Each and every society has its own distinctive culture. It is a learned behaviour and shared by majority in a group. It is a unique possession of man. It includes all that man has acquired in his individual and social life. Culture is a very broad term that includes in itself all our work of life, our modes of behaviours, or customs and traditions, our religion and other types of activities.

E.B. Taylor an English anthropologist was the first to coin the term ‘culture’ in the eighteenth century. The study of society becomes incomplete without proper understanding of culture of that society, because culture and society go together. Man is a unique person who is born and brought up in a cultural environment.

According to E.B. Taylor, “Culture as that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morale, laws, custom and any other capabilities and habits as acquired by man as a member of society.”


R. Redfield defines, “Culture as an organised body of conventional understandings, manifest in art which persisting through tradition, characteristics a human group”.

Types of Culture:

W.F. Ogburn an eminent sociologist classified culture into two categories- (1) Material culture and (2) Non-material culture. By material culture he means things like tools, utensils, machines, books, pens etc, which are tangible and visible. In other words, he refers to the gifts of technology or the whole apparatus of life, tools, utensils, every touchable things etc. as material culture. In the non-material aspects he included family, religion, government, customs, traditions etc. which are not tangible or visible.

Cultural Lag:

According to Ogburn the non-material culture is often slow to respond to the rapid inventions in material culture. Always material culture changes at a faster rate and speed. But the non-material culture responses very slowly to such changes in material culture. This gives rise to the imbalance in the rate and speed of change between two parts of culture. When non-material culture does not adjust itself readily to material changes it falls behind the material culture and the result is a lag between the two. This lag between material and non-material culture has been called ‘cultural lag’.

Ogburn cited various examples:

(1) The discrepancy between the number of police officials and the growth of population. The growing cities have not increased their police force fast enough. The change in the number of police officials lags behind the change in population.


(2) During the last nineteenth century industry changed fast and the family lagged behind in its change.

(3) In twentieth century woman were slow in following their jobs outside the home.

Criticisms of Cultural Lag Theory:

Ogburn’s cultural lag theory has been criticised by others.


(1) The distinction between material and non-material culture is not scientific.

(2) Change in material culture is not always in advance of the non-material culture.

(3) The term ‘lag’ is not exact term, Maclver has used different words like ‘Technological day’, ‘cultural conflict’ etc. for the resulting imbalance in the culture.

(4) This cultural lag theory given by Ogburn lacks universality.


(5) It lacks measurement.

(6) Over-simplification – Ogburn has taken an over simple materialistic view of society.