is required for its harmonious co-operation with the remaining elements of culture. Some other writers would not accept the term ‘cultural lag’ because they cannot agree that material culture comes first and non-material culture follows. On the contrary, they maintain, material advances are a product of a raising of the level of non-material culture.
Again, cultural lag is not a mere subjective phenomenon. In fact, there is a bundant evidence to show that material culture does not always change faster than non-material culture, and that the non-material side of it at times suppresses the advance of material culture.
There are controlling interests which halt material progress, and these interests may be:
(a) Bureaucratic in nature, as in the case of the army that would oppose any distinct break with its tradition;
(b) Economic organizations, which would resist any new method or device that would be a treat to its profits; and
(c) The cultural traditions of communities or moral considerations of dominant sections of the society. Particularly when a culture is imported into a society, a ‘culture clash’ may result, that is, the values, norms and beliefs of a society may come in conflict with alien values and standards. We, in India, know to what extent the Indian society has been literally convulsed by the introduction of Western values and standards among us.
Culture Traits and Patterns:
Even the smallest of units of a particular culture may be defined as a ‘culture trait’; if these traits exist in relation to other traits, we refer to the whole lot of them as a ‘culture complex’; and when these related culture traits become many and they permeate several aspects of life, they together become a ‘culture pattern’. The use of a weapon for killing animals is a culture trait peculiar to a community, and so will be the manner in which a person greets a guest, whether by embracing, by shaking hands or by simply exchanging affections with folded palms as in India. Culture complexes and patterns cover activities that range from all the modalities of hunting to those of marriage, public feasting in a village and so on.
Culture traits and complexes may or may not always be shared by all members of a society. When all the members of a society share a trait, it may be regarded as ‘universal’. A universal trait is that of wearing clothes, no one being excepted or excluded from the rule. If, however, individuals have a choice of behaviour between different norms that are equally acceptable to society, each such norm will be known as an ‘alternative’.
Thus, in India today, particularly for menfolk, a choice between the indigenous clothes and the Western attire will be an example of an alternative trait. Alternatives are much more numerous than universals. Alternatives may be distinguished from ‘specialties’ which stand for the norm and behaviour of certain individuals and groups, determined according to the quality or characteristics they possess.
Thus adult behavioural norms will not be the same as those relating to the child. Politicians holding public meetings will follow norms that are different from the ones followed by teachers in classrooms; and religious teachers will not have the freedom of speech that is expressive of the truck driver s behaviour.
Sociologists do not fail to notice that fact that even within the patterns of a particular culture there may be variations which may be described as ‘specific cultures’, ‘subcultures’ or ‘contracultures’. The term specific culture may recognize the fact that there is something known as the Indian culture, the Chinese or the Japanese culture but, in this context, we are interested in pointing out the variations that exist within the framework of a particular culture.
Even if Indian culture is taken into account, there will be variations formed in it relating to its norms and behaviour concerning several practices like marriage, child rearing, the status of the woman and succession to property, depending on whether such norms and behaviour are observed regionally, community-wise or according to the religious heritage.
A variation in the cultural pattern as has been described above as a ‘culture speciality’ can take the shape of a “subculture’ when specialities become the shared behaviour patterns of a group as distinct from behaviour patterns that are shared by the larger society. The line of distinction between specialities and a subculture is not very clear, but all that can be said here, to stress the line of distinction, is that a subculture requires that the group observing it will tend to maintain a social isolation from the rest in the society by subscribing to a distinct way of life; specialities are very special types of behaviour pertaining to an individual or a group or a class, and their distinctive traits will not necessarily call for their isolation from society as such.
In the United States, the Hutterites have a semi-religious subculture of their own that prescribes isolation from others in their distinctive mode of clothing themselves, attending religious services in German and not permitting their members education at a level that is higher than the primary one.
In India, particularly in Bengal, the Brahmo religious practices began as a subculture within the culture, but with the advent of the Rabindrik era, after the poet Tagore, this subculture has almost pervaded all different fields of activity so as to embrace Bengali culture as a whole. Today, one hears of the different subcultures that the youth represent, ranging from the discotheque to the one that may arise and confound in the future.
If a subculture comes into direct conflict with norms and values of the society of which it is a part, such subculture may be termed as a ‘contraculture’. Wagon- breakers may possess a subculture of their own that can be described as a contra-culture. It will relate itself to standards of loyality to the gang and the concepts of earning prestige through unlawful modes of acquisition of property.
Delinquent youths subscribe to ways that may be described as a contra-culture although one cannot maintain that all of them live outside the ranges of culture. It will be noticed that a number of them will seem to conform to the culture of their society in all apparent respects; but in the context of very particularized activities only, they will hold their contra-culture above the demands of their culture.
Variability and Uniformity of Culture:
Whether we make a division between the Eastern culture and the Western or we try to distinguish between the cultures of different countries of a single region, there is no denying the fact that sets of values and norms in different societies vary conspicuously. Margaret Mead, in her sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies takes three communities in New Guinea, the Arapesh, the Mundugumor and the Tchambuli.
