What is culture?

Posted by: | January 14, 2009 | Comments Off on What is culture?

I think the term culture is multidimensional. As Roger M. Keesing explains, the first meaning of a culture is a human construction based on the emphasis of a radical alterity. Thus, culture is regarded as an entity which acts behalf on the community it represents. This raises an important issue : Is a culture a unified entity? Does it personify a group? Does it have a self consciousness? Even if, culture seems to represent a set of values shared by a society it could also represent a collectivity. Williams explains that the term culture has two aspects. On one hand, it represents the common values of a society ; on the other hand, it is based on new experiences and observations. It is both a symbol of our traditions and in the same time, it could be renew everyday. That’s why, culture is ordinary, because it is a product of traditional elements known by all and of new elements which come from everyday life. Thus, culture is a dynamic concept. Moreover, Williams underlines that popular culture is as interesting as culture of elite. Traditional dances or dishes are a part of culture as museums and books. However, as the culture of elite is imposed as a reference, popular culture is diminished. In both article, the authors raise the issue of the imposition of the culture of elite. Elite has power, and financial resources. They use it in order to manipulate the masses. Bourdieu, in his book, The Distinction, explains that lower classes and elite do not have the same access to culture and the same capital of culture. For example, student who belong to the upper class have better successes than the others because the values they have learned are similar to the values of school. Thus, culture is a social issue. The last part of Williams’s argumentation about preservation of freedom of expression is really interesting too. Indeed, he raises current issues about preservation of their cultures and the freedom of expression.


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