Basically, in culture diffusion, traits of one culture are transferred to another culture. There is inter-societal transformation. Diffusion, therefore, is a process which brings inter-societal change. Kroeber has defined diffusion as below:
When something new has been evolved in a culture, whether a tool or an idea or a custom, there is a tendency for it to be passed on to the culture of another society. This is much like the passing on of culture to the younger generation within the evolving society, except for being foreign-directed instead of domestic.
In other words, new culture is transmitted geographically as well as cosmologically, in space as well as in time, by contagion as well as by repetition. The spread in area is generally called diffusion, and the internal handing on through time is called tradition.
Kroeber’s approach to diffusion is important for the following points it makes:
(1) Culture has a space, i.e., it has geographical meaning.
(2) It has a time cover called chronology.
(3) It is different from tradition. If a custom or an idea is handed-over from one generation to another within a society, it is tradition. But if the custom or idea is given to another culture, that is, outside one’s own culture, it is diffusion.
There are several other examples of culture diffusion today. In the present context of globalization, the role of diffusion has assumed a special significance. The ghaghra of India has been transmitted to Europe and the US. The transmission is like onslaught of innovations and, therefore, it is culture diffusion.
But, an idea or custom that is passed on from one individual to another is not diffusion. Diffusion is always on a large scale. It the idea that is transmitted to masses of people belonging to other cultures, is called diffusion. Explaining the nature of diffusion, Kroeber observes:
When an invention passes from the inventor to another individual, we call that it’s successful cultural acceptance. Diffusion may be viewed as an extension of the process, on a much larger scale, by which an invention or innovation or sometimes even an older culture trait spreads from the society in which it originated to new societies and becomes established in their cultures.