What is Culture?

What Do We Mean By Culture?

Culture can be considered as the entire social heritage of man; specifically, it is the tradition of a particular human group, a way of living learned from, and shared by, the members of that group. Understanding the concept of culture is key to understanding human behavior.

Anthropologists use a view of culture that focuses on the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular group of people. So we can speak of Caribbean culture, Chinese culture or even Pop culture for example.

In attempting to lay out the various meanings attached to the word "culture," we need to look at the work of Clyde Kluckhohn. Kluckhohn in his work Mirror for Man, suggested that culture involved the following:

  1. the total way of life of a people
  2. the social legacy the individual acquires from his group
  3. a way of thinking, feeling, and believing
  4. an abstraction from behavior
  5. a theory on the part of the anthropologist about the way in which a group of people in fact
  6. a "storehouse" of pooled learning
  7. a set of standardized orientations to recurrent problems
  8. learned behavior
  9. a mechanism for the normative regulation of behavior
  10. a set of techniques for adjusting both to the external environment and to other men
  11. a precipitate of history
  12. a behavioral map, sieve, or matrix

Culture comes down to the fact that it is: Everything that people have, think, and do as members of a society including:

  1. Material possessions
  2. Ideas, values, attitudes
  3. Behavior patterns
  4. Meaning shared by most people in a society
  5. The way a people view the world around them (a world view.)

These elements help us shape what it is that Anthropologists focus on in attempting to understand humankind. This is a good way to look at what Anthropologists are interested in when it comes to culture. Yet culture is but one aspect of what we are as humans. And culture is what is reflected in our use of language, our symbolism, our use of material things that we use to adapt to the world around us, and our very biological nature for that matter.

If you want to learn more about the nature of culture go to the following website at Washington State University.