Essay on Understanding Culture Society And Politics

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100 Words Essay on Understanding Culture Society And Politics

What is culture.

Culture is the way of life of a particular group of people. It includes their beliefs, values, customs, and traditions. Culture is learned and shared by members of a society, and it is passed down from generation to generation.

What is Society?

Society is a group of people who live together in a particular area and share a common culture. Societies can be large or small, and they can be based on different things, such as ethnicity, religion, or language.

What is Politics?

Politics is the process of making decisions about how a society is run. Politics involves the allocation of resources, the making of laws, and the resolution of conflicts. Politics can be carried out at the local, state, or national level.

How are Culture, Society, and Politics Related?

Culture, society, and politics are all interconnected. Culture shapes the way people think about themselves and their world, and it influences the way they interact with each other. Society provides the context for culture and politics, and it affects the way that culture and politics are practiced. Politics, in turn, affects the way that culture and society are shaped.

250 Words Essay on Understanding Culture Society And Politics

Culture: the foundation of society.

Culture is the shared beliefs, values, and practices of a group of people. It includes everything from the language they speak to the food they eat to the way they celebrate holidays. Culture is passed down from generation to generation and it helps to shape who we are as individuals and as a society.

Society: The Structure of Culture

Society is the organized network of relationships between people. It includes the institutions that we rely on, such as the government, the economy, and the family. Society provides us with a sense of order and stability and it helps us to cooperate with each other.

Politics: The Art of Governance

Politics is the process of making and enforcing laws. It is the way that we decide how to live together as a society. Politics can be messy and complicated, but it is essential for a functioning democracy.

The Interconnectedness of Culture, Society, and Politics

Culture, society, and politics are all interconnected. Culture influences society and politics, and society and politics influence culture. This relationship is complex and dynamic, but it is essential for understanding how society works.

By understanding culture, society, and politics, we can better understand ourselves and the world around us. We can learn to appreciate different cultures, to work together with people from different backgrounds, and to participate in the political process. This knowledge can help us to create a more just and equitable society for all.

500 Words Essay on Understanding Culture Society And Politics

Culture, society, and politics: understanding the interplay.

Culture, society, and politics are three interconnected concepts that shape our lives and the world around us. Culture refers to the beliefs, values, customs, and traditions shared by a group of people. It influences our behavior, our way of life, and our understanding of the world. Society is composed of individuals and groups interacting with each other, creating a shared way of life. Politics is the process by which decisions are made about how a society is governed. It involves the allocation of power and resources, and the making and implementation of laws and policies.

Culture’s Influence on Society and Politics

Culture plays a significant role in shaping society and politics. It provides the values and norms that govern our interactions with each other. It also influences our political beliefs and behaviors. For example, a culture that values cooperation and collectivism may be more likely to support policies that promote social welfare, while a culture that values individualism and competition may be more likely to support policies that promote economic growth.

Society’s Impact on Culture and Politics

Society also has a significant impact on culture and politics. The way we live together, the institutions we create, and the challenges we face all shape our culture and political beliefs. For example, a society that is divided along ethnic, religious, or economic lines may be more likely to experience political conflict, while a society that is more egalitarian and inclusive may be more likely to experience political stability.

Politics’ Role in Culture and Society

Politics, in turn, has a profound impact on culture and society. The decisions that politicians make can shape our way of life, our values, and our beliefs. For example, a government that invests in education and healthcare may create a more educated and healthy society, while a government that cuts funding for these programs may create a less educated and less healthy society.

The Interdependence of Culture, Society, and Politics

Culture, society, and politics are interdependent and constantly interacting. They shape each other in complex and dynamic ways. Understanding the interplay between these three concepts is essential for understanding the world around us and for making informed decisions about our future.

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The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis

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17 Why and How Culture Matters

Michael Thompson is a Senior Researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria and an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

Marco Verweij is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Singapore Management University.

Richard J. Ellis is Mark O. Hatfield Professor of Politics at Willamette University.

  • Published: 02 September 2009
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This article examines the importance of culture in politics. It explains that it is cultural to be political and this means that culture is not only contextual to politics but essential. Given that all political science deals with culture, this article investigates how culture can do this. It suggests that culture and behaviour are separate but not unconnected and proposes how to take valid account of culture in relation to politics. It also discusses the theory of constrained relativism and the cultures of climate change.

It is hard to imagine a political science that took no account of culture. Ignore culture—all the things we have that monkeys do not 1 —and you have declared humans to be essentially the same as animals. Of course, we are animals, and there is much scholarly work on animal behavior, and even on animal social complexity 2 , but precious little on their political behavior (beyond the oft‐predicted low probability of turkeys voting for Christmas). 3 In other words, it is culture that enables us to be political. This means that culture is not contextual to politics; it is essential. All political science, therefore, deals with culture, and so the interesting question is: “How does it do this?”

Some approaches aim to take direct and explicit account of culture: most prominently political and civic culture approaches ( Almond and Verba 1963 ; 1980 ; Putnam 1993 ), post‐materialism (Inglehart 1977) , symbolic interactionism, and the various interpretivist and social constructionist framings. Others try to dodge culture in one of two ways: by contending that, while culture is there, it isn't really doing anything; or by pretending that values and beliefs are somehow inherent in individuals (like their fingerprints) rather than emerging from their social interactions. The first dodging is Marxism: culture is a “superstructure” that obligingly positions itself and repositions itself, so as always to render “natural” the current state of the class struggle for control over the means of production. 4 The second dodging is rational choice: with preferences assumed (or, in some way, given or self‐evident) the focus is on how people set about getting the things they want, and the deeply political question of how they come to want those things is dismissed ( de gustibus non disputandum , or some such formula). 5

Curiously, these culture‐dodging approaches are of more interest to a cultural theorist than are those that explicitly attempt to embrace culture. The reason is that, since culture is undodgable, each of these culture‐dodging approaches is spectacularly cultural: that is, everywhere permeated with a distinctive set of beliefs and values. And, as Gabriel Almond (1997: ix–x) has made abundantly clear, not just cultural but political too:

The politics of the Vietnam War and the “cultural revolution” sought to elbow cultural variables aside in the late 1960s and 1970s…It was argued by the “dependency” school that there was nothing problematic about political values and attitudes. They could be inferred from the international political economy. Good research was defined as that which illuminated and exposed this system of exploitation—a hierarchy of oppression centred in high capitalism in the United States and Europe and extending throughout the globe through the semi‐periphery to the periphery. Studies of political attitudes were not only pointless, they were positively harmful, since they attributed solid reality to what were really the products of this exploitative and false‐consciousness creating system. … Rational choice theory in its earlier manifestations also viewed culture and attitudes as unproblematic. All that one required in order to explain social, cultural and political phenomena was rational man, the short‐run, hard‐nosed calculator, and the mathematics and statistics that he needed in order to make cost‐effective choices. The extraordinary success of the public choice movement can only be accounted for by its rigor and parsimony in an age dominated by the reductionist triumphs of physics and biology…That [rational choice theory's successes] were only partial contributions to the explanation of social and political phenomena is now being generally acknowledged in the “new institutionalism.”

Those (like Almond himself) who were struggling to avoid both of these mutually contradictory reductionisms, by taking explicit account of culture, were “whipsawed in those decades from the dependency left and the rational choice right” 6   (Almond 1997, x) .

So here, between these contending social constructions of “the problem,” is a deeply political left–right struggle between two theoretical framings, each of which is claiming to explain deeply political struggles! A theory capable of explaining that political struggle would be, to put it mildly, a worthwhile step forward in political science.

