Culture Essay: Definition, Development, Forms


Culture is a complex concept. In this essay on culture we make an attempt to give quite accurate definition of the term “culture”, we will also consider its development, main forms, and also terms that concern the culture.

Culture: definition, meaning, development

Culture, from Latin word “cultura” came into use only in the second part of the XVIII century, when Latin was no longer living language and even universal means of intellectual scientific discussion of educated people. During the age of Enlightenment this word changed its meaning greatly. In Latin the word “cultura” meant live human connection with nature, where man was considered as rational being that contributed to development of various forms of plant and animal life (“cultivation, care, breeding” are the words that were used to define the word “cultura”). The Enlightenment gave new interpretation and “cultural” began to mean something opposite to “natural”.

“Culture” as a term means certain set of social ideas, values, customs, beliefs, traditions, norms and rules of behaviour that transfer from generation to generation, and that help people to organize their vital functions.

“Culture” as a concept is used to characterize certain historical epochs, certain communities, nations, as well as specific fields of activity or life.

The subject of culture is a human (he creates, keeps and spreads the cultural values he created).

Culture is also defined as created by people artificial environment of the existence and self-realization, the regulation source of social interaction and behaviour. However, it should be mentioned that culture is the concept that includes seven aspects, such as result, process, activity, way (method, means), relation, norm and system.

The main and the only subject of culture is human. Another object is nature. Culture is the main distinguishing feature that separates man and animal world, culture is human activity only. But not every human activity creates culture.

Let’s define another important concept that relates to culture – civilization. Civilization is also Latin word; it is defined as interethnic cultural and historical community of people. The concept “civilization” appeared in ancient times as certain qualitative difference of the ancient society from barbaric surrounding. In the Age of Enlightenment and in the XIX century the term “civilization” was used as a feature of the highest social and cultural development. In the XX century civilization was defined as local mono or multi-ethnic community with significant socio-cultural specificity, in particular it was definition of historical civilization. Lately civilization is considered to be local interethnic community that is formed on the basis of unity of the peoples who have common historical fate in the same region.

Civilization is polysemantic concept, it is used in Cultural Studies and Political Science first of all as a synonym to culture, as its stage that goes right after the barbarism, and second of all as a special type of organic integrity, which is the symptom of cultural decline or its highest stage. Modern level of civilization is characterized by scientific and technical progress, and also the presence of certain features, the main among which are urbanization, social stratification, economic and political activity, the human personality typing, and external life activity.

The contradistinction of culture and civilization appeared in Germany in 18-19th century. The socio-historical roots of this phenomenon are the following: at that time Germany consisted of many tiny feudal states and did not have national political consciousness, although the feeling of unity of national culture was very brightly expressed. German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies formulated the idea about directed evolution of social organization from community to society: relationships within culture (community) that have their roots in emotions, traditions, affection – family, class, ethnos (nation). Here the most important is the organic in a relationship, their roots in traditions, and relationships within civilization (community), in the middle of which is placed rational exchange, a change of things in possession. Relationships have material nature and are characterized by multidirectional aspirations of the participants. Rational structures, such as collectives, groups, states are considered as formal entities.

Culture development

Culture is not frozen form. It is changeable by its nature. But in different cultures the possibilities for innovations and creativity is different. They are much smaller in traditional societies than in technological civilization. The art, connected with the production of innovations that break the tradition, is limited in all traditional cultures, but is encouraged in modern. Basically, both opposite processes, tradition and innovation, production and art are equally important for existence of culture and society, as well as heredity and variation is important for biological organisms’ existence. Culture is not only the art that changes the life, but also reproduction of social life on some stable base.

Culture is the foundation of human life. It has appeared and develops along with a man, it distinguishes people from all other living being and from nature in general. In such a way, the sense of culture is that it is fundamental, it defines the human life, it embodies the human way of existence.

The concept of culture. Forms and kind of culture

Now we are going to give you brief information about culture, its basic terms and their definitions, kinds and forms, etc.

1. Approaches to understanding of culture as phenomenon of social life:

a) technological approach: culture is a complex of all the achievements of material and spiritual life of society;

b) approach of activity: culture is creative activities in the fields of material and spiritual life of society;

c) evaluative: culture is realization of universal values in business and human relations.

2. The concept of culture:

a) in a broad sense: historically determined dynamic complex of constantly renewed in all the spheres of social life forms, principals, ways and results of people creative activity;

b) in a narrow sense: active creative activity process, while which spiritual values are created, spread and used.

3. Material and spiritual culture (basing on human needs and satisfied values):

a) material culture is the result of producing and exploration of objects and phenomena of the material world;

b) spiritual culture is a complex of spiritual values and creative activity in their creation, exploration and use.

4. The functions of culture: cognitive, evaluative, regulatory (normative), informative, communicative, function of socialization.

5. The spiritual world of the individual is the field where objective reality is present in a man, it is an essential part of his personality: knowledge, faith, feelings, experiences, needs, abilities, aspirations and goals.

6. Spiritual life of society is objective, supraindividual ideal reality, complex of vital values that  is present inside human and defines content, quality and direction of social and individual life. This is philosophy, morality, science, education, art, religion, law.

7. The elements of spiritual life of society:

- spiritual needs;

- spiritual activity and production (science, art, religion are reproduction of social consciousness);

- spiritual values (idea, theories, images, values);

- spiritual consuming (spiritual benefits are public property);

- spiritual relationships (spiritual public relations of individuals);

- interpersonal spiritual communication.

Values are socially accepted and shared by most people ideas about the meaning of the good, justice, patriotism, romantic love, friendship and so on. Values can not be doubted, they serve as standard and ideal for all people.

8. Forms and kinds of culture. The typology of cultures:

national – world;

secular – religious;

eastern – western (Mediterranean, Latin-American, etc .; Russian, French, etc.);

traditional – industrial – post-industrial;

rural – urban;

everyday – specialized;

high (elitist) – mass – folk.

9. Screen Culture is a variant of mass culture that is demonstrated on the screens (movies, music videos, television series and television programs, computer games, PSP, game consoles, etc.).

10. Subculture is a part of general culture, system of values that is inherent to a big social group (youth, women, professional, criminal subculture). Its elements:  knowledge, values, style and way of life, social institutions as a system of norms, skills, abilities, methods, implementation methods; social roles and statuses; needs and inclinations.

11. Youth subculture is the culture of demonstrative consumption that usually develops on the base of style in cloth and music. The reasons of subculture development are the following: growth of living standards; consumer society development that creates more new production markets that are aimed at youth first of all; the growing role and importance of leisure time, entertainment.

Youth subculture is also concentrated on friendship in a group of fellows, but not on family. Youth makes experiments with life style, search for other, different from the adults’ cultural bases of its existence.

12. Counterculture is one of the directions of development of modern culture that contradicts the spiritual atmosphere of modern society (or official culture, for example, underground as a counterculture).

So, as you can see culture is polysemantic concept that has many aspects and elements. I hope this essay about culture was useful for you. If you look for essay on other topics, visit our website. The team of professional writers is ready to help you in essay writing. All you need is to contact us for more details.

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