Some important facts on different Aspects of Culture

1. Culture may be learned 'directly' or 'indirectly' in social interaction. One can learn culture by reading a book as well as by interacting directly with others.

2. There is quantitative aspect of culture too; we may say that an object is cultural to a greater or less degree, depending upon how many persons share it.

3. Although culture is abstract and intangible, its influence is far from superficial. A food taboo can be internalized so deeply that the digestive system will revolt if the taboo is violated. The involuntary physiological responses to embarrassment, blushing, stammering are controlled by culture.

The smallest meaningful unit of culture is called a trait. Related traits can be put together to form trait complexes. Trait complexes can be put together to form still broader categories, called configurations, which form the overall patterns, the distinctive flavour of a particular culture.

A common practice is to view culture as made up of two large and inter-related components: material culture and non-material culture.

Material culture includes anything that human being use or make, while the process by which it is made, and the way it should be used are non-material culture.

Explicit culture:

Consists of those aspects of which the bearers are fully conscious.

Implicit culture:

That bearer knows on unconscious level. In other words, bearers know them without knowing that they know them. For example, a child of five can speak correctly without being at all able to explain what the underlying patterns of pronunciation and syntax are. Linton was of the opinion that some culture traits are necessary to all members of the society, while other traits are shared by only some members. The traits which are followed by all members are called universals.

Sub-cultures are the cultural traits of a particular group or category. As cultures of occupational groups, religious groups and the adult culture, teenage culture, army cultures are sub-cultures. Society has a number of sub-cultures in addition to universal culture. Specialties lead to sub-cultures.


It is applied to designate the partner of those groups which not only differ from the prevailing patterns but sharply challenge them. 'Hippie culture' is contra-culture.

Culture Area:

The societies having similar cultural traits and complexes constitute culture area. Such societies are generally those which live in similar natural area.

Horton and Hunt write 'from before he is born until after he is dead, man is a prisoner of his culture. His culture directs and confines his behaviour, limits his goals and measures his rewards'.

Cultural Diffusion:

Is the process by which the cultural traits invented or discovered in one society are spread directly or indirectly to other societies? Ordinarily, diffusion is thought of as a movement of traits through space. It is different from transmission of culture which is movement of traits through time, i.e., generation to generation.

Diffusion can be either direct or indirect. Direct diffusion occurs when persons or groups have actual physical contact. Indirect diffusion is the spread of traits without personal contact. For example, through radios, TV, printed materials and transport of goods in commerce

Adaptation and assimilation is the process that brings about cultural diffusion. It is a historical process; cultural contact has always been in operation.

Cultural Lag:

W.F. Ogburn believes that cultural lag exists when two or more variables which were once in some form of agreement become dissociated and maladjusted by their differential rate of change. For example, in today's world, rapid advances in technology often far outstrip change in the non-material parts of culture, i.e., customs, values, beliefs and laws. This imbalance leads to the phenomenon of cultural lag.

In a rapidly changing society, cultural lags are inevitable, and within varying lengths of time, they are ordinarily accommodated by the culture. But some cultural lags can be very disruptive. The birth control pill with its influence on sexual behaviour, child bearing, and family life may prove even more disruptive.

Cultural Relativity:

The documentation of the diversity of culture has given rise to a very important view, that of cultural relativity. This notion sees that the function and meaning of a trait are relative to its cultural setting.

The central point in cultural relativism is that in a particular cultural setting, certain traits are right because they work well in that setting, while other traits are wrong because they would clash painfully with parts of that culture.

To take a simple example, you cannot compare the value of using a clay pot to hold water in one culture to that of using a metal pot in another culture merely by comparing these utensils and assigning comparative values to them. One must also consider their appropriateness within their total cultural context.

The principle of cultural relativity can be seen as philosophy and methodological base in the social sciences. From a philosophical point of view, the sociologist sees values themselves as the product of culture.

Since each set of standards is specific to its own culture, there is no foundation upon which to base an absolute judgment. Scientific objectivity is the goal in collecting data in the social sciences, and scientific methodology requires that the observer rises above the values of his or her own culture in order to describe objectively another culture and to avoid assigning any absolute value to practices that may be 'immoral' or 'foolish' or 'impractical' in the observer's own culture.