1 Culture and Behavior: Separate but not Unconnected

An obvious first place to look for such a “meta‐theory” is at the various approaches that, unlike Marxism and rational choice, do not try to dodge culture. Are any of these up to the task? By and large, as we will see, they are not; they succeed only to the extent that they find their way towards the direction Almond himself has indicated. This is the “new institutionalism”: essentially the distinguishing of a small number of different institutional forms, two of which are the markets and hierarchies that were not new even when Adam (Smith, that is) was a lad! 7

The trouble with taking explicit account of culture is that explanation tends to go out the window. Yes, culture and behavior need to be clearly distinguished (and these approaches certainly do that) but so too does the relationship between them, and this vital reconnection is not easily achieved. Beliefs and values justify behavior, and behavior (if perceived to have been successful) confirms beliefs and values. Causality, in other words, runs both ways. Each, therefore, has to be seen as the cause of the other: a common enough state of affairs in the biological sciences that is explained in terms of viability rather than the more familiar cause‐and‐effect. In viability‐based explanations ( John Maynard Smith 1982 is perhaps the exemplar) particular comings‐together—the chicken and the egg, for example—are able to achieve some sort of dynamic stability over time; others are not able to and disappear as quickly as they are formed. If we take this explanatory line then we can enunciate the rules of the cultural method . These are negative rules—things to be avoided if we wish to retain explanatory power:

Culture as an uncaused cause . These are explanations of the form: “Why did he do that?” “Because his culture told him to.” The invocation of “Asian values,” or statements such as “Japan is a high‐trust society; the United States a low‐trust society,” or that “the Judeo‐Christian tradition is anthropocentric and can only justify environmental protection as resource management,” are examples of this solecism. So too is the “culture wars” formulation (Huntington 1998) , in which the culture‐carriers—the members of the various blocs: Islamic, Christian, and so on—are pitted against one another because they are Isalamic, Christian, and so on. Though often dressed up in impressive swaths of reasoning, these (like Molière's doctor and his talk of opium's “dormitive properties”) simply are not explanations: just elaborate ways of saying “I don't know.” 8

Culture as an explanation of last resort . This is when culture is dragged in only when other explanations—economic, demographic, ecological, organizational, political, and so on—are inadequate. 9 Non‐cultural explanations, for instance, are often advanced in relation to environmental matters; indeed they dominate the PRED framing (Population, Resources, Environment, and Development), for example, the “IPAT equation” (environmental Impact equals some multiplication of Population, Affluence, and Technology; Ehrlich and Holdren 1974 ), and pretty well all the computer‐based models that are so relied on in environmental policy‐ making (and that swallow up so much of the available funding). Such approaches, since they take no account of cognition—seeing and knowing—are hopelessly reductionist, and treat people as essentially no different from cattle. They could never, for instance, account for what happened in Greenland during the last mini‐ice‐age, when the Inuit adapted and prospered and the Vikings stuck to their livestock‐rearing and died out. Nor, since they just count heads and take no heed of what is going on in those heads, can these non‐cultural approaches give us access to the environmental consequences (and their associated policy implications) of the carnivorous diets of North Americans, say, vis‐à‐vis the vegetarian diets of, say, Tibetan Buddhists. Yet, were the former to go Buddhist, much of South and Central America would revert from rangeland to carbon‐sequestering forest. Who then would claim the carbon credits: Brazil, Mexico, et al. or their northerly neighbor whose citizens had changed their ways; their culture?

Culture as a veto on comparison . The idea here is that each culture (and each sub‐culture) is unique and can only be understood in its own terms. This idea goes back to Wittgenstein's “language games” and is now most firmly entrenched in interpretive sociology —most famously in Clifford Geertz's (1973) notion of “thick description.” In the last few decades, this assumption has taken social and political science by storm. 10 But, as Harry Eckstein (1997, 27) has observed, thick descriptions, in the absence of any attempts to test and compare, are just “very high‐level travel literature.” Worse still, the language games that characterize culture, far from being incomparable, are often vigorously engaged with one another: that is how they change! North American carnivorousness, for instance, was succinctly and positively expressed by John Wayne who, when asked how he liked his steak, replied “Just knock its horns off, wipe its ass, and chuck it on the plate.” Many of his fellow Americans—those who have moved themselves toward vegetarianism and are now eating much lower on the food‐chain—would wish to distance themselves from the Duke's distillation of American manliness. They may not have turned themselves into Tibetan Buddhists, but they are certainly no longer the cultural way they were. 11

2 How, then, Can We Take Valid Account of Culture?

We can avoid these three pitfalls—culture as an uncaused cause, as an explanation of last resort, and as a veto on comparison—by building cultural theories upon the following bedrock principles:

Beliefs and values do not just float around, with people choosing a bit of this and bit of that. They are closely tied to distinctive patterns of social relations and to the distinctive ways of behaving that those beliefs and values justify. Theorists of “constrained relativism” refer to each of these mutually supportive comings‐together of cultural biases, patterns of social relations , and behavioural strategies as a “form of social solidarity”: a viable (under certain specified circumstances) way of binding ourselves to one another and, in the process, determining our relationship with nature.

Beliefs and values, therefore (as Durkheim long ago insisted), are not just an explanatory “add‐on”; they are essential components of economic, ecological, demographic, organizational, and political explanations.

We can distinguish similarities and differences across cultures, in terms of a small number of universally valid forms of social solidarity. These forms of solidarity are present in all the social entities—nations, firms, churches, and so on—to which the term “culture” is conventionally applied, but they vary in their relative strengths and patterns of interaction. Little is achieved, to draw a chemical analogy, by declaring the various oxides of nitrogen to be incomparably different from one another; progress comes from going inside those molecules and observing that they are all composed of the same elements—nitrogen and oxygen—but in differing proportions and patterns of interaction. In other words, culture, in the conventional sense, doesn't matter; what matters is the next level down: the forms of solidarity by which all cultures are both sustained and transformed. 12

“Cultural biases,” we should explain, are much the same as “social constructions of reality” (Berger and Luckman 1967) , “models of the person” (Douglas and Ney 1998) , and “myths of nature” (Holling 1986) : different sets of convictions as to how the world is, each of which, as well as capturing in simple and elegant form some essence of experience and wisdom, renders rational a particular way of behaving in that world. 13 (These cultural biases—or myths of nature, physical and human—are summarized in Figure 17.2 and then illustrated in a “worked example”: climate change). A plurality of forms of social solidarity, in consequence, inevitably introduces relativism, but that relativism is not unconstrained because each form of social solidarity is associated with a particular way of organizing social relationships, and there are only a limited number of those. That, at any rate, is what the theory of constrained relativism claims: we can make the world in more than one way but, contra the proponents of post‐structuralism, we cannot make it any way we like. 14 More than one, constrained relativists point out, is not automatically infinity; there are some numbers in between.

If people and the world could only be one way (as realists, dialectical materialists, and rational choice theorists insist) then anyone who thought otherwise would be suffering from false‐consciousness (or, same thing, acting irrationally). Culture, in that case, would be little more than a smokescreen: a means by which those who, for the moment, are exercising control over the means of production can (to mix the metaphor) pull the wool over the eyes of those who, for the moment, are not in control of those means. And if people and the world could be just any old way then, again, culture would not really matter because, with such a cacophony of “voices,” all claiming to have got it right, it would all boil down to the question of power: which voices are able, for the moment, to drown out the others? 15

But if there are only a few voices—three or four or five we will be suggesting 16 —each associated with a particular way of organizing and of acting, and each needing the others to define itself against, then no one of those consciousnesses is any falser (or any more irrational) than the rest, and drowning‐out (since it would destroy the essential plurality) is simply a non‐starter. It is because of constrained relativism, therefore, that culture (in the sense of the different social constructions that sustain the different and contending forms of solidarity) matters. Of course, if constrained relativism was impossible (or even implausible) then it would be impossible (or, at least, difficult) to make the case for culture mattering in this crucial way: as one of the three ingredients that make a form of social solidarity viable, rather than as ( a ) an uncaused cause, ( b ) an explanation of last resort, or ( c ) a veto on comparison. Fortunately, the history of social science, being largely a quarrel over what the forms of solidarity are (rather than about whether they exist), provides us with some defence against this rejectionist argument. Henry Ford (“History is bunk”) may still be right, of course, but the burden of proof, our reading of history suggests, lies with those who maintain that there really is no need to bother ourselves about culture.

