Why Culture is the whole of social tradition? – Essay

Kroeber further says that there is a correlation between society and culture. Another important thing is the term ‘acquire’. Without it, culture cannot have its continuum. Amalgamating the definitions of Tylor, Linton and Lowie, Kroeber defines culture as under:

Roughly, then, we can approximate what culture is by saying it is that which the human species has and other social species lack. This would include speech, knowledge, beliefs, customs, arts, technolo­gies, ideals and rules. That, in short, is what we learn from other men, from our elders or the past, plus what we may add to it.

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Actually, Kroeber has constructed his definition from Tylor, who spoke about capabilities and habits acquired by man whom Kroeber has taken as a process of learning from the past and from other man.

As a matter of fact, Kroeber’s definition of culture is a combination of the definitions given by Tylor, Linton and Lowie. In any definition of culture, what is important is the social inheritance or tradition. And, tradition includes speech, language, knowledge and the like.

The functionalists have defined culture in a slightly different way. They have a holistic approach to the understanding of culture.

Mali­nowski stressed the fact that the elements of a culture are closely interrelated and has drawn attention to the dangers of meddling with its functional pattern of interdependent institutions. In his general axi­oms of functionalism, he states:

Culture is an integral in which the various elements are interdepend­ent. Cultures are functionally integrated in the sense that all their elements serve as means to the satisfaction of psychological needs and the institutions of a culture are interdependent. Each culture owes its completeness and self-sufficiency to the fact that it satisfies the whole range of basic, instrumental and integrative needs.

The evolutionary anthropologists have defined culture in terms of its super-organic and super-individual terms.

The term ‘super-organic’ does not mean non-organic, or free of organic influence and causation; nor does it mean that culture is an entity independent of organic life in the sense that some theologians might assert that there is a soul which is or can become independent of the living body.

Here, when we say super-organic, we mean simply that when we consider culture we are dealing with something that is organic, but which must also be viewed as something more than organic if it is to be fully intelligible to us.

The term ‘super-individual’ means that culture is above the indi­vidual. For instance, the food habits are determined by the society, quite the same way as rituals are determined by the society.

These are super-individual-above the individual. The evolutionary anthropolo­gists, thus, have defined culture in terms of super-organic and super-individual.

In a very textual and simplified way John Lewis has defined cul­ture as below:

All that is socially transmitted in a society, including artistic, social, ideological and religious patterns of behaviour and the techniques for mastering the environment, constitute culture.

In Lewis’ terms culture is social transmission which is prevalent is in all walks of social life. Lewis, however, does not stress on the ac­quired aspects of culture. He only talks about transmission from the preceding generations to the coming generation.

Bourdieu looks at culture from a new perspective. He is a neo- structuralist and a post-modernist French sociologist.

Speaking about the importance of culture in society, Bourdieu argues that there are two variants of culture: (i) official or establishment culture, and (ii) counter-culture. Establishment culture is promoted and practised by men of power. This variant of culture, Bourdieu says, is characterized by economism.

According to it, “all social phenomena and more spe­cially the phenomena of exchange are reduced by intellectuals for their profit.”

Bourdieu further says that “there is a thing as cultural capital and this capital secures direct profits, first on the educational market, of course, but elsewhere too also secures profits of distinction strangely neglected by the marginality economies”.

To simplify Bourdieu, it could be said that the official or establishment culture keeps the capitalist and bourgeois away from the common man. The bourgeois benefit from this culture and give it the status of distinc­tion.

The counter-culture, though difficult to define, is marginal or out­side the establishment or official culture. The culture of the poorer masses of people is, in Bourdieu’s paraphrase, a counter-culture.

Thus, from all accounts, the view of culture, according to new structuralists, is a process which benefits the elite groups of the society. Counter-culture naturally belongs to the common man. It is also the theme of social anthropology as it concerns the primitives and subaltern groups.

We have reached a stage of discussion in our effort of defining cul­ture when we can safely say that culture and society go together. There cannot be a culture without society and the vice versa. Culture consists of everything which is learned by the members of a genera­tion from the past.

The new generation is also a creator of culture. Then, culture is super-organic and super-individual. It is holistic in na­ture, it is integral. But this culture cannot be acquired without being a member of the society.

There are some aspects of culture which bear basic similarities and then there are culture patterns which show sym­bolic differences between human beings. In any study of culture, our effort should be to bring out similarities and differences among people in the realm of culture.