Some major aspects of culture as discussed by Herskovits

His contention is that de­spite the diversity in culture there are, however, some universals. These universals are termed as “psychic unity of mankind”. The hu­man beings have similar capacities and these capacities give rise to certain universals. Herskovits’ argument runs as below:

One of the earliest postulates of anthropological science was that the ends achieved by all human ways of life, or cultures, are basically similar.

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This universality in the general outlines of cultures sup­ported the theory advanced by such early anthropologists as Herbert Spencer and E.B. Tylor, which held that the similarities to be found in the institutions of different cultures are to be accounted for by the similar capacities of all men.

Herskovits’ introduction to the aspects of culture shows that the capacities of man are found in different institutions. There is yet an­other explanation. The similarity is also due to biological traits.

Biologically, all men instinctively respond to a situation in a similar way. All men are in search of bodily comforts, shelter, protection, re­production, and so on and so forth.

Whether a man is from America or India his response to a threat would be protection. It is because of this biological instinct that there are cultural similarities or universals at the global plane. It is this biological instinct which creates a psycho­logical unity among the human beings. Wissler explains this in a precise manner as under:

Man builds cultures because he cannot help it; there is a drive in his protoplasm that carries him forward even against his will.

Social anthropologists have further elaborated the concept of cul­ture aspects. Literally ‘aspect’ means a look, glance or an appearance of a particular object. Culture has certain forms or appearances.

The aspect of a physical man is his facial make up, body colour, stature and so on. In the same way, the culture of a society is apparent from the social and economic life of its people.

As stated earlier, man is born with certain basic needs which in­clude food, shelter and clothing. To these needs now are added education and health. The basic human needs are universal. Besides, there are some derived needs, which owe their origin to the fulfillment of human needs and are achieved through culture.

This, in the end, gives rise to social and cultural institutions. The economic, educa­tional and political institutions supply potentialities to fulfill the derived needs which satisfy the basic human needs. Aspects of a cul­ture are, therefore, manifestation of both human needs and derived needs. Herskovits has defined the aspects of culture as below:

Basic human needs, manifest in the cultural activities of men, in turn set up a series of ‘derived needs’, which means that “culture supplies man with derived potentialities, abilities and powers”.

From the de­rived needs come a series of ‘cultural imperatives’ which give form to the institutions of a culture that go to make up those broadest divi­sions that we shall here term ‘aspects’?

TRe description of culture aspects is also given by Malinowski. He explains derived needs and provides cultural responses. For instance, there are derived needs of consumer goods, shelter and clothing. To fulfill these needs there are economic institutions.

For authority and power, there is political organization. Malinowski includes a large number of institutions which are instrumental in fulfilling the derived needs. Among these are included family, clan, local community and tribe.

Herskovits, in his Cultural Anthropology, has provided a full sec­tion on the aspects of culture. These include universals of culture, technology and the utilization of natural resources, economics, social organization, political system, religion, folklore, drama, music and language.

There are some anthropological studies too which have enquired into the several aspects of culture. One such study is that of Shame pet village conducted by S.C. Dube. Dube has included all the political, economic and social institutions of the village in his study.

This is an excellent monograph on the aspects of culture. Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India by M.N. Srinivas is another study dwelling on the study of aspects. Srinivas has studied the family, kin and community of the Coorgs, besides religion. Actually, Coorgs have been studied from a holistic perspective, in which all the vital as­pects of their culture are included.

Perhaps, the best example of the basic culture aspects of an Indian village is the one found in a Telugu proverb:

Settle down in a village where you find a moneylender, a medicine man, a river flowing unbroken and a Brahmin. Enter not that village devoid of these four essentials.

Sumati Satakam, in a Telugu book, Practical Wisdom:

If one asks, what are the principle aspects of Indian village cul­ture?, the answer is provided in the above book. According to it, culture aspects of a village are: a moneylender, a physician, a source of potable water and a. priest. These four aspects of culture fulfill the major derived needs of man.

Kroeber has further elaborated the aspects of culture. He men­tions that rural and urban communities are nothing but the manifestations of culture.

In the same spirit he says that the institu­tions of class, caste, tribe and nomadic communities are also broad aspects of culture which are under the process of transformation. Mike Featherstone, in his Global Culture (1990), discusses the status of culture aspects in the context of global culture.

He argues that the lo­cal culture and its aspects are in a state of crisis due to the extending frontiers of globalization. It must be stressed here that though aspects of culture are under strain, and occasionally on the verge of extinc­tion, the basic human needs remain the same. The derived needs may undergo change in the form of social and cultural institutions, but this, however, should not threaten us.