3 From Institutionalism (Old and New) to the Theory of Constrained Relativism

Sir Henry Maine (1861) , in his classic text Ancient Law , drew a fundamental distinction between two forms of social solidarity: status and contract ( Figure 17.1 : Sir Henry Maine). He saw these two ways of binding ourselves to one another (nowadays we call them “hierarchies” and “markets” [e.g. Lindblom 1977 ]) as the two poles of an historical transition: we used all to be bound by group‐based status relations; now we are bound by individualistic, one‐to‐one, mutually agreed relationships. So it's “traditional” to “modern,” in other much‐mouthed words, and if you buy into that then you can easily buy into the next one‐way progression: “modern” to “postmodern” (though, of course, you'll then need a third institutional “destination,” and Maine hasn't got that!).

A brief historial outline of institutional framings

Well, all this was in 1861, and the next year Maine went to India as Legal Member of the Viceroy's Council, staying there for nine years in all. Interestingly, though there is no record of his realizing this, there was, in India, an institutional scheme that subsumed Maine's status‐and‐contract as a limited special case ( Figure 17.1 : Hindu Philosophy). Maine's scheme, as you can see, is just two of these three solidarities— tamasik (hierarchy) and rajasik (markets)—and just one of these six arrowheads. The third solidarity— satwik —holds itself together with concerns over equity and legitimacy (shades—or perhaps we should say pre‐incarnations—of Habermas) and the six arrowheads tell us that social life, far from being a one‐way transition, is an endless interplay of these three forms of power, each of which (because of this mutuality) having to be seen as a manifestation of The One (essential plurality, in other words, as with constrained relativism).

Now let us “fast‐forward” to 1975, to the new institutionalist framing that Almond found such a welcome alternative to rational choice ( Figure 17.1 : Oliver Williamson). Here we have the same dichotomy as Maine, but things are brought closer to the Hindu scheme by the abandonment of Maine's one‐way historical transition. With Williamson (1975) , inevitably changing transaction costs result in an endless two‐way interplay. What this means is that, if we could manage to identify a third form of solidarity, distinct from both hierarchies and markets, and then relate it to those other two by means of two‐way arrows, then social science will finally have caught up with the Hindu sages!

There is, it turns out, no shortage of candidates for this third form of solidarity ( Figure 17.1 : Assorted Institutionalists) and we do not claim to have listed them all. Williamson himself speaks of clubs , and the organization theorist, Ouchi (1980) , suggests clans . Majone (1989) , a political scientist, plumps for collegiums , whilst Burt (1992) , a sociologist, opts for cliques . Nor should we forget Weber (1930) who long ago distinguished a third form of leadership: charisma . More recently, socio‐economists (notably Etzioni 1988) have latched onto community , whilst those (Szreter and Woolcock 2004) who labor away on the notion of social capital have now come up with three distinct forms of that mysterious substance, with bonding social capital being in some sort of contention with both linking social capital (hierarchies) and bridging social capital (markets). Indeed, it is fair to say that the latest institutionalist versions routinely recognize a third form of organizing besides markets and hierarchies (for an exhaustive overview, see Tilly 2005 ).

But we can, and should, do better than this. We should reformulate this threefold, institutional scheme as a proper typology: a scheme in which the types are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive . When we have done that, we find that there is a total of four solidarities and twelve arrowheads ( Figure 17.2 ). In other words, we can derive a fourth way of organizing (or solidarity) from the other three. Two steps are involved here:

First, making explicit the two discriminators— symmetrical versus asymmetrical transactions and accountability versus unaccountability —ensures the mutual exclusivity of the solidarities. And, by revealing the fourth permutation—which corresponds to fatalism—we ensure joint exhaustiveness. 17

Second, by inserting all the arrowheads—there are twelve—we arrive at a fourfold interplay that is complex : indeterministic and unpredictable (unlike, say, the Williamsonian scheme in which, if you are tipped out of the market solidarity, you will end up in the hierarchical one, and vice versa). Interestingly, each of these twelve transitions has been identified within social science (and often, too, in everyday life). Egalitarianism to hierarchy, for instance, is Weber's routinization of charisma (and fatalism to individualism and back to fatalism again is “clogs to clogs in three generations”). 18

The proper typology according to the theory of constrained relativism

This, then, in the most minimal of outlines, is the theory of constrained relativism: the theory that, we have argued, recognizes that culture matters and, at the same time, avoids breaking what we have called the rules of the cultural method. The nice thing about presenting it in this historical way is that, rather than appearing out of the blue, it builds steadily upon two or more millennia's‐worth of institutional theorizing. We say “builds” because nothing is being thrown away as we progress from Maine's dualistic scheme with its single arrowhead to constrained relativism's fourfold typology with its twelve arrowheads. Rather, each of the framings we have presented—Maine's, the Hindu Sages', Williamson's, and the Assorted Institutionalists'—is subsumed by this “dynamical typology” as a special case. Building upon the “masters” (both Western and South Asian) in this way—by not declaring any of them wrong but instead pinpointing exactly how and why each of them is not entirely right—also increases the cost of demolition. Reject the theory of constrained relativism (which, of course, you are free to do) and you have rejected all forms of institutional explanation!

Since our argument for why and how culture matters is now complete, we could stop at this point. But the strangeness of the argument in relation to what normally passes for theory in political science, 19 not to mention the unfamiliarity of many of the scholars whose work we have drawn on in setting out our argument, suggest that a quick “worked example” might be in order.

4 The Cultures of Climate Change

Most climatologists agree that by burning fossil fuels and engaging in other forms of consumption and production we are increasing the amount of greenhouse gases that float around in the atmosphere. These gases, in trapping some of the sun's heat, warm the earth and enable life. The trouble is, some predict, that if we continue to accumulate those gases, over the course of the new century the average temperature on earth will rise and local climates will change, with possibly catastrophic consequences. Will this indeed happen? If so, should we do something about it? And if yes, when? Does global warming put the future of the world at risk? Is time running out? Or should we take our time in order to investigate and evaluate soberly the possible risks of greenhouse gases? There is, as we will see, little agreement on any of those crucial questions: climate change is very much a “contested terrain.” In order to understand current conflicts over the prospect of global warming, we find it helpful to sort out this contested terrain in terms of our theory's four forms of social solidarity.

Before we proceed, we need to make a few brief points of clarification. The theory of constrained relativism closely follows the work of Émile Durkheim (1985 [1893] ; 1997 [1912] ) and Mary Douglas (1970, 1975) in assuming that specific ways of organizing social relations are only viable when complemented by specific ways of perceiving the world that justify these sets of social relations. Thus, its four forms of social solidarity are ways of organizing, perceiving, and justifying sets of social relations. 20 This points to one advantage that the theory has over institutionalist approaches. The latter often capture two or three forms of organizing, but without the distinct ways of perceiving that come with these ways of organizing. The former sets out four ways of organizing that subsumes the two or three forms distinguished in many an institutionalist approach, while also adding a long list of specific norms, beliefs, and perceptions to these organizational types. (Three of them, views of physical nature, human nature, and time will appear below. For the other fifty‐seven, see Hofstetter 1998, 55–6. ) The theory of constrained relativism does not posit that individuals or organizations adhere to a single social solidarity. In fact, it maintains that the life of each individual, and the history of each organization, is an ever‐changing amalgam of alternative ways of organizing and perceiving. And it assumes that individual people are able to compare critically the truth‐claims of alternative social solidarities, and switch to those they Wnd most compelling (Ellis 1994) . Yet, it does postulate that with regard to each public issue four opposing perspectives on what the problem is, and how it should be resolved, always abound—each perspective being articulated by a diVerent set of actors ( Coyle and Ellis 1994 ; Thompson, Grendstad, and Selle 1999a ; Verweij and Thompson 2005 ). This is brought out in the following analysis of the different viewpoints that abound in the current over climate change.

