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Southampton City College
AHE Sociology 2008

Culture is a way of life, not instinct or simple imitation. It is learned, incorporated, adapted and contested, but its imprint is always there.
Sociologists define culture as ‘designs for living’: the values, beliefs, behaviour, practices and material objects that constitute a people’s ‘way of life’.
Culture pushed aside the biological forces we call instincts so that humans gained the mental power to fashion natural environment for themselves.
Only humans generate and then rely on culture rather than instinct to ensure the survival of their kind.
Major Components of Culture:
1. Symbols:
“Anything that carries a particular meaning recognised by people who share culture”.
Human beings not only sense the surrounding world as other creatures do, we build a reality of meaning. We are so dependant on our culture’s symbols that we take them for granted.
The study of symbols and signs is called semiotics. Meanings are never inherent in objects but are constructed around them through a series of practices.
2. Language:
“A system of symbols that allows members of a society to communicate with one another”.
People perceive the world through the cultural lens of language.
Linguistic Determinism(Language shape the way we think.
Linguistic Relativity(Distinctions found in one language are not found in another.
3. Values and Beliefs:
Values: “The standards people have about what is good and bad”.
Beliefs: “Specific statements that people hold to be true”.
Cultural values and beliefs form the core of our morality.
4. Norms:
“Rules and expectations by which a society guides the behaviour of its members”.
Proscriptive norms(What we should NOT do
Prescriptive norms(What we should do
William Graham Sumner recognised that some norms are more crucial to our lives than others. Sumner used the following terms:

Mores: society’s standards of proper moral conduct

Folkways: society’s customs...