Meaning And Definition Of Culture And Social Stability: Characteristics, Types And Importance

Table Of Contents

  • What Is Culture?
  • Elements Of Culture
  • Characteristics Of Culture
  • Types Of Culture
  • Importance Of Culture
  • What Is Social Stability?
  • Dimensions Of Social Stability

What Is Culture?

The concept of culture with its interpretation is used from varrying perspective. This is very much factual especially in multi-cultural society like Nigeria. These different perceptions of the concept of culture do not eliminate the fact that all human societies, not withstanding their sizes or density possess culture, which manifest both in their behavioural and attitudinal dispositions. These different cultural practices distinguish people from their daily social behaviour.

Culture is an evitable element of all human societies. No society exists without culture. Irrespective of the diversities of culture, the truism is that there is a social milieu, in which all the goodies of culture thrives. In the other word, for culture to make its important impact in any human society, the society must enjoy or have a social climate that must be described as socially stable. However, without a prevalent atmosphere of social stability, culture can not be learned let alone sustained.

Culture often refers to the aspects of human behaviour in terms of his taste, refinement and interest in something. Culture is also defined as the total way of life of a people.

Culture also refers to shared, consensual and learned pattern of behaviour. It is the embodiment of the people. It is also of the things they share and do together. Language, family structure, how and when they plant, how they live out their lives, how they die, what they hold to be sacred. Virtually everything the people hold in common is a part of their culture. Tools, paths, techniques for using tools are also part of the culture.

Culture can also be defined as the configuration of learned and shared patterns of behaviour and understanding arising out of communication among social groups and helps individuals to adapt to his environment, his biological nature and collective habitation. Culture scientifically described is a concept that denotes the total way of life of a specific society.

Elements Of Culture

Culture has many ingredients based on their explanations and definitions. The elements of culture are:

1. Language
2. Norms
3. Beliefs
4. Values
5. Knowledge
6. Ideas
7. Habits And Attitudes
8. Skills And Techniques
9. Arts And Crafts
10. Ways Of Doing Things
11. Customs And Traditions
12. Behaviour Pattern
13. Morals
14. Distinctive Symbols
15. Artifacts
16. Material And Non-Material Objects
17. Tools And Implements
18. Institutions, Social, Political, Economic and Institutional Practices
19. Methods Of Thinking, Eating And Of Talking
20. Occupation
21. Music And Songs
22. Celebrations And Festivals
23. Modes Of Communication And Transportation
24. Design Of Houses
25. Food Eaten By The People
26. Modes Of Dressing And Greeting
27. Dos And Don’ts Of A Society And Sanctions
28. Laws, Folkways, Mores And Techniques, Device And Contrivances, For example, hunting and fighting instruments.

Characteristics Of Culture

Culture possesses the following characteristics:

1. Culture Is Universal:

Culture being universal means that every society has culture even though it is difficult to find aspects of culture that are common to all cultures. Not withstanding the diversities or variations of culture, there are cultural similarities or universals which are the cultural practices, behaviours, actions that are common to all cultures, irrespective of their geographical location and environmental context.

2. Culture Is Exclusive To Man

It is only person in an organized group that create and have culture. Man alone has culture and this makes him very unique among animals.

3. Culture Is Dynamic:

Culture being dynamic means that it changes slowly overtime. It varies from one place to the other. Changes occur not only from one generation to the other but also within the same generation as a matter of change and continuity.

4. Culture Is Ideational:

Man creates culture through his association with other humans in a given social setting. Apart from this, he learns and internalizes the cultural elements and have them in his mind as his people’s way of life.

5. Culture Is Shared:

Cultutre is shared by members of the society whether young or old, male or female. It is shared by people over time through their interactions. Culture can exist both in different societies and in different groups.

6. Culture Is Adaptive And Unconsciously Compelling:

Culture provides man with the means to adapt to conditions of his existence different from biological adaptation. It means that culture is the peoples design for living whether consciously or unconsciously. In most times, we act to conform to culture and react to it without being consciously aware of it.

7. Culture Is Integrated:

This entails that various components or parts must fit together and must be consistent with one another despite the conflicts, contradictions or frictions that may be present between different components. Culture is the content behind social relationships.

Types Of Culture

Culture is to be discussed in terms of its variations among cultures and within cultures. It is pertinent to note that culture of every society is unique and peculiar. In most cases, it contains a set of norms and beliefs that are not found in other places. The types of culture and their variations will be discussed as follows:

1. Material And Non-material Culture

Material culture consists of those tangible artifacts or physical objects which are developed or invented by man as a member of society. It is the physical aspect of man’s acquisition in the society. It is the material products made by man and used in the society in order to satisfy the varied needs of man. These physical objects are maintained from generation to generation unless a cultural change occured. The material culture of man includes buildings, cares, telecommunication gadgets, Aeroplanes etc. From these examples, any such tangible object which has been changed from its natural form and used by members of society which is referred to as artifacts is material culture.

The non-material culture which is the non-physical culture consists of the abstract form of a culture. It includes ideas, knowledge, language, beliefs, ceremonies, attitudes etc. The non-material aspects of culture are not visible, but are rather learnt in the process of socialization.