For upholders of the individualist solidarity, nature is benign and resilient—able to recover from any exploitation (hence the iconic myth of nature: a ball that, no matter how profoundly disturbed, always returns to stability; Figure 17.2 )—and man is inherently self‐seeking and atomistic. Trial and error, in self‐organizing ego‐focused networks (markets), is the way to go, with Adam Smith's invisible hand ensuring that people only do well when others also benefit. Individualists, in consequence, trust others until they give them reason not to and then retaliate in kind (the winning “tit‐for‐tat” strategy in the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma game: Rapoport 1985 ). They see it as only fair that (as in the joint stock company) those who put most in get most out. Managing institutions that work “with the grain of the market” (getting rid of environmentally harmful subsidies, for instance) are what are needed.

Nature, for those who bind themselves into the egalitarian solidarity, is almost the exact opposite (hence the ball on the upturned basin; Figure 17.2 )—fragile, intricately interconnected, and ephemeral—and man is essentially caring and sharing (until corrupted by coercive and inegalitarian institutions: markets and hierarchies). We must all tread lightly on the Earth, and it is not enough that people start off equal; they must end up equal as well—equality of result. Trust and leveling go hand‐in‐hand, and institutions that distribute unequally are distrusted. Voluntary simplicity is the only solution to our environmental problems, with the “precautionary principle” being strictly enforced on those who are tempted not to share the simple life.

The world, in the hierarchical solidarity, is controllable. Nature is stable until pushed beyond discoverable limits (hence the two humps; Figure 17.2 ), and man is malleable: deeply flawed but redeemable by firm, long‐lasting, and trustworthy institutions. Fair distribution is by rank and station or, in the modern context, by need (with the level of need being determined by expert and dispassionate authority). Environmental management requires certified experts (to determine the precise locations of nature's limits) and statutory regulation (to ensure that all economic activity is then kept within those limits).

Finally, there are the fatalist actors (or perhaps we should say non‐actors, since their voice is seldom heard in policy debates; if it was they wouldn't be fatalistic!). They find neither rhyme nor reason in nature and know that man is fickle and untrustworthy. Fairness, in consequence, is not to be found in this life, and there is no possibility of effecting change for the better. “Defect first”—the winning strategy in the one‐off Prisoner's Dilemma—makes sense here, given the unreliability of communication and the permanent absence of prior acts of good faith. With no way of ever getting in sync with nature (push the ball this way or that— Figure 17.2 —and the feedback is everywhere the same), or of building trust with others, the fatalist's world (unlike those of the other three solidarities) is one in which learning is impossible. “Why bother?” therefore, is the rational management response.

Time too (which of course is of crucial concern in assessing the risks in climate change) is perceived differently in these social settings.

Individualistic actors will tend to see the long‐term as the continuation of the short‐term. Myopically, they insist that doing well in the here‐and‐now is the best guarantee for doing well later on. “Business as usual” is how complex systems‐modelers characterize this individualistic line of action.

Hierarchical actors—regulators, planners, public‐health inspectors, and the like—will tend to be unhappy about all this short‐termism (as they call it). While individualists like Henry Ford consider history bunk, hierarchical actors are at pains to anchor their collectivity in it. Hierarchical actors, therefore, can see both the short term and the long term, and do not see the latter as merely the continuation of the former. Development in the here‐and‐now, they reason, may not be sustainable a decade or two down the road. Their aim, therefore, is to provide a clear description of long‐term sustainability and then to intervene in the short‐term activities of market actors to ensure that we all arrive safely at that desirable future: “wise guidance,” as modelers call it.

Egalitarian actors will tend to be as distrustful of hierarchies as they are of unfettered markets. The short term, for egalitarians, is severely truncated, and the long term—disastrous if we do not learn the error of our inequitable ways; wonderful if we do—is almost upon us. Radical change now—not business‐as‐usual and not wise guidance—is what is needed if we are to have a future at all.

Fatalistic actors, finding themselves marginal to all three active solidarities—individualistic ego‐focused networks, bounded and hierarchically ranked organizations, and bounded but unranked groups—see no point in sorting out long terms and short terms this way or that. “If your number's on it,” they assure one another, “that's it.” Why put yourself to a whole lot of bother over something you can do nothing about?

Now, having set out our theory's predictions about how nature and time are socially constructed within the different forms of solidarity, we can return to the big questions about the risks associated with climate change. Adherents of these different solidarities, not surprisingly, tend to answer these big questions very differently.

Those who bind themselves into egalitarian settings—often radical environmental groups such as Earth First! ( Ellis 1997 , ch. 8 )—are convinced that corporate greed and power lust are already unleashing catastrophic climate change, and that we must drastically alter our behaviour now, before it is too late. Compromise, for these “deep ecologists,” is therefore out of the question:

To avoid co‐option, we feel it is necessary to avoid the corporate organisational structure so readily embraced by many environmental groups. Earth First! is a movement, not an organisation. Our structure is non‐hierarchical. We have no highly‐paid “professional staff” or formal leadership.

The conviction that the problem is serious, imminent, and—if not dealt with quickly—irreversible, supports this egalitarian mode of organization:

…our activities are now beginning to have fundamental, systemic effects upon the entire life‐ support system of the planet—upsetting the world's climate, poisoning the oceans, destroying the ozone layer which protects us from excessive ultraviolet radiation, changing the CO 2 ratio in the atmosphere, and spreading acid rain, radioactive fallout, pesticides and industrial contamination throughout the biosphere. We—this generation of humans—are at our most important juncture since we came out of the trees six million years ago. It is our decision, ours today, whether Earth continues to be a marvellously living, diverse oasis in the blackness of space, or whether the charismatic mega‐fauna of the future will consist of Norway rats and cockroaches.

Here (as in Steve Rayner's classic 1982 study of the Workers' Institute of Marxism‐Leninism Mao Xedong Thought, in London's Brixton) past, present, and future are compressed in a way that is typical of the egalitarian form of solidarity. All of the past—in this case, six million years of it—has been but a build‐up to our present situation; never before have our actions so threatened the viability of the planet on which we depend. Our current choices, moreover, are decisive for all time to come. Make the right decision today—at this “our most important juncture”—and eternal bliss—“a marvellously living, diverse oasis in the blackness of space”—will be our reward. Fail to make that decision and there will be no eternity, save for the “Norway rats and cockroaches.”

Those who belong to organizations of a more individualistic bent—the United States' Cato Institute, for instance, and Britain's Institute of Economic Affairs—see it all very differently. They are skeptical of the diagnosis itself and are convinced that, even if it is correct, the consequences will be neither catastrophic nor uniformly negative. Far from being at a six‐million‐year juncture, we are, they assert, where we have always been: faced with uncertainties and challenges that, if tackled boldly by a diversity of competing agents, can be transformed into opportunities from which all can benefit. The long term holds no fears for them, because this optimistic short‐term bubble, as it moves along, will take care of it all. For that to happen and go on happening, of course, there must be no junctures; at the very least, they must be far enough out into the future for us to not need to worry about them.

Given this social construction of time, individualistically organized outfits prefer a two‐pronged approach: the dismantling of junctures within the short‐term bubble, and adaptation to any that may exist beyond that bubble. They therefore focus on the lacunae in current climate‐change science:

Clouds, whose formation is poorly understood but which are expected to be more prevalent in a warmer world, would likely reflect more sunlight back into space before it reached the earth's surface.

Human sources of greenhouse gases are dwarfed by natural sources (volcanoes, for instance, and termites and other wood‐digesting creatures)—which means that it is impossible in the short run to say whether any warming (if it is happening) is man‐made.

