Definition of Culture

Definition of Culture

Definition of Culture by Sociologist

It is an emergent web of representations, holistically encompassing the deep- set value, belief, and symbolic systems of a natural collectivity, such as the tribal societies to which he gave such close attention

Emile Durkheim

Culture served to justify inequality. The ruling class, or the bourgeoisie, produces a culture that promotes their interests, while repressing the interests of the proletariat. His most famous line to this effect is that “Religion is the opium of the people”.


Definition of Culture by Anthropologist:

The first anthropological definition of culture comes from 19th-century British anthropologist Edward Tylor:

Culture is that complex whole that includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

What is Culture?

Definition: Culture is people’s way of life. It is their pattern of behavior, which has been created by human beings.

Culture includes Intangible (non-material) items like values, beliefs, norms, language, and ideas (ideologies: perception of reality) that govern the way of life. The way we play our roles. + Tangible things – material objects. Human beings have created this way of life, which includes both material and non-material objects. Hence some Anthropologists call it a man-made part of the environment. Culture is the patterns of behavior and the products of the patterns of behavior.

Characteristics of Culture: 


Culture is universal. There is no society without culture. As part of the cultures, there are many aspects that are found in almost all societies. For example, the institutions like marriage and family, religion, education, polity, economy, and sports are found all over the world. Societies have developed values, norms, beliefs, and other patterns of behavior that govern the system of marriage and family. One could find such a pattern all over the world, and the same is applicable to religion, education, political behavior, economic behavior, and so on. 


 There is variability in the universals of culture. By looking at the institution of marriage and family one could see so much of variation in it within Pakistan, notwithstanding the differences in other societies. The arranged marriages, love marriages, exchange marriages, marriages by purchase, marriages within as well as outside the kin network, are all variations that are found in Pakistan.

Then one could see the differences in wedding ceremonies all over the country. Joint families and nuclear families, single-earner families and dual-earner families, patriarchal families and egalitarian families, patrilocal families, and matrilocal families are some other aspects reflecting the variability of the family in Pakistani society.

Similarly one comes across variations in religion all over the world. Kingship, dictatorship, democracy, parliamentary form of democracy or presidential form, adult franchise or selective voting rights, voter age are all variations in the political systems followed by different nations. Economic systems also vary from the extremes of socialism and capitalism to any variation on the scale. 


Culture is learned through the process of interaction with others. It is not inherited through the biological process. We learn to talk, to walk, and to act as our elders train us. Nature has given us the potential to talk but we speak variety of languages, which are all created by human beings and there is so much of variation within as well as outside Pakistan. Also human being have the capacity to learn a variety of languages. Similarly other ways of life, which is culture, are learned.


Culture is not the property of one individual or of a group. It is shared with other members of society. You are sharing T V transmission with others, sharing a classroom with others, sharing the road with others, and sharing the knowledge with others. You are sharing culture with others because you are a social being.


Culture does not end with the death of a person or a group. During its lifetime that individual or group tries to pass on its culture to the future generation. This is how every new crop of babies does not start from a scratch rather they build on what they have already received. That is how culture grows and that is how our culture becomes richer ad richer. 


Culture is continuously changing. The patterns of behavior transmitted by one generation to another are continuously in the process of modification for catering to the changing needs of time and demands of people. New technologies are developed and are borrowed from other groups and societies. With the increase in the contact between different societies the cultures are changing very fast and may be moving toward some kind of global culture.

Culture vs. Nation vs. Society

Culture: Shared way of life.

Nation: A political entity within designated borders.

Society: The organized interaction of people in a nation or within some other boundary.

Elements of Culture:


A Symbol is anything that carries a particular meaning recognized by people who share culture. Whistle, flashing light, thumbs up are all symbols. Human beings have the capacity to create symbols with different meanings associated with each. These symbols are used as means of communication and thereby become part of our language.

Even the buildings, dress, the flag, and a type of color may be taken as symbols indicating some aspect of human behavior as well as society’s outlook. Red, green, white, blue, pink, each of the colors stand for something in society. Blue jeans are quite commonly used in Pakistan. Can you find out that these are symbols of what?


It is a system of symbols that allows members of a society to communicate with one another. Symbols may be oral and these could be written words. We have oral cultural traditions. Human beings have developed different alphabet as part of written language. Language is the major means of cultural transmission. Is language uniquely human?


Culturally defined standards of desirability, goodness, and beauty serve as broad guidelines for social living. What ought to be. Examples of values: Equal opportunity, Achievement or success, Material comfort, Activity work. Science, Freedom, Physical fitness, Health, Punctuality. Wealth, Education, Competition, and Merit. Honesty, Dignity of labor, Patriotism. Justice and Democracy. Environmental protection, Charity and Development. Sometimes there could be inconsistency in the values which can lead to conflict.


 Specific statements that people hold to be true. Values are broad principles that underlie beliefs. Values are abstract standard of goodness, while beliefs are particular matters that individuals consider to be true or false.


Rules and expectations by which a society guides the behavior of its members.

These are the shared expectations of the people that govern their behavior.

Proscriptive norms: Mandating what we should not do. Forbidding from certain actions.

Prescriptive norms: What we should do

Types of Culture

Ideal culture: Social patterns that are mandated by cultural values and norms. The ideal values and norms, which are prevalent in society.

Real Culture: Actual social patterns those only approximate cultural expectations. The norms and value that people actually follow. It can also be how many people follow these cultural patterns. Or how much a person observes a cultural pattern. Since this can be explained in numbers therefore it may also be called a statistical norm.

Material Culture: Material culture is also called tangible. This culture mentions the physical objects, resources, and spaces that people use to define their culture. Hence some Anthropologists call it a man-made part of the environment.

Non-material Culture: is also called intangible culture. It cannot be touch, feel, taste or hold. Intangible (non-material) items like values, beliefs, norms, language, and ideas (ideologies: perception of reality) that govern the way of life. The way we play our roles.

How culture affects communication?

Culture and communication have big influence on each other. Culture plays a very important role in shaping the style of communication. Generally, people react to how we speak rather than what we say. So the culture in which individuals are socialized influences the way they communicate, and the way individuals communicate can change the culture too

How culture and society are related?

Culture and society are intricately related. A culture consists of the “objects” of a society, whereas a society consists of the people who share a common culture.

Why culture is important in our society?

Culture develops a sense of belonging, personal and cognitive growth, and the ability to empathize and relate to each other. Culture is how we do our thing. It matters because it defines us.

Direct benefits of a strong and vibrant culture include health and wellness, self-esteem, skills development, social capital, and economic return.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Why culture matters in international business?

In a business context, culture relates to what behavior is common and accepted professionally in one location as compare to another. What may be acceptable business practice in one country, but may be very different from the approach that is used by businesses overseas.

Why culture matters in international business? So answer is to avoid misunderstandings between colleagues and clients, and also to make sure that businesses are presenting themselves to their new market in the best way they can.

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