Thursday, July 10, 2014

Culture and Youth by Eva Pearce

Culture can mean different things to different people. Some people, such as microbiologists, will consider a culture to be some form of Petri dish colony while others will consider it the same as religious identity. However, anthropologists define culture in a very different and intellectually more rigorous way. They do this by analysing the spectrum of patterns that have helped human societies to flourish. One of the founders of modern anthropology, Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917), once commented that culture was “the complex whole”, and it would be this totality in his observation that has fascinated anthropologists ever since.  
Making a Society for the youth
Prior to Tylor, how we developed cultural identities was considered a biological trait that was inherited from one generation to the next. It would be a shift toward looking at patterns of behaviour, toward a psychological account, that would prove to be the most academically profitable in explaining patterns of behaviour. This account would have to take into consideration a whole plethora of novel factors such as laws, customs, morals, religious beliefs, and habits. These factors may affect one part of the whole or may constitute a significant slice of a given society, either way; it reflected the new complexity with which one had to understand how we could define culture.
While acknowledging the significance of Tylor’s research, it must be remembered that it was one of the first such novel accounts of culture and therefore more inclined to error. One of the chief difficulties with his outcome is that it assumes a homogenous type of civilisation – a place where there is more unity than diversity. Besides assuming this homogeneity, his definition does not permit any type of exceptions – a notable example being trends that are contrary to the mainstream such as alternative fashion or music. By limiting the scope of how one defines culture, Tylor’s work could only stretch so far until such time came that a fresh new look needed to be taken.
A Dynamic Civilisation
This dynamism that imbues modern society can be understood by looking at its three distinct layers. In the first instance, patterns of behaviour govern a particular group of people; this can include the traditional conception of what it means to be Chinese as opposed to Irish. The second layer looks at what are known as subcultures, the chunks of society that identify both with the mainstream as well as their own local variant. Subcultures can often disappear and become part of the mainstream as has been seen with Irish Americans. The third layer encompasses the broad behavioural patterns that are shared across humanity, principles such as gender classification, art and communication.
The purpose of understanding these layers of learned patterns in civilisation is that it enhances comprehension of how diverse a culture can be. This aforementioned dynamism only partly echoes what Tylor defined and highlights the great complexity in trying to understand modern culture. However, the concept of “the complex whole” managed to pervade academic literature right up until modern times. The reason for the marked departure from Tylor’s work rested on the idea of falsely differentiating between different types of culture – in this case low and high culture.
Impact of Popular Youth Culture
It might be noted that Tylor’s scientific approach in understanding how societies operate focussed chiefly on what might be called high culture. Understanding the differences between high and low culture became an integral part of these scholarly developments. Hence, this left a chasm in the academic environment in how to fuse low culture with its upper counterpart. A case in point would be to look at the effects of alcohol and drug abuse in modern times. The misuse of these psychoactive agents has grown exponentially in recent years resulting in the proliferation of local therapeutic clinics on a scale not seen before. From a purely theoretical standpoint, the abuse of such substances challenges the prevailing zeitgeist of what's morally acceptable which is entirely contrary to adherents of the Tyrolean account of culture.
This is because what happens at the lower strata of society was hitherto never considered part of what it meant to be cultural. Incorporating the challenges from this level of society into the cultural framework has led to a blurring of the boundaries in how to arrive at a crisp definition of culture. Unfortunately, it appears that this definition still remains elusive. Research compiled by Helen Spencer-Oatey has revealed that there are over 160 different academic definitions of culture, each varying with some minor technical nuance. Notwithstanding the anthropological developments that have taken place over the past century and a half, it seems that forging a clear characterisation of societal behaviour remains just as difficult as it was when the problem was first introduced. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Karl Marx

Karl Marx was born in Germany but spent much of his professional life in London, working and writing in collaboration with Friedrich Engels. Two of Marx and Engels’s most influential treatises are Das Kapial and The Communist Manifesto. Das Kapital, a massive multivolume work published in 1867, 1885, and 1894, is critical of the capitalist system and predicts its defeat by a more humane and more cooperative economic system:socialism. 

The Communist Manifesto is a 23-page pamphlet that was issued in 1848 and has since been translated into more than 30 languages . The Manifesto includes these famous lines: “The workers have nothing to lose but their chains; they have a whole world to gain. Workers of all countries, unite.” 

Marx sought to analyze and explain conflict, the major force that drives social change. The character of conflict is shaped directly and profoundly by the means of production, the resources (land, tools, equipment, factories, transportation, and labor) essential to the production and distribution of goods and services. Marx viewed every historical period as characterized by a system of production that gave rise to specific types of confrontation between an exploiting class and an exploited class. For Marx, class conflict was the vehicle that propelled people from one historical epoch to another.

