What is Culture?

Is culture the set of customs, traditions, and values of society or community, such as an ethnic group or nation? Or is it the set of knowledge acquired over time? What is a so called “bro culture“? (Well quite interesting to call it a “bro culture” which could lead us to the contention that culture has something to do with some sort of proximity.) Or is culture simply our everyday life and surrounding ?

The word culture itself is of such a huge complexity. Because there is no one-and-only right definition for culture. Because it means diversity. And that means it is obvious that we cannot have one definition but have to consider different thoughts or even ideas associated with the word culture.

When you start to study any topic or subject it is always useful to think about how that topic or subject is or has been defined by others and what kind of questions are raised in the process of attempting to define it. That is why I would say that the answer for the questions above is “yes it is culture “, and it only depends on the one’s personal perspective of culture.

The word culture has its etymological origin in “agriculture“ and originally means the tending or cultivation of something, in particular animals or crops. The sense of culture as cultivation was particularly associated with the spiritual and the moral progress of humanity, from the eighteenth century onwards.

With the growth of national states the interest in folk art rises

As Raymond Williams points out in Keywords (1976) reminds us that with the growth of national states the Romantic interest in “folk art” rises. It became essential to distinguish between the particular cultures of different nations, but also ‚the specific and variable cultures of social and economic groups within a nation‘ (Williams, 1976, p.89).

Moreover anthropology, as an academic discipline, became established in the early years of the twentieth century, in which culture is defined as a whole way of life for a particular society. Williams identifies, as a result, by the twentieth century anthropology, three broad categories of definition in general usage.

These are :

• a general process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development ;

• a particular way of life, whether of a people, a period, a group or humanity in general ;

• the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity ( Williams, 1976, p.90)

There is no one-and-only definition of culture

The most important thing for our purpose is not to choose one of these definitions as the only ‚true‘ meaning of the concept of culture. But we should begin to think about it. About the the way in which these definitions overlap and what functions it has for our society.

But I would like to link the three definitions that Williams identifies with the questions above. Because for me Williams did a great job by including every aspect of life in these three potentially meanings of the concept of culture and gives us somehow the answers.

For now, I hope that this try of explanation of ‚what is culture‘ has inspired you to think about how the concept of culture is defined. Even though not all aspects are mentioned in this post. And like I said in the first sentences: culture has not one true definition but is linked to the one’s personal perception. Understanding the term of culture is an on-going process.

This could be also interesting: Failure – keep going

And here you can find Raymond Williams` Keywords.

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