04 Culture & Socialization



last week I mentioned in class that there were two types of social forces we talked a bit about social institutions and we'll return to that topic in more detail later in the course but for the next few classes we're going to think some about the role of culture in essence culture is how we socially construct the world around us sometimes it is referred to as symbolic systems or even interpersonal systems basically culture is the interactional level of social relations in everyday life we individuals produce culture at the same time that it influences us we transmit culture and especially cultural values in many different ways media religion education families even peers note how some of these are also examples of social institutions indicating an overlap note – that not all of these arenas are necessarily transmitting the same cultural values culture is not some monolithic force but that doesn't mean it's not powerful though sometimes the messages are contradictory culture plays a profound role in shaping how we understand the world around us you might say that we interact with culture via the process of socialization one simple definition of socialization is the process by which we learn what we need to know in order to participate in society all of those different arenas that transmit culture might also be thought of as agents of socialization not only might they teach us slightly different things that they take on differing importance at different stages in our lives in fact socialization is an ongoing lifelong process it never stops it is through socialization that we learn appropriate social norms social norms are those shared sets of expectations and rules that tell us what is acceptable and unacceptable social norms range from the seemingly trivial such as whether you greet someone with a ham shake or a hug or facing the door when standing in a crowded elevator to the profoundly consequential such as paying for groceries before you leave the store or bathing regularly similarly some norms such as the norm of tipping 20 percent on a restaurant tab are informal norms while others such as which side of the street you drive on our formal norms essentially formal norms are those that are codified in some sort of official rule policy or even law while informal norms are the customs and traditions that most people simply find appropriate we often internalize social norms to the point that they may often seem perfectly natural but the point I'm making is that they actually come out of interpersonal and even institutional contexts but as with culture socialization is more than just a one-way street we might broaden our definition to say it is the process by which we inherit and disseminate norms customs and ideologies in defining it this way we can see two important characteristics about how culture and socialization operate first they are not just things that we receive but things we also put out into the world we act as agents of socialization to one another and we are part of the transmission of culture second this process is about more than just simple behaviors and norms it is actually about entire ways of being and even ways of understanding the world around us and ways of thinking what we might call ideologies in short socialization does more than just teach us how to behave it teaches us how to think remember that culture is how we socially construct the world around us what does it mean to say that something is socially constructed that question leads us into our next class when we'll unpack some of the ways that we create this collective meaning of the world around us often in very subtle ways

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