The climate models that are being used to predict future changes cannot even accurately chart changes that have already occurred.

Looking beyond the short‐term bubble, they point out that a carbon‐richer climate would increase agricultural productivity, and that, even if the negative impacts did outweigh the positive ones, we would still need to compare the costs of preventing global warming now to the costs of adapting to higher temperatures a few decades hence. Money not spent on preventing climate change, they point out, could be used to tackle other, more pressing environmental and social ills. On top of all that, individualistic organizations, thanks to their myopic construction of time, are open to the view that technological progress and the unpredictable forces of “creative destruction” may soon render today's fuss over climate change irrelevant. The production costs of renewable energy, they point out, have fallen dramatically over the last few decades, and these new technologies—wind, hydro, geothermal, and solar—are rapidly becoming (indeed, in some instances, have already become) competitive with the old technologies of fossil fuels. Their prescriptions, in consequence, dramatically differ from those of the deep ecologists. As Roger Bate, director of the Environment Unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs, concludes:

On the whole, society's problems and challenges are best dealt with by people and companies interacting with each other freely without interference from politicians and the state.We do not know whether the world is definitively warming, given recent satellite data. If the world is warming, we do not know what is causing the change—man or nature. We do not know whether a warmer world would be a good thing or a bad thing. [The scientific evidence] does not suggest that immediate action for significant limitation on energy consumption is urgently required…Until the science of climate change is better understood, no government action should be undertaken beyond the elimination of subsidies and other distortions of the market.

This business‐as‐usual strategy is anathema to the members of the numerous hierarchical organizations that have dominated the global warming debate. They are appalled by its short‐termism and its accompanying assumption that the myriad and uncoordinated actions of firms and consumers will inevitably be beneficial for the totality. Worse still when this assumption is made across time as well as space—because, hierarchical actors insist, the long‐term is never simply the continuation of the short‐term. And they are also dismissive of the egalitarian claim that, if only we make the right (and radical) choice today—at this “our most important juncture”—all will be fine for evermore.

In the hierarchical view, each single contribution that households, companies, and even whole countries make to the build‐up of greenhouse gases is so small as to be insignificant to these undiscerning actors. Moreover, the consequences lie far into the future and spread across the entire globe: way beyond their temporal and spatial kens. It therefore makes no sense for any household or firm or country unilaterally to reduce its emissions. What we are faced with, therefore, is a “tragedy of the global commons”—and the only conceivable remedy is for all the governments and parliaments of the world to formally agree on the extent to which future emissions should be cut, which countries should do so, how, and when. States should then impose these intergovernmental agreements on the multitude of consumers and producers within their borders.

This is the logic behind the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is espoused by almost all the governments of the world, by UN agencies and the World Bank, as well as by the large mainstream environmental organizations (the ones of which Earth First! is so disparaging). Implicit in their shared commitment is the belief that we can, and should, steer ourselves, in a planned and orderly way, to a rather precisely defined and timed future. The computer models built by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (and by other proponents of “wise guidance”/ “global stewardship”) have been churning out scenarios that supposedly show a variety of future global emissions of greenhouse gases, along with their worldwide ecological and economic impacts, and the costs of attaining these future states. Their business‐as‐usual scenarios, however, typically account for little rapid technological change (and certainly for no out‐of‐the‐blue, Schumpeterian gales of creative destruction). Other projections that are free of imminent discontinuities—ocean currents changing direction, for instance, or ice caps collapsing catastrophically—reveal that the radical and immediate action advocated by the deep ecologists would be extremely costly and disruptive.

The scenarios, as a result, reproduce the models' hierarchical temporal assumptions as their conclusions: only a gradual and orderly phasing out of greenhouse gas emissions, undertaken by governments and spread out over the next fifty or so years, will see us through. And, as the language in which these conclusions are couched makes clear, these things should be left to the experts:

Studies show that the costs of stabilizing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere [carbon dioxide being the main greenhouse gas] increase as the concentration stabilization level declines. While there is a moderate increase in the costs when passing from a 750 to a 550 ppm concentration stabilization level, there is a larger increase in costs passing from a 550 to a 440 ppm unless the emissions in the baseline scenario are very low.

In other words, global climate change policy should go neither too fast (as the egalitarian actors would have it) nor too slow (as the individualistic actors would have it). Instead, only those bureaucratic organizations that are both long‐lived and far‐sighted can determine what that pace should be, and then get all the world's nations to march in step to it.

6 Conclusion

We have not laid out the fatalist answers to the big questions about climate change because fatalistic actors have better things to do than worry over something they can do nothing about. So what we are left with are three sets of answers to these big questions.

Some will be dissatisfied with this; three, they will protest, is two too many. But those who favor what is called “clumsiness” will point out that elegance—a single set of answers—can only be achieved by silencing two of the voices in the debate. This is something that cannot be done (or, at any rate, cannot be done for very long). Moreover, if we did manage to do it, we would be discarding all the wisdom and experience inherent in the solidarities we have excluded. On top of that, we would be seriously weakening our democracy by silencing two of the legitimate voices within it.

The solution, therefore, is to resist the urge to go for elegance and to enhance clumsiness instead, seeking out and strengthening all those institutional arrangements in which none of the voices—the hierarchist's calling for “wise guidance and careful stewardship,” the egalitarian's insisting that we need “a whole new relationship with nature,” the individualist's urging us to “get the prices right,” and the fatalist's asking “why bother?”—is excluded, and in which the contestation is harnessed to constructive and noisy argumentation (Verweij and Thompson 2005) .

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For all its flippancy, this is about as good a definition as one can get, and very much in line with Sir Edward Tylor's classic characterization of culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Tylor 1871, 1) . Since Tylor's time, definitions have proliferated—one study (Kroeber and Kluckhohn 1952) counted 164—and so has disagreement as to what culture is and is not. Among students of political culture, the most widely accepted definition views culture as composed of values, beliefs, norms, and assumptions: that is, mental products (see, e.g., Pye 1968, 218 ). Such definitions have the virtue of separating the behavior to be explained from the beliefs that are doing the explaining. At the same time, in separating the mental from the social relations and their sustaining transactions, it has the unfortunate tendency of encouraging a view of culture as a mysterious and unexplained prime mover.

E.g. De Waal and Tyack (2003) .

The assumption behind this prediction is that turkeys, like humans, are self‐interested, and that their interests are self‐evident. This is the prevalent “politics of interest” approach: an approach that those who take culture seriously ( Schwarz and Thompson 1990 , for instance), and who also focus on its relationship to behavior, are deeply dissatisfied with. They are dissatisfied because of this approach's absence of explanatory power: people, we are told, act the way they do because it is in their interests to do so; and, when we ask how we can tell what their interests are, we are told to watch what they do! In taking interests as given (or as self‐evident, as with the turkeys and Christmas) the one really worthwhile question—how do people who act in their interests come to know where the interests they act in lie—has been ducked. Had Horatius run away when he saw how hopelessly he was outnumbered, this approach would have us argue that, of course, it was in his interest to run away. But he didn't run away, again, it is argued because it was in his interest not to. Flight and fight, we are being asked to believe, are the same thing!

Ironically, this tension is most apparent in the work of two scholars that have explicitly aimed to reconcile Marxist and cultural analyses: Antonio Gramsci and Pierre Bourdieu. Gramsci (1971) admits that opposing political ideologies exist and argues that these must have some independent influence on society and politics. In the end, however, he maintains that this independent influence of political ideologies mainly serves to reconcile the lower classes to their allotted stations in life. Bourdieu makes a similar claim, namely that reigning systems of classification are but cloaks for class interests. (He calls this “symbolic aggression.”) See, e.g., Homo Academicus (1988, 204): “Working as an ideology in a state of practice, producing logical effects which are inseparable from political effects, the academic taxonomy entails an implicit definition of excellence which, by constituting as excellent the qualities possessed by those who are socially dominant, consecrates their manner of being and their lifestyle.” The main difference between the ideas of Gramsci and Bourdieu is that according to the former “hegemonic political ideologies” pull the wool over the eyes of the lower classes, whereas in the work of the latter our very categories of thought do the pulling.

