Putting It Together: Culture and Society


In this section you looked at what makes up our cultures and how we absorb our cultural norms. You saw how human societies developed from our earliest existence to present-day and how the functioning of society impacts personal experience by constructing our social realities.

You also learned about different aspects of culture, such as material and non-material culture that we often take for granted as simply “being there” without questioning why it is there. You learned that it is very easy to understand and like your own culture better than others, especially when you are unfamiliar with their cultural norms. You saw how the roles and statuses a person has (whether born into or earned) can impact their interactions with others. Finally, you reviewed the theories of how we learn to live in society based on the identities we develop.

You saw how societies develop their values and beliefs, creating norms of behavior for their members. Using language and symbols, people in societies convey meaning and also teach others how to construct their behavior to fit these norms. You are a member of many groups and share your learned identities with others. This can be a life-long process as you may find yourself changing your roles and identities throughout a lifetime, or even during the same day as you go from parent or child, to being a student as you work in this class, or to being an employer or employee at work.

Our communications must be clear if we are to be successful in business or in our personal relationships. Simple misunderstandings can derail these important connections. Understanding the basics of culture is another way to show respect to people in our own society or cross-culturally. Take a look at some of these ads from HSBC Bank to see the value of understanding cultural differences in business transactions:

What you learned to do:

  • Define culture, society, cultural universals, and cultural relativism
  • Describe the basic elements of culture
  • Examine pop culture, subculture, and cultural change
  • Discuss the major theoretical approaches to cultural interpretation
  • Describe of the evolution of societies
  • Contrast the various theoretical perspectives on society
  • Explain how society shapes reality