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Civilization is the diving force of the society; Culture is its steering wheel. Culture
and Civilization are the unique possessions of man. Both of them reflect the material
and non-material wealth of mankind. The term civilization is often used as a synonym
for culture in both popular and academic circles. Every human being participates in a
culture defined as the art, custom, habits, believe, value, behavior and material habits
(civilization) that constitute a man a peoples way of life. Culture and civilization are often
mixed up in peoples’ mind. So we may say that, Culture is the passing of traits from one
generation to another and Civilization is the result of culture.
Culture is commonly used Psychology, Political Science and Economics. It is the
main concept in Anthropology and a fundamental one in Sociology. The study of society
or any aspect of it becomes incomplete without a proper understanding of the culture of
that society. Culture and society go together. They are inseparable. Culture is a broad
term that includes in itself for works of life, our modes of behavior our philosophies and
ethics, our morals and manners, our customs and traditions, our religious and other
types of activities. According to Maclver and Page,
“Culture is the realm of styles, of values, of emotional attachments, of intellectual
Culture contents:
A number of sociologist have classifies the content of culture into large
components. There are,
1) Material Culture
2) Non-Material Culture
Ogburn has even used this distinction as the basis for a theory of culture change.
As Robert Bearstedt has pointed out, the concept of ‘material culture’ is relatively more
precise and less ambiguous. But the concept of non-material culture is more ambiguous
and less clear. It may be used as a ‘residual category’ that is to mean ‘Everything that is
not material’.
Material culture: Material culture is concerned with the external,
mechanical and utilitarian objects. For example, technical and material
equipments like a printing place, a telephone, a television, a teacher etc. It
is consist of man made objects such as tools, implements, furniture,
buildings, roads etc.
Non-material culture: In ordinary sense culture means non-material
culture. It is something internal and intrinsically valuable, reflects the
inward nature of man. It consists of the language, the beliefs, values,
habits etc. It also includes our customs and tastes, attitudes and outlook,
in brief, our ways of acting, feeling and thinking.
Characteristics of Culture:
Culture has some exceptional characteristics that make it extra ordinary. It is
necessary for us to know about it’s main characteristics. These are,
Learnt ways of behavior: Culture is not inborn tendency, it is also not
inherited. It’s learnt socially by man. There is no culture instinct as such. For
this reason, it is often called “learned ways of behavior”. For example,
closing the eyes while sleeping, the eyes blinking reflex, we are not learned
by someone. So these are not culture, but purely physiological. On the other
hand, shaking hands or saying ‘namaskar’ or ‘thanks’ wearing cloths,
combing the hair, we wearing ornament cooking the food, drinking from a
glass, eating from a plate are all ways of behavior learnt by man culturally.
Product of society: Culture is not an individual phenomenon. It is a product
of society. It is shared by members of society. No man can acquire culture
without association with other human being. So we may say that it is a
culture which helps man to develop human qualities in a human
environment. For this purpose we may say that deprivation of company or
association of other individuals to an individual is nothing but deprivation of
human qualities, because doesn’t exist in isolation.
Shared by people: In the sociological view, culture is something shared. An
individual can’t posses this. According to Robert Bearstedt,
“Culture is something adopted, used, believed, practiced, or
possessed by more than one person. It depends upon group life for
its existence”.
For Example, customs, tradition, beliefs, ideas, values, morals, etc. are all
shared by people of a group or society. The invention of Arya Bhatta or Albert
Einstein; the literary works of Kalidasa or Keats, Dandi. Or Dante; the
philosophical works of Confucius or Leo Tse, Shankaracharya or Swami
Vivekananda; the artistic works of Ravi Verma or Raphael etc. are all shared by a
large number of people.
Transmissive: Culture is capable of being transmissed from one generation
to the next. It is transmissed not through genes but by means of language.
Language is the main vehicle of culture. Language in its different forms like
reading, writing and speaking makes it possible for the present generation
to understand the achievements of earlier generations. But language itself is
a part of culture. Once language is acquired, it unfolds to the individual its
wide field. Transmission of culture may take place by imitation as well as by
Continuous and Cumulative: Culture exists as a continuous process. In its
historical growth it tends to become cumulative. We may say that, it is the
achivement of the past and the present and makes provision for the future
achievements of mankind. Robert Bierstadt says,
“Culture may thus be conceived of as a kind of stream flowing down
through the centuries from one generation to another”
He also writes Culture is, “The memory of the human race”.