For instance, in the work of Robert Bates (1988) and David Laitin (1986) , culture is not much more than a set of reigning symbols and beliefs that can be manipulated by rational actors to further their own material self‐interest. These actors are somehow assumed to be immune to these dominant symbols and beliefs.

In those decades! Since then, a variety of political scientists have made great efforts to show that rational choice theory is also compatible with left‐wing politics. See in particular Elster (1982) .

Many would see this dualistic (and, we will be arguing, insufficient) distinction being drawn, for the first time, by Smith himself: markets in his Wealth of Nations ; hierarchies in his Theory of Moral Sentiments . Others would wish to pin its origin on Sir Henry Maine and his celebrated historical transition from status (hierarchy) to contract (market). However, the distinction is already clearly drawn in the 16th‐century satire on hierarchy— Monkey   (Wu 1942) . Seeing this eastern classic as the origin has the added virtue of taking the wind out of the sails of those who argue that the markets‐and‐hierarchies distinction (indeed, political science as a whole) is West‐centric. Indeed Gyawali (2000) pushes the origin back a couple or so millennia: to the various forms of power that are distinguished in Hindu philosophy (thereby enabling critical theorists to claim that the whole caboodle is South Asia‐centric).

See, e.g., the contributions to Harrison and Huntington (2001) . Other prominent examples are: Fukuyama (1996) ; Hofstede (2001) ; and Van Wolferen (1990) .

In the last ten years, this line of reasoning has blossomed again in the study of international relations. For instance, Finnemore (1996) ; Johnston (1998) ; Price (1995) ; Goldstein and Keohane (1993) . It is also evident in the “world society literature,” which posits that a set of Western, “modern” norms have gained global legitimacy even in regions where it does not make “objective economic” sense to adhere to these values. An overview is Meyer et al. (1997) . One drawback of these studies is that they confidently distinguish the “cultural” from the “economic” as well as from the “political.” This is problematic given that culture is usually very generically defined as “shared symbols and practices.”

This school can be called the hermeneutic or interpretative approach. Two very influential examples are Geertz (1980) and Said (1979) . Some other contributions: Dittmer 1977 ; Edelman 1998; Fernandez 1986 ; Kapferer 1988 ; Aronoff 1992 ; Kubik 1993 .

A perhaps more serious example of this sort of cultural change—it is about racial attitudes—is provided by Stinchcombe (1997) .

Alter the patterns of interaction of di‐nitrogen tetroxide's constituent elements (by increasing the temperature, for instance) and it is progressively transformed into nitrogen dioxide. The same, however, is not true of the other oxides of nitrogen, so the analogy should not be pushed too far.

For an explanation of these myths of nature, and how they relate for the various forms of social solidarity, see Thompson and Rayner (1998) .

Nor are all the constraints on the social side. As well as the social construction of nature there is the natural destruction of culture. See Thompson (1988) .

Alternatively, it all boils down to a question about the legitimacy of power. If any social construction is as good as any other then there can be no justification for some of them drowning out the others. How to arrange things institutionally so that any emerging power gradients (again mixing the metaphors) are nipped in the bud, becomes the dominant normative concern—as is explicitly acknowledged by many postmodern theorists. For instance, Foucault (1980) .

Though we are setting out four solidarities in this chapter, there is in fact a fifth permutation. This corresponds to what (in the Schmutzer–Bandler “impossibility theorem”—see n. 17, about the two sets of discriminators) is called an “all zero” transaction matrix: the seemingly trivial situation in which there are no transactions at all, and therefore nothing to be accountable or unaccountable about. This socially withdrawn form of solidarity—it is called autonomy and is characterized by the hermit—is achieved by those who deliberately distance themselves from the coercive social involvement that, in various ways, accompanies all four of the “engaged” solidarities. We are ignoring this fifth solidarity in this chapter so as to keep an already complicated argument a little simpler than it should be. For an explanation of just when and where it is safe to ignore autonomy (and sometimes fatalism too—hence our on the face of it vague talk of “three, four, or five” voices) see the section headed “User‐Friendly Cultural Theory” in Thompson, Grendstad, and Selle (1999 b ) . Including this fifth solidarity bumps up the transitions—the arrowheads—from twelve to twenty. Schmutzer (1994) calls the solidarity “the waiting room of history”: a place where those on the move between the “engaged” solidarities can pause for a while to recharge their batteries, lick their wounds, change their spots, or whatever. Without that waiting room these transitions would likely be much more difficult and certainly much more tumultuous when they eventually happened.

The first discriminator is fairly straightforward: symmetry (as in “you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours”) versus asymmetry (as in the British Guards officer explaining “I'd expect to be invited to my sergeant's wedding but he wouldn't expect to be invited to mine”). The second discriminator may not be so clear. “You do that and I'll bring the full weight of the law down on you,” is an instance of accountability, and so too is the reprimand, “We don't do that sort of thing in this family/regiment/school.” Unaccountability is evident whenever we hear the justification, “If I don't do it, somebody else will.” The most rigorous treatment of these discriminators is to be found in Schmutzer and Bandler's (1980) cybernetic derivation of the typology.

All twelve are set out in Thompson, Ellis, and Wildavsky (1990, 75–8) .

No physicist, for instance, would recognize what proponents of rational choice are saying as constituting a theory. The tautology, the conceptual stretching, and the failure to enquire into how it is that actors who are acting in pursuit of their interests come to know what the interests they act in are, would ensure a pretty dismissive response to rational choice in the tough and rigorous world of the physical sciences: “It's so bad it isn't even wrong,” as Enrico Fermi once said of one unfortunate physicist's efforts at theory‐building!

Indeed, the use of the term “social solidarity” is meant to refer to the Durkheim legacy. In The Division of Labour in Society , Durkheim (1997 [1893]) distinguishes between two forms of social solidarity: mechanical and organic.

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Social Sci LibreTexts

2.2: Culture and the Sociological Perspective

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Learning Objectives

  • Describe examples of how culture influences behavior.
  • Explain why sociologists might favor cultural explanations of behavior over biological explanations.

As this evidence on kissing suggests, what seems to us a very natural, even instinctual act turns out not to be so natural and biological after all. Instead, kissing seems best understood as something we learn to enjoy from our culture, or the symbols, language, beliefs, values, and artifacts (material objects) that are part of a society. Because society, as defined previously refers to a group of people who live in a defined territory and who share a culture, it is obvious that culture is a critical component of any society.

If the culture we learn influences our beliefs and behaviors, then culture is a key concept to the sociological perspective. Someone who grows up in the United States differs in many ways, some of them obvious and some of them not so obvious, from someone growing up in China, Sweden, South Korea, Peru, or Nigeria. Culture influences not only language but the gestures we use when we interact, how far apart we stand from each other when we talk, and the values we consider most important for our children to learn, to name just a few. Without culture, we could not have a society.

The profound impact of culture becomes most evident when we examine behaviors or conditions that, like kissing, are normally considered biological in nature. Consider morning sickness and labor pains, both very familiar to pregnant women before and during childbirth, respectively. These two types of discomfort have known biological causes, and we are not surprised that so many pregnant women experience them. But we would be surprised if the husbands of pregnant women woke up sick in the morning during their wives’ pregnancies or experienced severe abdominal pains while their wives gave birth. These men are neither carrying nor delivering a baby, and there is no logical—that is, biological—reason for them to suffer either type of discomfort.

