College Essay Examples

Culture and Theoretical Approaches in Defining Culture

Homelands and Treaty Paper

Culture is defined differently by different people and has theoretical perspectives that support the definition of culture. Everyone who defines culture agrees that it is ordinary. Williams defined culture as a way of everyday life and its importance to society. This definition acknowledges that culture is based on different societies with their shapes, and these societies portray culture in the form of art, learning, and institutions. Culture is also the experiences from which people have daily and the way they conduct themselves. Culture encompasses the beliefs, traditions, values and customs of a society which are different in every society. Culture changes the way people interact and behave as it is unintentional and not knowledgeable to the person. As culture is different based on societies, it is passed on to generations and can change as it depends on who or how different societies passed it on. Culture is materialistic and non-materialistic and has different stages of its importance. It varies from surface level, intermediate culture level and deep level culture. 

Cultural studies are a crucial point as it further helps explain culture. Although culture and society appear similar, they have differences based on different points of views. Cultural studies have various theoretical perspectives used in the study of culture. The theoretical perspectives include Marxism and semiotics. The perspectives are in two paradigms are Culturalism and structuralism. The perspectives explain how culture is studied differently, and each perspective has different approaches.

Cultural studies refer to the cultural practices carried out by different societies, the commitments and value the societies share and mainly involve the political approaches that include Marxism and semiotics. Cultural studies explain how different societies share commitments and analyses how culture works, and shows the relationship that ties power and culture. Cultural studies are interdisciplinary as it involves more than one interdisciplinary. According to Raymond Williams, cultural studies are among the most forms of native tradition and help understand the culture in its different states. Cultural studies also explain the social and political concept of how culture is evident in different societies. Cultural studies also help bring out the ethical importance of culture in modern society. Cultural studies are based on structural and cultural forms.  Agencies focused on the participation of people working in society and their contribution to that society. Cultural studies also help to differentiate culture and society. Cultural studies help understand modern culture as a way of analyzing the rising of the culture of consumers. Modern culture also helps in the organization of capitalists in industrialized economies. 

Culture and society variations are explained through cultural studies. While culture is the practices and beliefs of a society that is passed from generations to generations, society refers to the interdependence of people living as a group in a particular area. It has activities that bring those people together. Therefore, culture is based on beliefs and practices practised by a group of people, while society is a group of individuals with similar traditions. Society reflects and encompasses the economy while culture bases on tastes and preferences, lifestyle and values of a group of people. Stuart Hall explains that culture helps in the discovery of energies connecting a society from different social practices. According to Raymond Williams, culture focuses on bringing together people’s social structure while society constructs its social structure. Society entails people based in one specific place sharing cultures in different times while culture helps differentiate societies as every society has its practices and beliefs. 

Marxism is one of the theoretical perspectives that studies culture. Marxism involves the analysis of material developments in society. Marxism helps to study the economic developments in society and how the society meets its material desires. Different Marxists explain Marxism as a theoretical perspective of culture. Thompson, a Marxist, elaborated Marxism as a cultural Marxism where the different working-class groups’ cultural components and their interest in how human beings struggled to create their history. Thompson focused on the different struggles in the interest of creating history for a people. From Thompson’s arguments, culture is defined as the values that come up between different social classes and groups based on their historic interactions while trying to solve the conditions set. Thompson explains experience as a way in which people use raw materials to solve existing conditions. Cultural Marxist stresses the importance of ideas and popular morality and their roles in society and explains that they build themselves by making history while people work. The Marxist majors on the impact of self-activity and class agency while making history in working. 

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              Although Cultural Marxists agree with historical Marxism, they do not uphold Marxism’s mechanical and abstract readiness.  Louis, a French Marxist, was a structural Marxist who introduces the importance of ideology. According to Louis, ideological states such as churches and schools help improve society as they help bring up self-aware people and socially related people. Society relies on structure and ideology, and Louis stated that early Marxists were based on pre-scientific human ideology. Antonio Gramsci also stressed the importance of human working hard in transforming sense as ideology and divide the superstructure of Marxism into state and civil society. The state ran under force and enforcement while civil society functioned through reign, which involved the concession of masses based on the ruling group and the ruling ideology. 

  Additionally, semiotics is a theoretical perspective used in the definition of culture. Cultural semiotics upheld the symbolic system involving language, signs, texts and symbols of society. Ferdinand, a Swiss linguist, provided semiotic and linguistic studies funding and suggested studying signs referred to as semiotics. In a society, linguistics would be viewed as a science by the people. Linguists criticized all language practices in a theoretical manner involving the human mind’s structure based on biological structures. Linguists explained the differences of words relating to different structure relations showing that words had different meanings because they held different meanings. Ferdinand de Saussure upheld langue, which formed how a language was used and organized and not parole, which entailed a language’s utterances, whether in written or spoken form. Ferdinand proposed the importance of society’s social aspect and not the individual focus on language. Language is only complete when collectively studied in a society.  Semiology is hence helping in the definition and study of culture as it brings together all human struggles.

Therefore, Marxism and semiotics are the theoretical perspectives that help in the definition and study of culture. Marxism explains culture as the relationship between elements in life in the search and formation of structure and cultural forms in society. Semiotics, on the other hand, embraces language as a culture in a society. Although there are different explanations on the theoretical perspective by different Marxists and linguists, the two are essential in completing the definition of culture and embracing both the theoretical perspective. One cannot exist without the other hence should both be involved in the definition of culture.

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By Sandra Arlington

Sandra Arlington is a contributing writer to the Motley Fool. Having written for various online magazines, such as Ehow and LiveStrong, she decided to embark on a travel blog for the past 10 years. She is also a regular contributor to My Essay Writer.

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