CULTURE as SYSTEM of SYMBOLIC CLASSIFICATION
This paper is basically a way to understand the meaning, characteristic and components of culture. Culture is seemed as social behaviour and norms found in human societies. Culture is considered a concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning in human societies. I will in this paper also focus on evaluating the claim that can we understood Culture as a symbolic classification system? It has been seen that to human mind, symbols are cultural representations of reality. Every culture has its own set of symbols associated with different experiences and perceptions. Different form of symbols will be discussed in this paper such as symbols occur in different forms: verbal or non verbal, written or unwritten. They can be anything that conveys a meaning, such as words, drawings, pictures and gestures, clothing, etc items are symbol that imply a certain level of social status. After that I will move ahead in my paper to show how the symbol was at a time was difficult to carry forward in one’s life. I will also discuss, in the present scenario of the globalised world the importance of symbol in culture is still maintained or not.
Culture is seemed as a wide term to understand thoroughly. Many philosophers, socialists defined culture in a different way because culture involves different dimensions in itself. Moreover, the nature of culture is not static therefore a universal definition of culture cannot be maintained. The culture has evolved itself from generation to generation but it would be difficult to say that evolution brought only good outcome in our society. The word “culture” derives from a French term, which in turn derives from the Latin “colere”, which means to tend to the earth and grow, or cultivation and nurture. Culture is the social behaviour and norms found in human societies. Culture in anthropology, encompassing the range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning in human societies. Despite of having different culture we still have universal expressive form of culture in all human societies these include forms like art, music, dance, ritual, religion and technologies. Culture encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our language, marriage, music, what we believe is right or wrong, how we sit at the table, how we greet visitors how we behave with loved ones, and a, million other things. Some schools of philosophy, such as Marxism and critical theory, have argued that culture is often use politically as a tool of the elites to manipulate the lower classes and create a false consciousness, and such perspectives are common in the discipline of cultural studies.
The term culture has different associations according to whether we have in mind the development of an individual, of a group or class, or of a whole society. Therefore we can say that the culture of the individual is dependent upon the culture of a group or class, and that the culture of the group or class is dependent upon the culture of the whole society to which that group or class belongs. Culture simply can be understood as a way of living of an individual in society. In our modern times, we have somehow lost the deeper philosophical dimension and understanding of culture as basically a unity of man’s expressions of varied existence and his manifold diversity. The meaning and sense of culture earlier has changed in today’s time, culture was seen as a binding of people in different groups in which they have different representation of their expressive forms. In this paper I would like to move the light on the issue of people are not knowing about their culture, many of us are detached from our culture because of the influence of globalised changes in our society and culture. I have witnessed that many of us are not aware of our culture because we are not living among the group of people from which we belong factors which are responsible for it is migration from the place which we belong, demolish of joint family concept, etc.
Components of culture
All cultures comprise different components that are necessary for members of society to competently participate in social life and interactions. Some of the important components of culture are: symbols, language, values, belief and norms.
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Symbol: It can be either physical or non-physical. A flag is an example of physical representation of symbol, and bows and curtsies are example of non-physical symbols.
Language: It is used for communication. It can be in written or in spoken form. Even when a culture uses the same basic language as another culture, differences in terminology and inflection create new meanings.
Values: It helps in defining the acceptable behaviour of people within the society. It can be different for each group from which a person belongs. For example eating non-veg is acceptable for certain group of people but not accepted by other group of people.
Beliefs: It fulfils the spiritual need of a culture. We can say that whole culture is based on one set of beliefs, yet a larger cultural group may have many different sets of beliefs.
Norms: It is basically rules, mores and traditions within a culture. As a group develops laws and regulations, norms change. For example women were not allowed to step out of their home but now it is not so. Still some norms are being followed in our society like women having periods cannot step in kitchen, sleep on floor during those days etc but some changes do have occur a law that was necessary 100 years ago not being followed in modern times. Technological advances have also changed the way cultures behave.
Culture is the totality of customs and way of life of people. Culture is an ethnic entity as well as meta ethnic entity.
Characteristics of culture
Each and every society has a culture of its own. Culture is not only diverse but also unequal, but is found in societies throughout the world.
Culture is learned, shared and transmitted from one generation to the next.