And yet anthropologists have discovered many societies (most of which are industrialized) in which men about to become fathers experience precisely these symptoms. They are nauseous during their wives’ pregnancies, and they experience labor pains while their wives give birth. The term couvade refers to these symptoms, which do not have any known biological origin. Yet the men feel them nonetheless, because they have learned from their culture that they should feel these types of discomfort (Doja, 2005). And because they should feel these symptoms, they actually do so. Perhaps their minds are playing tricks on them, but that is often the point of culture. As sociologists William I. and Dorothy Swaine Thomas (1928) once pointed out, if things are perceived as real, then they are real in their consequences. These men learn how they should feel as budding fathers, and thus they feel this way. Unfortunately for them, the perceptions they learn from their culture are real in their consequences.

The example of drunkenness further illustrates how cultural expectations influence a behavior that is commonly thought to have biological causes. In the United States, when people drink too much alcohol, they become intoxicated and their behavior changes. Most typically, their inhibitions lower and they become loud, boisterous, and even rowdy. We attribute these changes to alcohol’s biological effect as a drug on our central nervous system, and scientists have documented how alcohol breaks down in our body to achieve this effect.


This explanation of alcohol’s effect is OK as far as it goes, but it turns out that how alcohol affects our behavior depends on our culture. In some societies anthropologists have studied, people drink alcohol until they pass out, but they never get loud or boisterous; they might not even appear to be enjoying themselves. In other societies, they drink lots of alcohol and get loud but not rowdy. In some societies, including our own, people lose sexual inhibitions as they drink, but in other societies they do not become more aroused. The anthropological evidence is very clear: alcohol as a drug does affect human behavior, but culture influences the types of effects that occur. We learn from our culture how to behave when drunk just as we learn how to behave when sober (McCaghy, Capron, Jamieson, & Carey, 2008).

Culture Versus Biology

These examples suggest that human behavior is more the result of culture than it is of biology. This is not to say that biology is entirely unimportant. As just one example, humans have a biological need to eat, and so they do. But humans are much less under the control of biology than any other animal species, including other primates such as monkeys and chimpanzees. These and other animals are governed largely by biological instincts that control them totally. A dog chases any squirrel it sees because of instinct, and a cat chases a mouse for the same reason. Different breeds of dogs do have different personalities, but even these stem from the biological differences among breeds passed down from one generation to another. Instinct prompts many dogs to turn around before they lie down, and it prompts most dogs to defend their territory. When the doorbell rings and a dog begins barking, it is responding to ancient biological instinct.

Because humans have such a large, complex central nervous system, we are less controlled by biology. The critical question then becomes, how much does biology influence our behavior? Predictably, scholars in different disciplines answer this question in different ways. Many sociologists and anthropologists would probably say that culture affects behavior much more than biology does. In contrast, many biologists and psychologists would give much more weight to biology. Advocating a view called sociobiology, some scholars say that several important human behaviors and emotions, such as competition, aggression, and altruism, stem from our biological makeup. Sociobiology has been roundly criticized and just as staunchly defended, and respected scholars continue to debate its premises (Freese, 2008).

Why do sociologists generally favor culture over biology? Two reasons stand out. First, and as kissing and the other examples illustrate, many behaviors differ dramatically among societies in ways that show the strong impact of culture. Second, biology cannot easily account for why groups and locations differ in their rates of committing certain behaviors. For example, what biological reason could explain why suicide rates west of the Mississippi River are higher than those east of it, to take a difference discussed in the previous chapter, or why the U.S. homicide rate is so much higher than Canada’s? Various aspects of culture and social structure seem much better able than biology to explain these differences.

Many sociologists also warn of certain implications of biological explanations. First, they say, these explanations implicitly support the status quo. Because it is difficult to change biology, any problem with biological causes cannot be easily fixed. Consider evidence that women do worse than men on the math SAT exam and are less likely to be mathematically gifted. Some researchers attribute this difference to women’s lower testosterone levels or to their brain structures (Halpern et al., 2007/2008). Suppose either explanation is true. What, then, can we do to improve women’s math SAT scores? Operate on their brains? Give them more testosterone? Obviously either option is morally unethical and practically impossible. If these are the only options, then there is little hope for improving women’s math ability, and gender inequality in math (and in high-paying jobs requiring good math ability) will continue.

Suppose instead, as many educators think, that the gender math difference stems from social and cultural factors, including the way girls and boys are brought up, the amount of attention teachers pay to them, and gender stereotyping in children’s books (Penner, 2008). None of these factors will be easy to change, but at least it is more possible to change them than to change biological conditions. Sociology’s perspective on gender and math performance thus promises at least some hope in reducing gender inequality in math performance.

A second possible implication of biological explanations that concerns some sociologists harkens back to an earlier time. This was a time when perceived biological differences among races and religions were used to justify forced sterilization and mass violence, including genocide, against certain groups. As just one example, in the early 1900s, some 70,000 people, most of them poor and many of them immigrants or African Americans, were involuntarily sterilized in the United States as part of the eugenics movement, which said that certain kinds of people were biologically inferior and must not be allowed to reproduce (Lombardo, 2008). The Nazi Holocaust a few decades later used a similar eugenics argument to justify its genocide against Jews, Catholics, gypsies, and gays (Kuhl, 1994). With this history in mind, some scholars fear that biological explanations of human behavior might still be used to support views of biological inferiority (York & Clark, 2007).

  • Culture refers to the symbols, language, beliefs, values, and artifacts that are part of any society.
  • Because culture influences people’s beliefs and behaviors, culture is a key concept to the sociological perspective.
  • Many sociologists are wary of biological explanations of behavior, in part because these explanations implicitly support the status quo and may be used to justify claims of biological inferiority.

For Your Review

  • Have you ever traveled outside the United States? If so, describe one cultural difference you remember in the nation you visited.
  • Have you ever traveled within the United States to a very different region (e.g., urban versus rural, or another part of the country) from the one in which you grew up? If so, describe one cultural difference you remember in the region you visited.
  • Do you share the concern of many sociologists over biological explanations of behavior? Why or why not?
  • Doja, A. (2005). Rethinking the couvade . Anthropological Quarterly, 78, 917–950.
  • Freese, J. (2008). Genetics and the social science explanation of individual outcomes [Supplement]. American Journal of Sociology, 114, S1–S35.
  • Halpern, D. F., Benbow, C. P., Geary, D. C., Gur, R. C., Hyde, J. S., & Gernsbacher, M. A. (2007/2008). Sex, math and scientific achievement. Scientific American Mind, 18, 44–51.
  • Lombardo, P. A. (2008). Three generations, no imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell . Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
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Politics and Popular Culture

  • Symposium: The 2016 Election and Beyond
  • Published: 02 September 2016
  • Volume 53 , pages 482–486, ( 2016 )

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why understanding culture society and politics is important essay

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This essay explores the political dimensions of popular culture, and how those dimensions transfer into and out of actual political debates, providing a understanding of the broader connection between the study of politics and popular culture. Specific attention is paid to the influence of industrialization on the expansion of and access to culture. The essay also analyzes more contemporary approaches to understanding popular culture, through melodrama, science fiction, and perspectives on gender and sexualty.

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why understanding culture society and politics is important essay

Antonio Gramsci’s Theory of the Civil Society

why understanding culture society and politics is important essay

Culture, institutions and democratization*

why understanding culture society and politics is important essay

States, Nations, and Civilizations

Liesbet van Zoonen, Entertaining the Citizen: When Politics and Popular Culture Converge , (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), p. 3.

Walter Benjamin,“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in The Continental Aesthetics Reader , ed. Clive Cazeaux, (New York: Routledge, 1936).

Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”

Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment , translated by John Cumming, (New York: Verso Books, 1972), p. 120.

Justin S. Vaughn and Lilly J. Goren, editors, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture and Presidential Politics , (Louisville, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2012), p.3-5.

Elisabeth R. Anker, Orgies of Feelings: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom , (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), p. 3.