While the Tchambuli assign to the women the more important roles in society, the men being timid but artistic and dependant on women, the Mundugumors are extremely musculine as a tribe and their women are also quite aggressive and mannish in behaviour, resenting child-bearing and tender approaches towards their children.
The Arapesh society has basic feminine qualities, and both the parents among them take tender care of their offspring. Both men and women are gentle, unassertive and co-operative, and their relations are primarily determined by their joint efforts in producing and rearing the child. Natives of Marquesas Islands characterize themseleves by taking sex very casually, but they exhibit an almost obsessive concern for any possible problem of scarcity of food.
The differences in the cultural traits and patterns are not matters that should demand our whole attention; there are also similarities that run through human societies and cultures. Since every culture is based on certain functional necessities, one may notice in the different cultures a basic human culture that is based on the biological and psychological make-ups of human beings and the similarities of their social and physical environments.
While biological necessities are the same among all human beings, the fact that we all live on the same planet is not a factor that is merely philosophical; it influences all facets of human behaviour. Therefore, the sociologist looks for an inclination towards coherent behaviour among members who represent different cultures, and such inclination sets the pattern of cultural ‘integration’.
Cultural integration would stand for the process in which the different traits of different cultures fit into a more or less unified whole, making life more satisfactory and meaningful in a comprehensive and harmonious manner.
However, the psychological factor that stands in the way of the harmonising process is the characteristic inability of an individual or a group to appreciate the ways of the other. One easily finds the food Habits of others quite bizarre, without for a moment pausing to consider whether or not aesthetic shortcomings prevail in one’s own group also. In order to overcome this problem, sociologists advocate the acceptance of an attitude of ‘Cultural relativity’.
Cultural practices can be properly understood if they are viewed in their total cultural setting, that is, in the context and the circumstances in which they appear. Cultural relativity is an idea that recognizes the fact that different cultural patterns represent nothing else than different solutions to particular problems that are common to all mankind. Man has to live in sheltered abodes, but these abodes range from wooden houses to igloos, made or constructed according to material circumstances obtainable in different societies.
The appreciation of cultural relativity will further be hindered if, in companying one’s own practices with those of others, one tends to look upon other cultures with an air of superiority and with a corresponding sense that all foreign cultures are inferior. This attitude is known as ‘Ethnocentrism’ and the entire human race is in some way or the other, guilty of this tendency.
Norms, beliefs and attitudes being different in different societies, cultural differences between those societies may well be noticed. In any particular society, every individual becomes conscious of its total social heritage and whatever he experiences and understands as a unity in such heritage expresses itself as his ‘personality’.
Personality, as a term, is much wider than that of individual or individuality; it explains, first, the social heritage of the individual and, secondly, the very aggregate or substance of his psychological processes.
Personality, as a term, may be regarded as something more than a mere psychological evidence. Every society prescribes certain forms of behaviour for the individual and. as Malinowski states in A Scientific Theory of Culture, each society tends through its culture to create a ‘basic personality type’ with a complexity of characteristics.
This tendency is so prominent in what has earlier been described as the process of socialization that the culture to which an individual belongs becomes a permanent imprint upon the personality that he carries with him.
Particularly, when the local population in a country is studied in contrast to the immigrants, this difference of personality becomes an obvious matter for the comprehension of the student of sociology. Allport notices a dynamic organization in the physical-mental set-up of an individual that tends to determine his personality by linking up such set-up with the environment. Personality is never independent of the environment; the way of life that is determined by the culture to which an individual belongs conditions and moulds his personality.
Constituents of Personality:
The constituents of a personality are the following:
(1) Natural characteristics are exemplified by hereditary qualities which determine, with the activation of certain ductless glands, the purely physical or biological traits that an individual possesses. These traits alone may, to a great extent, condition personality, for a person with wholesome limbs will tend to react to social conditions more favourably than a person with defective limbs.
The psychologist Adler believes that persons who are deformed or in some way incapacitated generally suffer from an inferiority complex. It is obvious therefore that these persons will have a behavioural pattern that is different from that of persons with a normal growth. Similarly, the workings of ductless glands may be different in different persons. If secretions from the thyroid glands are inadequate, the individual’s mental and physical faculties will be adversely affected; and if such secretions are excessive, his mental tensions and tendencies to frivolous behaviour may become quite noticeable.
Again, the intellectual faculties of an individual may come in for a test under different conditions. In order that an individual closely identifies himself with the demands of his society, his intellectual faculties must be of adequate formation; and the measure of his intellectual development is known as his intelligence quotient.
The intelligence quotient seeks to establish a relation between an individual’s age in years and the corresponding age of his mind, and in the normal individual the I.Q. measures 100. A person whose intelligence quotient measures at 20 to 24 is an idiot, and another for whom the measure is 50 to 70 is a moron, that is, a person who simply cannot adjust himself with a new set-up or tackle any problem of much complexity.
(2) Environmental characteristics including those of physical environment and cultural environment determine personality to a great extent. Some writers maintain that the topographical and the climatic conditions under which an individual grows up help to determine his personality.
