Culture is the set of knowledge and characteristic features that distinguish a society, a certain time or a social group.
The term culture, as it has evolved in society, is associated with progress and values.
Evolution of the concept of culture
To understand this concept, as well as its meaning, it is essential to know the origin of the word. Of course, being a polysemic term (with many meanings) it is not easy to disentangle its origin.
The word culture has had different meanings throughout history. In the first instance, it was associated with cultivation techniques. For example, it was common to hear that culture techniques are poorly productive. Thus the word agriculture means cultivation of the field.
Subsequently, it was used to highlight the knowledge that someone had to have a critical and elaborate judgment regarding a specific topic. In this sense, it also has to do with training, education or intellectual development.
The set made up of the artistic development, the ways of life and the variety of customs of a society is the most representative and well-known term about the culture as it is known.
Thanks to the development of the social sciences that took place in the 20th century, this term was defined with the attributions associated with it since that date.
What are the elements that make up culture?
These are the main elements that make up a culture:
- Beliefs: It is the set of ideas that generate specific behaviors and attribute meaning and values to certain things. Beliefs can come from different paths. For example, scientific explanations, popular sayings, associated with religion, among others.
- Norms: There are a series of rules, which must be respected by people. Otherwise, a series of corresponding sanctions are produced to correct the breach of these rules.
- Values: They tend to be those positive norms that are shared in a group and that they try to promote in social life.
- Language: Something essential to communicate and that is shared worldwide. Thanks to it, it is possible to debate, communicate, share knowledge and have it passed from generation to generation.
- Symbols: It is something that expresses a certain meaning for a specific society, social group or people. For example, a religious image, the flag of a country that can evoke patriotic feelings.
- Technology: It is the set of techniques, methods and equipment to improve and facilitate the work of the human being.
- Identity: It is something that identifies a society and that includes the lifestyle, the typical diet, the cults that exist in it.
Types of culture
Due to the breadth of the concept, to know the different types of culture, it is necessary to establish different classifications. In general, we find four types of classifications depending on the reference criterion.
- According to the use of language and writing: Which depends not only on when that culture began to write, but on how it does it. For example, in China they have a type of writing based on logograms. Meanwhile, in Latin America writing is alphabetical. On the other hand, there are also cultures that have not advanced towards written systems and are based on oral systems. Examples of the latter are some indigenous cultures.
- Depending on the type of economic system: In the article on types of economic systems, we develop the main types of systems.
- According to the religion practiced: Although there are as many cultures as there are religions, in general we can distinguish between theistic and non-theistic cultures. Theists believe in one or more gods, while non-theists like Buddhism do not believe in one god.
- Depending on the social hierarchy: Depending on the social classes and the socioeconomic order, we can find elitist, popular or mass cultures. The difference between them is the education of the population, the history that it drags, as well as the participation in the governmental power of the society.
- According to the sense of gender: According to the mode of social organization we can find two types of confronting cultures: the matriarchal and the patriarchal. Depending on which is practiced, the head of the family or the figure of power will be a man or a woman.
- According to historical development: By virtue of the historical context in which a society develops, we can find different aspects of culture. For example, baroque culture or ancient culture are different from contemporary culture.
- For geographical reasons: Depending on the geographical area in which a town is located, we will say that it has a western culture (western hemisphere) or eastern culture (eastern hemisphere).
Additionally, we can find other types of culture that do not necessarily fit with the previous classifications.
Structuralist culture is based on philosophical structuralism. This current of thought argues that in order to understand the world around us, it is essential to analyze the structures that make up the culture of a society. Thus, according to structuralists, culture is formed as a function of different events and phenomena such as religion, customs, literature or sports.
The symbolic culture of a society is one capable of transmitting traditions and customs to its descendants. Unlike other living beings, humans have the ability to transmit concepts such as good or evil, religion through the gods or belief in the fiat system.
Although it is not by far the last type of culture, it is worth noting cultural Marxism or Marxist culture. His idea comes from Marxist theory. That is, the development of Karl Marx on the economic, political and social system that, according to the author, should prevail in society.
Marxism has evolved over the decades and there are very different currents in this regard. However, its fundamental idea allows a Marxist culture to exist around the concept. For example, Marxism rejects religion.
Why is culture important?
It stands out for the following:
- Improves critical capacity: It is something that can be observed when there is continuous contact with art and the different cultural disciplines. Being in contact with them, learning and fostering this relationship enhances the critical spirit.
- They promote leisure and entertainment: Cinema and theater are part of culture and help to promote leisure, learn values and expand knowledge.
- Increase knowledge: Culture allows knowing different societies and their characteristics. Thus enriching the human mind and discovering through them its most outstanding values.
- Creativity is encouraged: Participate in cultural activities such as a painting or film workshop, enhances creativity, imagination, improving skills. In short, positive feelings associated with culture and the learning that derives from it.
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