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INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY

STUDENT GUIDE

35

they determine many of our choices, they have far more consequences than simply being carried around in our heads. We should think of our culture as shared in interaction, constituting our agreed-on perspective of the world, and directing our acts in the world.

Culture Is Learned

To argue that culture is important is to believe that learning about the world and how to act in it is a result of socialization in contrast to biology.

It is also to believe that humans do not simply imitate, but they learn about the world from other people who teach them through language. Culture is that which we learn and come to believe.

Culture Is a Social Inheritance

Many social organizations we enter have existed for a long time; people who have power within them teach us their long-established “truths” so that we may become good members and the social organization will continue.

Culture is a social inheritance; it consists of ideas that may have developed long before we were born.

Our society, for example, has a history reaching beyond any individual’s life, the ideas developed over time are taught to each generation and “truth” is anchored in interaction by people long dead.

Do you find this fascinating? People in their “graves” are influencing our thoughts and guiding our social actions.   

Here are some examples from the middle class:

Successful people must get a college diploma

Women should marry and have children

Romantic love should be the basis for marriage

Making money is the best way to encourage people to work

Each child is taught this culture by the family, school, and church—those social organizations that are its carriers.

We are socialized to accept the ideas of those in the positions of “knowing better,” those who have many years of history on their side, a long tradition, rightness or God or science or whatever.

A culture, then is a shared perspective, a set of ideas that people develop and learn in social interaction. Ideas can be subdivided into three categories.

What is true (our truths)

What is worthwhile (our values and goals)

What is the correct way of acting (our rules)

Copyright © 2005 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Adult and Graduate Studies

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