But geographical factors alone cannot determine a personality, for we have already considered that persons who are kept isolated from their respective societies cannot develop their personality according to the demands of such societies.
Therefore, the influence of society upon personality is of considerable importance and, when the sociologist pays attention to the distinct culture that a particular society possesses, he discovers the imprint of that culture on the personality that such society creates. This happens smoothly through the process of socialization, particularly that of social induction in which, as has been earlier pointed out the stages are those of suggestion, sympathy and imitation.
As the child grows up into the consciousness of ‘self in society, he develops that ‘self in the context of the culture that the society possesses; and it necessarily follows that the processes that begin with the consciousness of the ‘self and culminate in the power of the ‘self to exercise control over it in terms of the demands of its society, must be regarded as the processes that determine personality.
As soon as the individual is consciously introduced to his culture, he becomes socialized, that is, he becomes aware of his obligations towards society. An individual may be socialized by being introduced to his social environment, which may mean either that he has been made aware of his culture or that he has developed his individual reflexes towards his culture.
The latter type of understanding develops in an individual a quality which we have earlier described as individuality. In this context, our interest centres on the former type of consciousness, that is, the consciousness of the individual that he belongs to, and originates from, a culture.
Factors Affecting the Formation of Personality of an Individual:
The formation of the personality of an individual in the context of his culture may depend upon any of the following factors:
(1) One of the determinants of personality will be the social structure in which the individual is born and nurtured. This very structure of his society, on the one hand, will infuse into him certain values, norms and taboos and his individual behaviour will tend to fall in line with community behaviour in general.
On the other hand, there will be certain associations and organizations, like the family, the church or the Government, of which his social structure is composed, and these agents will have their due share in the task of shaping his personality.
(2) Subcultures, too, alter personality to a great extent and, as such, considerable difference may be noted between the behaviour patterns of individuals belonging to different regions, races or nations, or religions. Even in the case of a single country like India, different personalities are formed according to whether or not an individual represents different regions in it.
The behaviour patterns of a Northerner will have certain district qualities which will not characterize the behaviour traits of Southerners, and these differences may relate to simple matters like the time of the day when a person takes his bath, the type of food preferred, the manner of entertaining guests, and so on. Jawaharlal Nehru writes in his autobiography that it is more than a coincidence that Indian Hindus possess submissive qualities in them at the same time when they respect and worship cows.
In the United states, a number of sociologists concentrate their attention upon the problem of the black man as a personality distinct from that of the white man. In the same country, there are other problems, perhaps in the same degree as we have in India, relating to the fusion of the cultures brought by several immigrants from several countries.
(3) The occupation that a person takes up modifies his personality in a considerable measure, and this influence becomes prominent when we notice the difference between urban and rural occupations. Thus, an urbanite working in an industrial town will develop a mechanical and an impersonal personality which will make him conscious of the importance of the wristwatch in his life.
A villager will not condition all his activities by a mechanical division of the day into time-hours and his approach will be leisurely. Similarly, if a person’s occupation places him in any of the higher classes in society, his manners and his reflexes will not be the same as the ones that characterize a lower class, or a caste.
In any party or gathering, therefore, bluntly to inquire of the price of any article or garment will be indicative of a lower breeding, while decorating the living room with protraits of family ancestors would still be regarded as a sign of one’s association with the middle class.
(4) Each culture almost equates itself with certain values with which it tends to get identified in the course of time. An average Englishman’s obsession about fair play and punctuality has almost equated him with those qualities. The Indian, on the other hand, is associated with an obsession about keeping his caste pure and undefiled.
Elizabath B. Hurlock makes a study of American and French children in this context and finds that though the children of these two countries belong to what may be described as the common Western way of life, the American child tends to be self-dependent, while the French child shows in himself the characteristics of reliance upon parents. American children can, therefore, more readily accept responsibilities, and the French child lags behind in this regard.
One of the problems that invite the attention of sociologists is that of deviance, which stands for any characteristic or behaviour that differs from those that are accepted by the society. In other words, certain individuals in society will be unable to accept the norms and standards of behaviour as set down by the society, and they will exhibit their rejection of such norms and standards by picking up nonconformist trends, which will establish them as ‘deviants’.
They may be drug addicts, alcoholists or simply tramps. So far as the society is concerned, as soon as it finds that these persons vary from the average and do not conform to its norms, it begins to take them unfavourably and this attitude is reflected in the very term ‘deviance’. Sex behaviour that does not fall in line with the pattern set by the majority in society will be treated as deviance, just as criminality is taken as a revolt against social norms.
Emile Durkheim uses the term ‘anomie’ to denote a condition in which the normative order has broken down to some degree in relation to a group or a society, and Robert Merton explains in his Social Theory and Social Structure that whenever the social system fails to provides an individual with clear cut guides to action, a condition of ‘anomie’ results.
Psychological as well as physiological factors may disturb the individual’s sense of belonging to, and being related with, the others in society, and a crisis in the application of norms in thereby caused. Sociologists are now showing distinct signs of re-orienting their attitudes to the question of deviance, and to-day there is a tendency and a willingness to accept deviants as different personalities, rather than as the failure of personality.