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What do sociologists mean by culture? What functions does it perform in society? How, if at all, does it help to understand the differences between human and animal societies, seen from the perspective of the long-term process of biological evolution?

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Introduction

What do sociologists mean by culture? What functions does it perform in society? How, if at all, does it help to understand the differences between human and animal societies, seen from the perspective of the long-term process of biological evolution? Introduction There are many different definitions of culture that exist. To give an idea of how many, when researched, 200 different definitions were found by Kroeber and Kluckholn (1952) (Taylor, 1997). This is probably due to the complicated nature of the word, due to the fact that it is applied to so many different topics and processes. Williams believes that culture is "one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language" (Williams, in Jenks 1993:1). In everyday conversation culture is normally thought of as being things like art, language, philosophy, journalism, advertising or fashion. However, sociologists normally use broader definitions which I will expand on later in this essay. Also, in this essay I will look at the function of culture in society, and how it helps us to understand the differences between human and animal societies. How sociologists define culture Definitions of culture used by sociologists normally include the same things used in everyday definitions of culture, but also includes the notion that because every aspect of life is influenced by society, it is therefore also influenced by culture. ...read more.

Middle

They also allow us to understand other people's reactions to something that we might do, and effectively "understand and predict the behaviour of others" (Taylor et al., 1997:9). Functionalists believe that norms provide consensus in society, and that they are shared ideas that often change, for example homosexuality was once a psychological disorder, but is now widely accepted. However, a criticism of the functionalist's ideas is that they can be too positive, and don't acknowledge that conflict may occur in the same culture with the same norms. Functionalists also believe that the function of values in society is to provide shared norms and this is necessary for social solidarity, and without this society would be in conflict and chaos (Taylor, 1997). Values are the basis of norms, and their function in society is to distinguish between right and wrong, and provide moral guidelines (Taylor, 1997). Giddens (1997) believes subcultures have a very important function within society as they allow social change, creativity, freedom, expression of hopes and opinions that otherwise may not have been socially permitted. Taylor (1997) says that religion allows societies to explain things that they previously couldn't. ...read more.

Conclusion

These are all learnt through a process known as socialization that lasts for the whole length of a person's life. All of these aspects of society play a very important role in its functioning as without these cooperation and communication would be almost impossible between members of a society. Culture also helps us to understand the differences between human and animal societies. This is because culture gives human society a uniqueness that other animals don't have, and because of culture human and animal societies have evolved differently. Animals can't learn from experience in the same way as humans, and therefore have to evolve physically rather than mentally to survive changes in their environment. Animals can't over-come their biological needs like humans can as they have no cultural motivations such as religion. Humans have sophisticated communication methods such as talking which allows us to pass on information of experiences through writing or word of mouth, and the reason that humans have this is because they can recognise the symbols involved in writing and talking, and can communicate with other members of society because these symbols have the same meaning for everyone in the particular culture. Culture affects all parts of life, and without it human society couldn't exist in the way that it does today. ...read more.

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