2. Real Culture And Ideal Culture

Real culture consists of norms that are practiced whereas the ideal culture composes of the norms, beliefs and values that people accept in principle. They do not actually practice it. These are the two major patterns of culture.

Ideal pattern describes what people in a society would say or do in a particular situation if they conformed totally to the ideals accepted in the culture.

3. High Culture And Popular Culture

High culture refers to those aspect of a society’s way of life which are subscribed to an valued mostly by the elite sections of society. It is those cultural tastes, practices, observances, preferences, materials and values etc that primarily appeal to, and are supported by the comparatively small and elite group in society. Examples of high culture are poetry, classical music, chess or polo games and fine art.

Popular culture, on the other hand comprises those cultural creations and activities that are shared mostlt by the masses of the citizenry. Popular culture are those less serious, unsophisticated, more common and intellectually less demanding aspects of a people’s way of life that are supported by, and that appeal primarily to the larger populance who comprise the typical or average members of the society. Examples of popular culture are cinema shows, TV, football game, rap music etc.

4. Normative Culture

The normative includes expectations and rules for proper conduct that guide the behaviour of members of a society. The foundation of normative culture is its norms, the rules, expectations, and guidelines that govern what people should or should not think, feel, or do in a given social situation.

5. Subculture

A subculture is a culture within another wider culture. It refers to the culture of distinctive communities or group in a society which is shared by them alone and not by the whole society. Religion, racial, occupation, immigrant, age groups etc are all determinants of sub-culture.

6. Counter Culture

Counter culture implies a conflict with certain norms, beliefs and values of the dominant culture. It is used to refer to those sub-groups in society which have behaviour and value patterns which differ from th dominant pattern and which challenge seriously the stipulated societal expectation. Examples of counter culture include revolutionary groups, criminal gangs etc.

Importance Of Culture

Culture plays fundamental roles to the individual and society in general. Most of the importance of cultures includes:

1. Culture through its various institutions and normative patterns simplifies and guides behaviour, provides roles, defines relations and exert social control.

2. Culture serves as the ‘stamp’ or ‘trade mark’ that distinguishes one society of people from another.

3. Culture integrates, systematizes and interprets the valued institutions and norms of a society as it changes them with meaning and purpose.

4. Culture furnishes society with the basis for social unity and solidarity. Cultural unity normally inspires loyalty, patriotism and devotion as it stimulates and reinforces cooperative efforts for the attainment of objectives the people consider culturally worthwhile.

5. Culture functions as the society. It relates and coordinates, integrates and stores the social heritage and value of the people.

6. Culture is the architect and moulder of social personality.

What Is Social Stability?

With much analysis of the role of culture as a unifying factor in the society, it is necessary to focus attention mainly on social stability which is an important factor for the continuity of every existing society.

Social stability is an umbrella concept which is a social vehicle or mechanism which carries or provides the congenial social environment for the superlative realization of all the ways of life of a people entailed with a minimum of disequilibrium of existing commune shared and accepted social status quo. In the social context of a society, social stability presupposes that the accepted social conditions of a people remain enduring and not easily thrown of balance.

Social stability in a particular socio-cultural setting is much more than an enduring cooperative and organized social group establishing a system of common rules, expectations and duties. By expectations, it means that the group member should know what to expect of one another and how to behave to meet the expected requirements and needs of the particular social group.

Social stability rests more on the establishment of acceptable and accepted social control system or mechanism and their enforcement to ensure compliance.

Dimensions Of Social Stability

The dimensions of social stability will be viewed from three major angles which are as follows:

1. The Environment For Social Stability:

The environment is the first basis of social stability. For any social milieu to enjoy a pervasive atmosphere that can be said to be socially stable, the environment must contain the following:

i. A group of individual.

ii. The coming together of this group of people is not short-lived, and the relationship among the members of the group must not be temporary but enduring.

iii. The enduring aggregate of people or group must have lived together long enough.

iv. The people through social conditioning must organize themselves for effective social living.

v. The enduring group must see themselves as a cohesive social group, social stability will exist in a conducive environment.

2. A Common And Unifying Culture:

This is the second dimensions of social stability. However, for a socio-cultural milieu to be seen as socially stable, the enduring group of people who have organized themselves into a society must develop a common culture. This is to enable them function effectively as an organized group and regulate their behaviour. The created culture must have the potentialities of being transmitted from one generation to the other.

The measures of society’s social stability will among other things, depend on the extent to which the cultural prescriptions of the people are adhered to, maintained and sustained, and the extent to which the society is relatively stable to engineer societal development.

3. Adequate Social Control Mechanisms:

The third dimension of social stability is a society’s level of social control in order to maintain and foster a commendable level of social order. It is not just enough for a group of people to develop a common culture, operates as an organized group and prescribe the expectations of the people’s behaviour and actions. In the bid to maintain the sustainable social order, man in society must create rules and social control mechanisms.

Nevertheless, the role of culture cannot be de-emphasized in maintaining a serene social milieu. Culture is one of the unifying factors in the society. It enhances the continuity of every existing society.

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