Culture refers to the shared practices, institutions, values, modes of interaction, and norms found in most human cultures. It is used to categorize the human sphere, including all the different types of human beings who live together in groups and have lived for thousands of years. It is also used in socio-cultural studies to explain the variations in culture and its significance to human life.
Culture is not a single concept, but instead a collection of ideas, behaviors, customs, norms, and realities found among the various cultural groups in the world. People have always lived according to their cultural practices. These practices are manifested in their language, arts, culture, customs, rituals, and beliefs. The variations in culture can be seen in the language, arts and culture of different areas or islands in the world. For instance, a Hindu married outside their religion would not be able to practice their religious rituals, nor would one who lives in an Islamic or Christian country. The differences in behaviors, beliefs, practices, and norms also reflect the differences in cultures.
An important issue in understanding culture is its relation to individual person. We usually make a big deal out of what other people believe and practice. But the truth is that culture is very individualistic, and not related to the beliefs of other people. People do not share the same culture, even if they live within the same society. To analyze a cultural system, one should analyze the beliefs, practices, and norms of each individual within that culture.
The other main topic in understanding culture is socio-cultural differences. A sociologist always examines the beliefs, practices, and norms of a specific society at a particular time. A typical sociologist seeks to discover the effects of societal differences, which affect the patterns of individual life, on the basis of the changing internal structure of the society. These patterns become a part of the shared beliefs, practices, and norms of that society.
In order to understand the essence of culture, it is important to know the different types of cultures existing today. There are five major categories of cultures in the world, each having its own unique characteristics. Let us have a look at them in order of magnitude:
These are just some of the many categories of cultures in the world, each having its own unique traits. The types of cultures mentioned above can be considered to be the basic ones, which have been derived from the genetic makeup of human beings. However, as discussed in previous posts, the actual definition of a culture is determined by the interactions and adaptation of individuals within a society, and also the history of that society. Hence, we can say that culture is a very complex phenomenon, which depends on numerous external factors such as geographical location, ethnicity, language, religion, and the changes in the economic structure over time.