Sociologist Linton called Culture, “The social heritage”.
Integrated and Consistent: Culture, in its development has revealed a
tendency to be consistent. At the same time different parts of culture are
interconnected. For example, the value system of a society is closely
connected with its other aspects such as morality, religion, customs,
traditions, beliefs, and so on.
vii) Dynamic and Adaptive: Culture is subject of to slow but constant changes.
Change and growth are latent in culture. So, it is hence dynamic. Culture is
responsive to the changing conditions of the physical world. It is adoptive. It
also intervenes in the natural environment and helps man in his process of
viii) Differs from society to society: Every society has a culture of its own. It
differs from society to society. Culture is not uniform but culture of every
society is unique to itself. Culture varies from time to time also. No culture
ever remains constant or changeless. If Manu were to come back to see the
Indian society today he would be bewildered to witness the vast changes
that have taken place in our culture.
Superorganic and Ideational: Culture
superorganic’. Herbert Spencer meant that,
“Culture is neither organic nor inorganic in nature but above these
The term implies the social meaning of physical objects and philological
acts. For example, the social meaning of a national flag is not just ‘a piece
of colored cloth’. The flag represents a nation.
Further, every It is regarded as an end in itself. It is intrinsically valuable.
The people are also aware of their culture as an ideal one. They are proud
of their cultural heritage.
Gratifying: Culture provides proper opportunities and prescribes means for
the satisfaction of our needs and desires. There needs may be biological or
social in nature. Our need for food, shelter, and clothing on the one hand,
and our desire for status, name, fame, money, mates etc. are all for
example, fulfilled according to the cultural ways.
Functions of Culture:
Man is not only a social animal but also a cultural being. Man’s social life has
been made possible because of culture. Culture is something that has elevated him
from the level of animal to the heights of man. Man can’t survive as man without culture.
It represents the entire achievements of mankind. Culture has been fulfilling a number
of functions among which the following may be noted.
The treasury of knowledge: Culture is a treasury of knowledge. It
provides knowledge which is essential for the physical, social and
intellectual existence of man. It has made such an adaptation and
modification possible and easier by providing man the necessary skills
and knowledge. It helps not only the transmission of knowledge but also
its preservation, accumulation and diffusion.
Defines Situations: Culture defines situations. Culture defines social
situations for us. It not only defines but also conditions and determines –
what we eat and drink, what we wear, when to laugh, weep, sleep, to
make friends with and so on.
Attitudes, values and goals: Culture defines attitudes, values and goals.
It is the culture which conditions our attitude towards various issues such
as religion, morality, marriage, science and so on. Our values and our
goals are all set forth by our culture. We are being socialized on these
Decides our carrier: Our professions are described by the culture. What
carrier we are likely to pursue is largely decided by culture. It sets
limitations on our choice to select different carrier.
Behavior pattern: Culture directs and confines the behavior of an
individual. It assigns goals and provides means, it reward his noble works
and punishes the ignoble ones.
Mould personality: American anthropologist by home Margaret Mead
has stated that,
“A culture shapes the character and behavior of individuals living in
That means, Culture exercises a great influence on the development of
personality. No child can be developed human qualities in the absence of
a cultural environment.
Elements of Culture:
According to H.M Johnson the main elements of culture area as follows,
1) Cognitive elements
2) Beliefs
3) Values and norms
4) Signs
1) Cognitive elements: Culture of all societies whether pre-literate or literate
includes a vast amount of knowledge about the physical and social world. The
possession of this knowledge is referred to as the cognate element. Such
knowledge is carefully taught to each generation. In modern advanced
societies knowledge is so vast, deep and complex than no single person can
hope to master the whole of it. Further, every society has in its culture many
ideas about its own social organization and how it works.
2) Believes: Beliefs constitute another element of culture. Beliefs in empirical
terms are neither true nor false. Example: The Eskimo shaman used fetishes
and goes into a loud trance in other to drive out the evil spirits from the body
of a sick person. Such action implies some kind of belief. Tested empirical
knowledge and untested beliefs are “elements” of culture. Because, they are
often mixed together in the same concrete acts.