Culture can be passed from parents to children, by social organizations, special interest groups, the government, schools and churches.
Culture is multidimensional, consisting of a number of common elements that are interdependent.
Culture is dynamic: ongoing process of shaping and re-shaping itself, variable over time and place.
Culture is adaptive because in order to survive it has to adapt the changes occur in our society.
Now let’s move ahead and discuss culture as a system of symbolic classification. Culture can be defined as cumulative deposit of beliefs, attitudes, possessions and material objects obtained by a group of individuals in the course of the generations through group and individual thriving. Culture involves patterns implicit and explicit, for and of behaviour obtained and conveyed through symbols, representing the unique achievement of the human groups, comprising of their personifications in artifacts; the fundamental core of culture include the traditional ideas and particularly their emotionally involved values; culture systems on the other hand may be deemed as product of action. A symbol refers to any object, usually material, meant to stand for another, even though there is no significant relationship. We can see that different culture have different symbols and ways of representation for example in Gurudwara they have flag which represent that you can come here take rest and have food the basic idea of flag was to make it visible for the people who need help and visitors. The Christian culture has the cultural symbol of the cross, where as the Jewish culture has the cultural symbol of the Star of David.
In different religion we have different way of representation of same action such as if we talk about wedding, in Hindu we have pre wedding ceremonies but it’s not in other religion. In Hindu we have 7 promises and phereas witnessing fire which bride and groom take but it is not followed as a culture in other group or society of people. In Muslim religion they do nikah where they call kazi to perform the ceremony of marriage and so on. In German wedding traditions begin at birth, when a little girl is born in Germany, several trees are planted in her honour. These trees are then sold once her wedding date is set, the idea being that the money from the sale will be used for her dowry, are few examples to show the different way of performing the wedding ceremonies. In Hinduism for us swastika is auspicious symbol, for Sikh: Sikh khanda, for Muslim emblem of Iran, for Christian their Christian cross etc are some symbols which can be used as a way to identify the different culture. Moreover we have different style of dressing also such as Indian Hindu women wear saree after marriage mostly; Sikh women wear their traditional Patiala suits, Muslim women wears burkha etc but in modern time people have come out of the boundaries which have binded them so long earlier, now they have freedom of expression they can wear anything they want to wear but still fully fledged freedom is not given to them.
Cultural symbols don’t have to be actual symbols or signs; they can also be gesture such as handshakes and hand signals. Additionally, the same symbol can mean different things in different cultures. Americans should be careful in Greece, for example the thumbs up, which symbolises that everything is great in American culture, is just like giving the middle finger in Greek culture. Various gestures differ in meaning depending with the individual and the situation. A symbol of waving the hand can represent numerous things, considering for whom it is done and how it’s done. It may signify “no thank you”, “hello” or “I am royalty” or “good bye”. Wink express a range of messages, comprising of “I am only kidding”, or “I am attracted to you”, or “we have a secret”. From a distance, an individual can comprehend the emotional idea of two individuals in conversation just through examining their facial expressions and body language.
In language also we can find same word have different meaning in other group of society such as the word happy, hello, thank you etc can be differently interpreted by other group of people in our society in the same context or may be in different context.Typically culture is founded on a shared set of meanings and symbols. Symbolic culture allows human communication and therefore must be taught. The symbolic culture is more adaptable and malleable than biological evolution. Humans subconsciously and consciously, strive always in making logic of their surrounding world. Usually symbol offer clues in understanding the experiences. They usually express familiar meanings which are shared by the societies.
We should teach one another the symbols that have significance to the group through the process of socialization. This process should begin at birth and continues throughout our lives. Some of us we can see that are not part of culture may sense a different view about the same objects or they may see no meaning at all in something that is very significant to a culture. Creating and understanding cultural symbols can help us to communicate not only the embedded meaning within the symbols, but also our feelings of belonging to the group, to our culture. Symbols helping in differentiating among group of people having different culture and also tell us about the diversities and different dimensions of culture. In India itself we can find different aspect of culture because here variety of culture prevail some of them are people using banana leaf as plate to eat food on it, some use utensils made up of clay it’s not the case they cannot afford steel plates they want to continue their culture from generation to generation.