Cultural Universal: Insights in 5 Minutes!

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘Culture, cultural universals, material culture, and non-material culture: Five minute sociology!’ by Dr. Maples

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Written by: Recapz Bot

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Culture is a group’s way of life, including language and behaviors, passed down over generations, containing both material and non-material elements like food, language, ideas, and values, shaping daily life.

Key Insights

  • Culture is the way of life for a group of people at a particular place and time, including language, knowledge, objects, and behaviors.
  • Food and language are examples of culture that are passed down over generations and represent specific people, place, and time.
  • Cultural universals are elements common to all cultures, such as food, housing, and clothing.
  • Culture can be divided into material culture (physical objects) and non-material culture (ideas and concepts).
  • Material culture examples include banjos and wedding rings, while non-material culture includes ideas like commitment and values like family.
  • Non-material culture can further be divided into language, values, norms, and sanctions.
  • Culture shapes our daily lives and provides a sense of normality.

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Hey everybody, this is Dr. Maples. Today we’re going to do 5-Minute Sociology, where I introduce a sociological concept to you in 5 minutes-ish or less. Today we’re going to talk about culture. I’m going to define culture. I’m going to give you some examples of culture. We’re also going to talk about cultural universals. And along the way, we’re going to talk also about material and non-material culture and look at some differences between those two. We’ve got a lot to do today, so let’s get started.

Culture is a fascinating sociological idea that explains the way of life for a group of people at a particular place and time. It explains the things that they pass down to future generations as being important, and even the physical items that they use and sometimes create. Culture is a really big idea. In fact, we often think about it as the totality of our shared way of life, and that includes everything from our language, our knowledge, the objects that we use, even the way that we approach things like our behaviors. So it’s a really big idea. And the cool thing about culture is that it gives us a sense of normality in our daily lives. But because it’s such a big idea, we really have to split it into chunks to understand it.

Next, I want to give you some easy examples of culture. And to do that, we’re going to talk about food. Food is a great example of culture because it always represents a particular people, place, and time. It’s something that we pass down over generations, like recipes. It’s also something, too, that has all sorts of ideas attached to it, like we create certain meals during certain holidays. You know, when I think about my cultural connections to food, I always think about my grandmother’s cooking on Sundays. She would make these amazing things like fried okra and potatoes that I love even today.

Language is another cool example of culture. It’s something that we learn over time from the people around us. It’s something that’s passed down across the generations. It’s something that changes with time. We learn new words and we cast out old words that we aren’t needing anymore to describe our reality. But language is very much a great example of culture and something also common to all cultures around the world.

Now, one of the really interesting things you may have noticed here is that both food and culture are what we would call cultural universals. These are things that are common to all cultures across the world. That also includes things like housing and clothing. All cultures will have these ideas. But you may also have been noticing that, you know, you can touch food, but language, that’s not something you can really touch. It has words and ideas attached to it. In fact, we kind of want to explore this just a bit more because remember, I said culture is a big idea, so we want to break it apart. In fact, we’re going to talk about culture in relation to material and non-material culture.

Now, culture is big, so we’ve got to split it into two halves to understand it better. We’re going to think about material and non-material culture. By the way, your textbook may use symbolic culture in place of non-material culture, so just FYI. With material culture, we’re thinking about the physical things that we can touch in our culture. That includes things like banjos for me. You know, as a Central Appalachian person, I play a banjo. My family members have played banjo. It’s always just kind of been part of my culture’s identity. It’s a part of my culture, and it’s something that we’re able to physically touch. So it very much falls in that category of material culture. We could also think about wedding rings as another great example of that. We have wedding rings. We give them to people. They’re a sign that, you know, someone is off the market, but they’re also a sign that, you know, we have stated our love and emotion and commitment for someone, right? And if we liked it, we should have put a ring on it. But there’s also a problem with that, too, because we start to think about wedding rings as being very much physical or material culture, but at the same time, they have all these ideas attached to them like commitment and love, and you’re no longer allowed to date other people. That’s getting into that realm of the non-material or symbolic culture.

Now, non-material culture starts to get into these bigger ideas attached to our culture. These are things that maybe a particular culture at a particular place in time holds true or valuable or important, so they make them a substantial part of how they see the world. For example, being Central Appalachian, I always think about the idea of family. There’s always a sort of a joke back home that as Central Appalachians, we will hug anyone, and that pretty much holds true. So these are all ideas that I can’t physically touch, but are still very much related to how I’ve been socialized and how I’ve been raised. There are great examples of culture.

Now, the thing is, non-material culture is so big that we have to split that one up again. In fact, we generally split non-material culture into four bigger ideas, and that includes things like language, values, norms, and sanctions. And these four things are something that I’ll feature in a future video.

As I said many times, culture is a big idea, so we kind of did the airplane view of culture, but I hope this video was helpful. I’d love to hear in the comments below about your favorite cultural foods. I’ll even note some of mine. Hey, leave some recipes. We’ll try them out.

That’s all for today, folks. We’ll see you next time.

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘Culture, cultural universals, material culture, and non-material culture: Five minute sociology!’ by Dr. Maples