World Cultures General Glossary
Culture

General Glossary
World View
   Culture is a shared world view in action ; for the purposes of this course, culture is synonymous with cultural practice , that is, it really occurs in a real world (or really did occur in a real word): speaking, talking, myth-making, doing science, making table utensils, and so forth. Since culture arises from world view, this means that everything that occurs within a culture has meaning ; that meaning, naturally, is the world view of that social group. This is how we figure out how other cultures think, by looking closely at a variety of cultural practices and attempting to interpret the world view from these practices. The fundamental basis of culture is social organization, social cohesion, and the manipulation, practically and symbolically, of the material world. It consists of the following:


Social identity. Social identity involves the cultural practices which serve to distinguish a social group as having a common identity distinct from other social groups. Identity is as much or more a negative process—that is, a process of distinction—as it is a positive process. Therefore, all cultural practices that serve to bestow identity on a social group involve an idea of an "other," a social group or social groups which are used as a negative definition ("we are not like them").

Social memory: As a subset of social identity, social memory serves as a means of defining a cultural group. Social memory not only defines cultural groups positively ("we are who we are because of our history"), it also defines patterns of behavior, ritual, and other social practices. The primary function of social memory is to explain the origin and meaning of cultural practices. Social memory takes many forms: religion, mythology, and history. All cultural practices of social memory, like all cultural practices period, derive their form and meaning from world view.

Everything: All things that are done in a social group: marriage, ritual, religion, literature, science, are cultural practices. They occur because and only because that social group has a certain world view; this means that you can derive a world view from anything within a cultural group .

Strategies of adaptation: Response to change either from within or without is built into world view and cultural practice, that is, all world views and all cultural practices have a resiliency built into them. Response to change also changes world view and cultural practice. As change occurs more rapidly within a culture, these strategies of adaptation come to dominate the world view of that social group.

Richard Hooker



World Cultures

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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 10-3-97