Culture is a very broad term that includes in itself all our walks of life, our modes of behaviour, our philosophies and ethics, our morals and manners, our customs and traditions, our religious, political, economic and other types of activities. Culture includes all that man has acquired in his individual and social life.
In the words of Maclver and Page, culture is “the realm of styles, of values, of emotional attachments, of intellectual adventures”. It is the entire ‘ social heritage’ which the individual receives from the group.
What Culture is not?
The term ‘culture’ is given a wide variety of meanings and interpretations. Some of them are purely non-sociological if not completely wrong. People often speak of culture as synonymous with education.
Accordingly, they apply the term ‘cultured’ to an educated person or group and ‘uncultured’ to one lacking in or devoid of education. Difference between ‘Cultured’ and ‘Uncultured’ may have something to do with personal refinement also. Possession of it indicates that one knows how to conduct himself in all the social situations to which he is; likely to be exposed.
The man of culture has good manners and good tastes. Further, one may be inclined to believe that a Bachelor of Arts degree possesses ‘better” culture than others. In sociology ‘culture’ does not mean personal refinement. The sociological meaning of the word is quite different.
Historians use the word ‘culture’ in yet another way to refer to the so-called ‘higher’ achievements to group life or of a period of history. By ‘higher’ achievements they mean achievements in art, music, literature, philosophy, religion and science.
Thus, a cultural history of India would be an account of historical achievements in these fields. The adjective ‘cultural’ would differentiate this kind of history from political history, industrial history, military history, (etc. Here again, sociologists never use the term culture to mean the so-called ‘higher’ achievements of group life – art, religion, philosophy, etc.
They use culture to mean ‘all’ the achievements of group life. Further, culture and nationality are not necessarily synonymous. But in the modern world the nation state has become the strongest unifying force in social organisation. Social scientists treat modern nations as if they were cultural entities. But in reality people of the same nationality may have dissimilar cultural features too as it is in India.
Definition of Culture:
1. Malinowski has defined culture as the ‘cumulative creation of man’. He also regards culture as the handiwork of man and the medium through which he achieves his ends.
2. Graham Wallas, an English sociologist has defined culture as an accumulation to thoughts, values and objects; it is the social heritage acquired by us from preceding generations through learning, as distinguished from the biological heritage which is passed on to us automatically through the genes.
3. C. C. North is of the opinion that culture ‘consists in the instruments constituted by man to assist him in satisfying his wants.’
4. Robert Bierstedt is of the opinion they ‘culture is the complex whole that consists of all the ways we think and do and everything we have as members of Society’.
5. E. V. de Robertv regards culture as ‘the body of thoughts and knowledge, both theoretical and practical, which only man can possess.’
6. Edward B. Tyler, a famous English anthropologist, has defined culture as ‘that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals; law, custom, arts any/other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’. Tylor’s definition is widely quoted and used today.