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Culture and Society
Culture and society are two interrelated concepts. They have been used interchangeably in explaining human behavior. People thus say that “It’s his culture to eat with his bare hands.” People also say that “He eats with his hands because society finds it acceptable.”
But culture and society are not the same. Both culture and society are related to the way humans act but they have different degrees of causal relationship to human actions. Furthermore, culture and society are themselves related to each other.
Culture is a term that encompasses a man’s way of life. Culture is the totality of knowledge, symbols, values, beliefs, and experiences. It incorporates relationships and behavioral patterns. It is a very broad concept that can be and has been defined in many different ways.
Culture is a system of all things humans need to function. People draw on culture for the way they react to certain stimulants. For example, a person can fight to death when insulted because this pattern of behavior is expected and accepted in his culture. The insult itself is influenced by the person's culture. It is through their culture that people determine what is insulting or not.
Society, on the other hand, is a group of people sharing the same interests, values and beliefs. Generally, this group of people shares the same religion, government and geographical location. It is a group of people who understands and perceives things according to the same accepted criteria. Society is another broad concept that has many meanings in different contexts.
Culture varies across society. Thus is the general belief about culture and society by social scientists. Yet theories vary in the way that culture and society are related. Some theories propose that a common culture binds a society together; that culture is one of the most important things members of a society share with each other. Some theories, on the other hand, suggest that society shapes and determines culture and not the other way around.
Culture does vary across societies. Different nations have different beliefs, motives, behavioral patterns, and symbols. For example in Thailand, the head is very sacred and not just anyone can touch another's head; head patting is a grave insult. In other societies, head patting is a sign of affection. It can also be a means of scolding.
Societies are indeed bound by their culture. A society is an organization of people. For peace to reign in a society, people have to act in a manner acceptable to the society they belong to. Culture provides implicit and explicit guidelines which people follow for harmonious coexistence. Culture thus defines the way a society is built and defines the way people of a society act given a set of circumstances. Culture also influences the way a society will develop.
On the other hand, society influences culture as well. People do improvise and modify depending on their circumstances. Bearing testimony to this fact is the way a society's values have evolved from what they previously were.