Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cultural Universals and Cultural Particulars


Anthropologist George Murdock (1945) distinguished between cultural universals and particulars. Cultural universals are those things that all cultures have in common. Every culture has natural resources such as trees, plants, and rocks that people put to some use. In addition, every culture has developed responses to the challenges of being human and living with others. Those challenges include the need to interact with others, to be mentally stimulated, to satisfy hunger, and to face mortality. In every culture, people have established specific ways of meeting these universal challenges.

Cultural particulars include the specific practices that distinguish cultures from one another. For example all people become hungry but the potential food sources defined as edible vary across cultures. That is what is appealing to eat in one society may be considered repulsive or simply unavailable in another.

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