From Marx’s perspective, the Industrial Revolution was accompanied by the rise of two distinct classes, creating a fundamental divide: the bourgeoisie, the owners of the means of production, and the proletariat, those individuals who must sell their labor to the bourgeoisie.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Durkheim and Structural Functionalism

The fundamental theoretical premises of British social anthropology and structural -functionalism are based upon Emile Durkheim's apothesis of social solidarity.The theories of structural-functionalism have everything in common with Durkheim's approach to socio-cultural phenomena via the conditions of social cohesiveness or social solidarity.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ethnographic Monographs

Ethnographers of the early 20th century tried to explain the social phenomena in terms of the societies studied.Publications arising out of these efforts came to be known as ethnographic monographs.As an early example of this approach H Junod's The Life of a South African Tribe published in 1912-13,Malinowski's Argonauts of the Western Pacific published in 1922 can be considered as the examples of the scientific study of a primitive society.This book analyses the kula system of exchange of gifts among the Trobrinaders.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tradition of Folklore Researches

Folklore is regarded as prehistory of a society.The folklore researches which were at the level of spordic collection of tribal songs and taken to be included in the monograph received a systematic treatment with Verrier Elwin to begin  with under the influence of F Boas and E B Taylor.With the passage of time social elements hidden in folklore were unearthered by few anthropologists  and also by several scholars  of literature.Now days anthropologists  are attempting to collect information on folksongs,balled,folk tales,folk belief,folk traditions,folk music and folk medicine,plays,proverbs etc under broad subject of folklore to explore folk culture of an area or region.

Sir James George Frazer views on Totem and Taboo

Sir James George Frazer wrote articles on totem and taboo for Encyclopedia Britannica which appeared in 1888.For him these articles were beginning of a systematic application to anthropology and study of backward race of men.Frazer gave his reason for concentrating on savagery than on civlilization : 

Civilization is extremely complex,savagery is comparatively simple.Savagery is undoubtedly the source from which all civilization has been ultimately derived by a slow process of evolution.It seemed to me therefore that if we are to understand the complex product  we must begin by studying the simple elements out of which it has been gradually compounded.In other words  we must try to understand savagery before we can hopefully to comprehand civilisation.

In his article on totemism and taboo Frazer has given a general idea about social origins which became the guiding principle for much of his work. That from irrational beginning ,system of great adaptative value for society are evolved.In taboo Frazer remarks we shall scarcely err in believing that even in advanced society the moral sentiments in so far as they aer merely sentiments are not based on an induction from experience,desire much of their force from an original system of taboo.Thus on the taboo were grafted the golden fruits of law and morality.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Nadel's Contribution to Structural Functionalism

Nadel developed the theory of social structure in his book entitled Theory of Social Structure  in 1957.In his book Nadel pointed out that the concept of society may be viewed from two angles -action such as kinship and economics  and groupings such as family,clans.He also says that there are some social and cultural facts which fall outside the social and cultural scheme.These refer to an action autonomous.

Nadel held view that the concept of social structure is still in a sense on trial.The variety of definitions lead us to fear that it is a concept the width of whose usages renders it analytically fruitless.There are two choices open to us.We may remove the concept of structure from the vocabulary of anthropology on account of its lack of precision or we can attempt to narrowly define it by giving a specific and limited connotation.

George Peter Murdock's View on Structure -Function

G P Murdock's book Social Structure written in 1949 was most explicit on the point of functionalism.In this book historical,functional ,psychological and statistical methods are brought together to form a harmonious synthesis of cross-cultural comparisons.When Murdock wrote his book on social structure he used data from some 250 different societies about which coded material was already available.

His approach may be illustrated by his analysis of incest taboos.Prohibitions of sexual intercourse within the nuclear family are universal but in every known societies these taboos are extended beyond father-daughter,mother -son and brother-sister relationship.These extentions are not same everywhere.Sometimes they include maternal cousins only or parental ones only.Murdock grasped the complexity of the problems and showed that it could not be explained by the anthropology alone.He credited Sigmund Freud with the explanation of the universality of incest taboos because he had shown that nuclear family was constituted in such a waythat it generated oedipus complex so that rather than having instinctive aversions a boy desired his mother sexually.Social training strongly repressed his desire which accounted for the emotional quality of the prohibition of incest and often very severe punishments for breaking the rules.

Murdock demonstrated the extension in the direction of maternal relatives is most common in matrilineal societies in the patrilineal directions in patrilineal societies and in both directions incase of double descent.These and many other findings of cross-cultural regularities are in turn functionally interrelated with other cultural rules such as exogamy,preferential marriage,family organisations and residence rules.

Murdock's book Social Structure although giving new dimensions to this subject is but is a publication emphaizing kinship.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Anthropology-Scope and Value

Anthropology is usually classified as a social science along with disciplines such as sociology, economics, political science and psychology but it has much in common with natural sciences like biology and geology as also with religion and art in the field of humanities. The diverse field of anthropology has broader scope than other social sciences. Anthropologists are interested in all human beings and their different aspects such as skin color, kinship system, religious beliefs, technologies and other aspects of life.

In physical anthropology, investigation of the evolution of the human species, physical variations among different human groups and anatomy of monkeys, apes and humans are studied. Primatology is a line of specialization within anthropology and it specializes in the evolution, anatomy, adaptation and social behavior of primates which constitutes the taxonomic order including humans.Anthropogists studying the variation in the human beings seek to measure and explain the similarities and differences among the people of the world.

Components of Symbolic Culture

Gestures movements of the body to communicate with others are shorthand ways to convey messages without using words. Although people in every culture of the world use gestures, a gesture’s meaning may change completely from one culture to another.Gestures not only facilitate communication but also, because they differ around the world, can lead to misunderstanding, embarrassment, or worse.To get along in another culture, then, it is important to learn the gestures of that culture.It is also significant that certain gestures can elicit emotions; some gestures are so closely associated with emotional messages that the gestures themselves summon up emotions.


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