Culture Essay

1995 words - 8 pages

Throughout the complex yet recognised studies upon sociological phenomena, the term ‘culture’ continues to astound anthropological revisions. Whether or not a definition of ‘culture’ can be determined, or merely the exact forces which bring about such an abstract entity, the concept that culture exists can be acknowledged with focus to structural functionalism. The precise justification for culture itself began to enlighten anthropologists such as Durkheim, who in turn has encouraged studies from Malinowski and Parsons for instance. Still, existing theories suggest intensely dynamic and multifaceted definitions of ‘culture’, those of which ‘explain’ culture with various stances.

Within contemporary studies, culture itself is often implied using the notion of functionalism. Durkheim outlines a society as a functional culture; both culture and society encompass systems and institutions which determine their own intentions (Durkheim, 1982). Each institution in a culture or society is a portrayal of the exact functions they have in that specific culture or society. Structural functionalism represents a paradigm of reality which interconnects the facets of civilisation and social order (Parsons, 1973). What’s more, it is these interrelations which may define culture as a system of collective purposes. Those specific purposes are determined by the civilisation of which they are present, thus often localised. Malinowski developed interpretations of functionalism in order to avoid ethnocentric ethnographies, and his work emphasises the impression that biological needs of a community are the forces which generate culture (Malinowski, 1944).

The needs of a society encourage the development of institutions which function to fulfil such needs. These ‘needs’ are the biological needs of humanity, or at least these are the needs which promote such deviation towards a functionalist structure of a civilisation. The requirement of food stuffs, water and shelter are the most basic of conditions which culture is ‘obliged’ to provide for survival (Malinowski, 1944). Not only do biological requirements for subsistence determine functionalism, it is the idea of reacting to these necessities and the exact method of fulfilment which progresses a society. Overall, culture in this sense, can be seen as “the total way of life of a people” (Kluckhohn, 1949, pg. 17), and it is the precise actions in which communities take which governs the numerous identifications of cultural systems.

The differentiation between social systems and cultural systems represents the complexity and significant ideology surrounding sociological studies (Geertz, 1973). Geertz describes a cultural system as a “theoretical diffusion [of]… semiotic” existence (pg.5). It is suggested that culture builds the basics of a society and is a “self-contained…reality with forces and purposes of its own”, the structure, however, must have therefore arisen from the societal trends and survival...

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