3) Value and Norms: It is very difficult to enlist values and norms. For they are
so numerous and divers. They are inseparable from attitudes, except
perhaps, analytically. Values may be defined as measures of goodness or
desire ability. They are the group conceptions of relative, desire abilities from
things. One way of understanding the values and their interconnections is to
approach them through the four foundational subsystems of society. These
subsystems are: government, family, economy and religion. The function or
the social activities that these four interconnected subsystems perform as to a
great shaped by values.
Norms are closely with values. They are the group shared standards of
behavior. Norms impose restrictions on our behavior. They are model
practices; they determine, control and guide our behavior. According to H.M
“Values are general standards, and may be regarded as higher
order norms”.
So we may say that, norms and values together constitute an important
element in culture.
4) Signs: Signs include signals and symbols. “A signal indicates the existence –
Past, Present and Future – of a thing, event or conditions”. Example: A heap
of half burnt particles of a house signalize that the house was caught by fire
something earlier.
Meaning of Culture:
Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning "to cultivate")
generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such
activities significance and importance. Different definitions of "culture" reflect different
theoretical bases for understanding, or criteria for evaluating, human activity. Now let’s
see some definitions of culture.
Culture is the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people.
Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its symbols include a group’s skills,
knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned
and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions.
Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behavior; that is the totality of a
person’s learned, accumulated experience that is socially transmitted, or more briefly,
behavior through social learning.
Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and
transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups,
including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of
traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the other
hand, as conditioning influences upon further action.
Culture is the sum of total of the learned behavior of a group of people that are
generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from
generation to generation.
Culture is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members
of one group r category of people from another.
After this discussion we may say that we can’t find our existence without culture.
Definition of culture (given by sociologists):
Different sociologists define culture differently.
According to B. Malinowski, “Culture is the handiwork of man and the medium
through which he achieves his ends.“
An English sociologist, Graham Wallashas says, “Culture is the social heritage
acquired by us from preceding generations through learning, as distinguished from the
biological heritage which is passed on to us automatically through the genes.”
C.C North is of the opinion that culture ‘consists in the instruments constituted by
man to assist him in satisfying his wants.”
Robert Bierstedt is of the opinion that, “culture is the complex whole that consists
of all the ways we think and do and everything we have as members of society.”
E.V de Roberty regards culture as, “the body of thoughts and knowledge, both
theoretical and practical, which only man can process.”
Meaning of civilization:
The word civilization comes from Latin word ‘Civitas’ which means ‘a city’. Hence
the term refers to all the attainments characteristic of human life in an organized city.
The term civilization is also used to cover all the social organizations and other
attainments of man which mark him off from other animals.
Civilization is a form of human culture in which many people live in urban life in
urban centers, have mastered the art of smelting metals, and have developed a method
of writing. It requires that a civilized people have a sense of history – meaning that the
past counts in the present. In the Oxford English Dictionary defines civilization as “the
action or process of civilization or of being civilized; a developed or advanced state of
human society”. Civilization means a particular shared way of thinking about the world
as well as a reflection on the world in art, literature, drama and a host of other cultural
happening. To understand this idea better it is necessary to investigate the origins of
western civilization.
Definition of civilization:
Definitions of different writers give civilization a new identity to us. Now we will
discuss about these.
According to Will Durant, “Civilization is social order promoting cultural creation.
Four elements con1stitutes it: economic provision, political organization, moral traditions
and the pursuit of knowledge and the arts.”
Goldenweiser used the term ‘Civilization’ identically with culture to refer to all the
human achievements.
Kant used the term ‘Civilization’ to mean outward behavior of man.
According to Gillin, “civilization is a more complex and evolved from of culture.
Ogburn and Nimkoff conceived of civilization as the letter phase of the super
organic culture.
According to Maclver and Page civilization is the whole apparatus of life.
Civilization refers to those devices and instruments by which nature is controlled.
It includes technical and material equipments like a printing press, a tractor, television
etc. It also includes the whole apparatus of economic and political organizations like our
school, colleges, banking system etc.
Distinction between Culture and Civilization:
The terms ‘Culture’ and ‘Civilization’ are often distinguished on various grounds.
Both represent two broad fields of human activity and experience. Some significant
points of difference between them may be noted here.
