Culture is a broad term that encompasses many aspects of life. Sociologists define it as a set of social behaviors, beliefs and knowledge that are learned and shared by individuals within a group or society. It can also include the physical elements of a culture, such as artifacts or architecture. While culture is distinct from both social structure and economics, it is constantly informed by these factors and influences them as well.
The sociological perspective on culture has two main facets: non-material culture and material culture. Non-material culture includes things such as values, beliefs, systems of organization and communication, and arts and music. This type of culture tends to be regarded as less important than the more tangible aspects of a people’s existence, but it is equally as important.
For example, the Beatles had a huge cultural impact because of their music, fashion and lifestyle. Their music changed musical styles and trends worldwide. Similarly, their fashion sense was influential in the United States and beyond. In addition to the arts and music, other forms of culture may include food, language, religion and societal norms.
Anthropologists and sociologists have historically used the terms high and low culture to describe different levels of a civilization’s level of cultural sophistication. This is still sometimes the case, but there are also efforts to expand the concept of what constitutes a culture and consider all types of human activity as part of it.
Some of the more specific forms of cultural expression are dance, literature, film and theater. Often, these are created and performed within communities with their own specific histories and traditions.
The academic study of cultures is multidisciplinary, including history, anthropology, political science and sociology. Area studies is an especially broad discipline that focuses on the study of particular regions and their cultures. This field of study includes the languages, geography and history of the region as well as the art, music, architecture and other cultural components. It is a way to understand how a people’s culture has evolved over time and what influences that evolution.
Interestingly, despite the differences in the world’s cultures, there are certain universals that seem to exist in all humans. These can include systems of kinship, the use of personal names and even humor, which seems to be a common way for humans to release tension and stress. This is all part of what makes culture so fascinating and intriguing. The more we can learn about how cultures around the world develop and interact, the better equipped we will be to preserve their heritage for future generations.