Functionalists view society as a system in which all parts work together or function to create society as a whole. In this way, societies need culture to exist. Cultural norms support the proper functioning of society and cultural values guide people in decision-making. Talcott Parsons called the function of culture “preservation of latent patterns,” meaning that cultural practices that reproduce and circulate meanings and symbolic codes have the function of maintaining social patterns of behavior and facilitating orderly pattern changes. Culture ensures that the “meaning of life” remains stable. In addition to the process of globalization, there is the diffusion or diffusion of material and intangible culture. While globalization refers to the integration of markets, diffusion refers to a similar process with the integration of international cultures. Mid-range North Americans can fly overseas and return with a new appreciation for Thai noodles or Italian ice cream. Access to television and the internet has brought the lifestyle and values portrayed in Hollywood sitcoms to households around the world.
Twitter feeds of public protests in one country have emboldened political protesters in other countries. When this type of diffusion occurs, material objects and ideas are introduced from one culture to another. Another illustration of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is observed in sexist language, in which the use of masculine names and pronouns influences the way we think about the world (Miles, 2008). In older children`s books, words like firefighter and postman are common, as well as images of men in these jobs, and critics say they send a message to children that these are male jobs, not women`s jobs. When a second-grader says, “Every student should put their books under their desk,” the teacher obviously means students of both sexes, but can send a subtle message that boys are more important than girls. For these reasons, several guides encourage the use of gender-neutral language (Maggio, 1998). Table 3.1 “Examples of sexist terms and non-sexist alternatives” (links to an external website) provides examples of sexist language and non-sexist alternatives. Let`s go back for a moment to our example of having multiple wives. It is illegal, a violation of the law, to have multiple women in American culture.
It hasn`t always been like this, and it`s not true in every country, but in the United States it has been considered so taboo, morally and ethically reprehensible that there are laws that can punish people for marrying more than one person at a time. However, there may be people who don`t think it`s wrong, or certain groups, but regardless, it`s still illegal. In order to carry out his ethnomethodology, Garfinkel deliberately imposed strange behaviors on ignorant people. Then he looked at their answers. He suspected that strange behaviors would destroy conventional expectations, but he didn`t know how. For example, he set up a simple tic-tac-toe game. A player was previously asked to mark the X`s and O`s not in the squares, but on the lines separating the spaces. The other player, in ignorance of the study, was stunned and did not know how to proceed. Reactions of indignation, anger, confusion, or other emotions illustrated the deep level at which unspoken social norms constitute social life. American culture fosters competition and emphasizes winning in sports, business, and other areas of life. As a result, lawsuits for frivolous reasons are common and even predictable. Further evidence of cultural differences in norms comes from studying how men and women should behave in different societies.
For example, many traditional societies are simple hunting and gathering societies. In most of them, males tend to hunt and females tend to gather. Many observers attribute this sex difference to at least two biological sex differences. First, males tend to be larger and stronger than females, making them more adept at hunting. Secondly, women get pregnant and give birth to children and can hunt less. But in some hunting and gathering societies, a different pattern is emerging. Among a group of Australian aborigines called Tiwi and a tribal society in the Philippines called Agta, both sexes hunt. After pregnancy, Agta women continue to hunt for most of their pregnancy, resuming hunting after the birth of their child (Brettell and Sargent, 2009). While with the Inuit, Barger learned to deal with cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is the practice of judging a culture by one`s own standards, rather than looking at it through the prism of one`s own culture. The anthropologist Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) argued that every culture has a coherent pattern of thought and action, which alone could be the basis for judging the merits and morality of cultural practices. Cultural relativism requires open-mindedness and a willingness to consider and even adapt to new values and norms.
However, it is not always possible to indiscriminately embrace everything about a new culture. Even the most culturally relativistic people from egalitarian societies – where women have political rights and control over their own bodies – would question whether the widespread practice of female genital mutilation in countries like Ethiopia and Sudan should be accepted as part of cultural tradition. Skinny jeans, big glasses, ironic mustaches and t-shirts with vintage logos – the hipster is a recognizable figure in contemporary North American culture. Hipsters, mostly based in metropolitan areas, try to define themselves by rejecting traditional fashion norms and styles. As a subculture, hipsters reject many of the values and beliefs of North American society and tend to favor a bohemian lifestyle over a lifestyle defined by the accumulation of power and wealth. As these examples show, common symbols, both nonverbal communication and tangible objects, are an important part of any culture, but can also lead to misunderstandings and even hostility. These questions highlight the importance of symbols for social interaction and meaning. One of his research methods was known as the “breach experiment.” His experiences of disruption tested sociological concepts of social norms and conformity. In a breakup experience, the seeker intentionally violates a social norm or behaves socially awkwardly. Participants are unaware that an experiment is underway. However, if the violation succeeds, these “innocent bystanders” will react in one way or another. For example, he let his students go to local stores and started bartering with vendors for fixed-price products.
“That says $14.99, but I`ll give you $10 for that.” Often, employees were shocked or nervous. This violation reveals the unspoken convention in North America that the amount indicated on the price tag is the price. It also violates a number of other conventions aimed at making business operations as efficient and impersonal as possible. In another example, he asked his students to respond to the casual greeting “How are you?” with a detailed and detailed description of their health and well-being. The purpose of the experiments was not that the experimenter would simply behave in an offensive or strange manner in public. Rather, it`s about deviating a little bit from a certain social norm, subtly breaking a form of social etiquette and seeing what happens. Values are not static. They vary over time and between groups as people evaluate, debate and modify collective societal beliefs. Values also vary from culture to culture. For example, cultures differ in their values as to the appropriate types of physical proximity in public. It is rare to see two male friends or colleagues holding hands in Canada, where this behaviour often symbolizes romantic feelings.
But in many countries, male physical intimacy is considered natural in public. A simple gesture, such as holding hands, has great symbolic differences between cultures. People are very attached to customs, and when they are hurt, it usually leads to disapproval or exclusion. As such, morality exerts greater coercive power in shaping our values, beliefs, behaviors, and interactions than folk tunes. Many standards differ considerably from culture to culture. Some of the best evidence for cultural differences in norms comes from the study of sexual behaviour (Edgerton, 1976). Among the pokot of East Africa, for example, women are supposed to enjoy sex, while among the gusii, who are a few hundred miles away, women who like sex are considered deviant. In Inis Beag, a small island off the coast of Ireland, sex is considered embarrassing and even disgusting; Men feel that sex drains their powers, while women see it as a burden. Even the nudity is considered horrible, and the people on Inis Beag keep their clothes on while bathing. The situation is quite different in Mangaia, a small island in the South Pacific. Here, sex is considered very pleasurable and is the main theme of songs and stories.
3.4. Theoretical perspectives on culture There are three main theoretical approaches to the interpretation of culture. A functionalist perspective recognizes that there are many parts of culture that work together as a system to meet the needs of society. Functionalists see culture as a reflection of society`s values. An interactionist is primarily interested in culture as it is experienced in the daily interactions between individuals and the symbols that make up a culture.