Development of Culture and Civilization:
Civilization is always advancing but not culture. For example, every technical
achievement is an improvement on the past. Once our technical instrument is
discovered may goes on improving it. Like change from mud road to tar road and then
to concrete road. But the height reached by Gautama Buddha, Swami Vivekananda in
the field of religion and spirituality had not been reached by their followers. According to
Maclver and Page,
“Civilization always marches on if there is no break of social continuity. It always
shows a persistent already stored upward trend. Every generation adds its own
achievements to the already stored up energy and intelligence.”
Precise standard of measurement:
The products of civilization are such that they can be measured quantitatively on
grounds of efficiency. But we can’t measure the cultural products. Cultural things such
as values, opinions, ideas, morals, etc are beyond measurement. For example, we can
easily say that, motor car is superior to a hand plough. If somebody were to say that the
literary works of Kalidash are better than those of Shakespeare, we can’t prove or
disprove it, but we can only agree or disagree, with the statement. So we may say that
civilization precise standard of measurement but not culture.
The products of Civilization are more easily communicated than those of culture.
For example, the work of an engineer or mechanic is not just for other engineer or
mechanics. But the work of an artist is only for a man with artistic appreciation. Another
example is, the work of an engineer or mechanic is not just for other engineers or
mechanics. And, the work of an artist only for a man with artistic appreciations.
Borrow the products:
Civilization is borrowed products without loss or change but culture is not. For
example, technical devices, and plants can easily be borrowed or transferred. But we
can’t borrow dress styles, speaking styles, fashions etc.
Needs of man:
Civilization caters top the external, mechanical, utilitarian needs of man but
culture is something internal. Civilization caters to the external needs of man. It reflects
the material wealth of mankind. But, Culture refers to the intrinsic values. Philosopher
Kant says, “Civilization is a matter of outward behavior whereas culture requires
morality as an inward state of man”.
The products of culture reveal the nature of an individual or a social group or a
nation but are not the products of civilization. In the realm of culture, an artist or a poet
can express his love of beauty. On the other hand, an engineer can’t express his
personality, his love of beauty.
Interdependence and Interrelationship between Culture and
Civilization and Culture do not reveal two independent and separate systems.
The distinction between them is only relative and not absolute. They are not only
interdependent but also interactive. Both are man-made. One is for his comfort and
luxury and the other for his satisfaction and happiness. One is as important as the other.
 Culture is the breeding ground of civilization. Civilization gives strength and
stamina for the wheels of society to march on. According to Ogburn, Civilization
represents “material culture” and Culture implies “non-material culture”.
 An environment of Civilization can affect our Culture. For example, a machine
brought new habits and enjoyments, new philosophy and ethics. Our world
outlook has been changed due to the progress of science and technology. The
Culture also affects Civilization. We look at the new inventions and techniques in
the light of our way of life and our values.
 The ‘Order’ of civilization influences the ‘order’ of culture. The articles of
civilization called “artifacts” are influenced by culture called “mentifacts”.
 Culture is also influenced by the articles of civilization. Cultural character is
generally added to the utilitarian order. We want fashions styles and show it in
our automobiles, buildings etc. Similarly our philosophies, literatures and learning
have been much influenced by the printing press.
 Maclver and Page have clearly stated the interrelationship between culture and
civilization. They say that civilization is a ship which can set sail to various ports.
The port we sail to remain a culture choice. Without the ship we couldn’t sail at
all; according to the character of the ship we sail fast or slow, take longer or
shorter voyages. But the direction in which we travel is not predestination by the
design of the ship.
Mans’ social life has been made possible because of Culture and Civilization. For
this reason Maclver and Page have said, “Civilization is what we have. Culture is what
we are”. Both of them represent the internal and external achievement of mankind.
Culture is often understood as anything that is created and cultivated my man. Mans’
Culture in a way has begun with man’s capacity to use and to create or produce tools
and techniques. They have an interrelation. For this reason Ogburn says that,
“Civilization is like a body, Culture is its soul”.
WikiPedia Online Encyclopedia
Principles of Sociology - William J Goode
The Study of Human Interaction – D Dressler and W M Willis
A Guide to Problems and Literature – Tom bottomore
Sociology Primary Principles - C N Sankar Rao