Anker, p. 2.

Ibid., p. 2.

Ibid., p. 35.

Justin S. Vaughn and Lilly J. Goren, editors. Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture and Presidential Politics . (Louisville, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2012), p. 3.

Vaughn and Goren, p. 7.

Michael A. Allen and Justin S. Vaughn, Poli Sci Fi: An Introduction to Political Science through Science Fiction , (New York: Routledge, 2016), p. 3.

Andi Zeisler, Feminism and Popular Culture (Berkeley, CA: Seal Press, 2008), p. 7.

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Goren, L.J. Politics and Popular Culture. Soc 53 , 482–486 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-016-0053-1

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Understanding Culture, Society, and Politics     uses multidisciplinal insights from anthropology, political science, and sociology to develop student awareness of cultural, social, and political dynamics and sensitivity to cultural diversity. It provides a deeper understanding of how culture, human agency, society, and politics work; and engage students in the examination of the country’s current human development goals. At the end of the course, students should acquire ideas about human cultures, human agency, society, and politics; recognize cultural relativism and social inclusiveness to overcome prejudices; and develop social and cultural competence to guide their interactions with groups, communities, networks, and institutions.

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What Is Politics and Why Is It Important? (23 Reasons)

Politics isn’t just about the headlines or election season fireworks; it’s the subtle yet significant undercurrent that determines the direction of public policy and community welfare.

From public parks to pension funds, politics touches everything that matters to us. Its importance cannot be overstated, as it crafts the narrative of our shared journey and individual stories.

As you prepare to digest the deeper significance of politics, ponder this: Might the simple act of understanding politics wield the power to alter your life’s trajectory? Read on to uncover how something so abstract becomes concrete in the choices we make and the voices we elevate.

Table of Contents

What Is Politics?

At its essence, politics is about distribution — of resources, justice, authority, and responsibility. It’s about how a society decides to allocate its collective wealth, manage its collective problems, and nurture its collective strengths. Politicians, aided by public servants and influenced by the electorate, craft the policies that serve as the invisible framework for everyday life.

From city hall to the global stage, politics is imbued in the decision-making processes that shape our environment, our economy, and our culture. It encompasses not only the actions of governments but also the participation of ordinary citizens who vote, protest, lobby, and campaign.

The vibrancy of a democracy is inextricably linked to the engagement of its constituents, making politics not just a practice of the powerful but a right and responsibility of the populace.

Politics Shapes the Laws and Regulations

Politics acts as the conductor for the orchestra of society, directing the creation and enforcement of laws and regulations that affect every aspect of our daily lives. Such rules govern our behavior, interactions, and even expectations at both the individual and community levels.

From the education we receive to the healthcare that safeguards our well-being, political decisions influence the fundamental aspects of our existence. Traffic laws, food safety regulations, and housing codes are all outcomes of political processes, showcasing the depth of politics’ reach into our daily routines.

  • Personal freedoms and rights are safeguarded by laws that stem from politics, like freedom of speech and protection against discrimination.
  • Consumer protection laws ensure that products meet safety standards, reflecting the political will to look after public interest.

Changes in society often trigger political responses that lead to new regulations. For instance, the rise of digital technology has put data privacy at the forefront of political debate, leading to regulations that aim to protect individuals’ online information.

Politics is the driving force behind this vast network of directives that knit the fabric of communal life, pointing to its indispensable role in shaping societal structure.

Politics Determines Healthcare System Management

Through politics, a community decides how its healthcare system will function, who will have access to medical services, and how these services will be funded and provided. The political arena is where debates about the right to healthcare, the role of government vs. private sector involvement, and the distribution of healthcare services take place.

Political decisions can lead to the implementation of nationwide healthcare programs providing essential services to the public or to the establishment of systems where healthcare is mainly a service accessed through private means.

Healthcare systems influenced by politics can take various forms:

  • Universal healthcare systems that aim to provide access to all citizens.
  • Systems with a mix of private and public services where insurance plays a significant role.

The effectiveness of a healthcare system during health crises, like epidemics or natural disasters, relies significantly on earlier political decisions regarding health policy and investment in public health infrastructure.

Politics Affects Educational Policies and Access

Political ideologies and priorities set the stage for what form of education is available to the public, affecting everything from early childhood education to higher education and vocational training.

The decisions made in political spheres determine how educational systems are organized and funded and what curriculum is emphasized, reflecting the values and goals a society upholds for the next generation.

In talking about educational access, consider these points:

  • Politics influences the equitable distribution of educational resources across different regions and demographics.
  • Political debates shape policies on teacher qualifications and student assessment methods.

Moreover, the level of investment in education, as decided by politicians, can either enhance opportunities for life-long learning or create barriers that affect future workforce prospects and societal innovation.

Access to education is, therefore, not only a matter of policy but also a reflection of the political will to invest in a nation’s most valuable asset—its people. This nexus between politics and education highlights the indelible role politics plays in framing a society’s future and citizens’ potential.

Politics Influences the Economy and Resource Distribution

The economic landscape within countries is profoundly molded by political actions and policies. Political leaders and governments make crucial decisions about fiscal policies, trade agreements, and labor laws, all of which, in turn, affect how wealth is created and allocated.

Politics determines who benefits from economic growth through tax structures and social welfare programs, illustrating the breadth of its influence on economic equality and opportunity for citizens.

Economic contexts influenced by politics:

  • Economic frameworks: Capitalist, socialist, and mixed economies each embody different political philosophies.
  • Subsidies and tariffs: Political tools used to support local industries or to compete in the global market.

Decisions made in the political arena can lead to the stimulation of job creation or, conversely, to periods of austerity and cutbacks. The stability and prosperity of entire industries can hang in the balance as politicians navigate the complexities of the economy through regulatory and policy decisions.

Politics Is Central to Crisis and Emergency Response

In times of crisis, whether they be natural disasters, pandemics, or financial downturns, the role of politics becomes even more visible and critical. The effectiveness of a political body’s response can greatly influence the impact of the crisis on the population, managing not only the immediate aftermath but also the longer-term recovery efforts.

A timeline often illustrates the phases of political response to a crisis:

  • Immediate action & legislation in response to crisis.
  • Mid-term policy adjustments based on lessons learned.
  • Long-term strategic planning for future crisis preparedness and resilience.

During recent global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, political decisions directly affected the level of resources allocated for emergency aid, the speed and nature of public health responses, and the success of vaccine distribution programs.

Politics determines how swiftly and effectively a community responds to crises and how public trust is managed during such times, underlining the importance of prepared political leadership for disaster preparedness and management.

Politics Drives National and International Policy Agendas

At the helm of a nation’s course, politics sets the priorities and agendas both domestically and on the global stage. The issues that political leaders choose to focus on can range from healthcare reform to climate change and from economic recovery to international peacekeeping. Political agendas are reflected in the legislative cycles, diplomatic initiatives, and the platforms on which political representatives are elected.

Highlighting political agendas:

  • National: Infrastructure projects, education reform, and healthcare expansion can dominate the national conversation.
  • International: Commitments to global agreements, such as climate accords, reflect the positioning of a country on the world stage.

Through international relations, politics drives the nature of treaties, alliances, and dialogues between countries. It shapes a nation’s footprint in global affairs, including aid, trade, and defense commitments.

The strategic direction given by political leadership at the national and international levels illustrates the profound influence that politics holds in charting the course for our collective future.

Politics Manages a Nation’s Defense and Security

Political leaders have the authority to shape defense policies, dedicate resources to military and law enforcement, and decide how to confront threats. These crucial choices impact not only the levels of national security but also international peace, as tactics for dealing with conflicts, terrorism, and cyber threats are determined.

Aspects of defense and security shaped by politics:

  • National defense budgets reflect the prioritization of military readiness.
  • Intelligence-gathering policies balance the need for security and individual privacy rights.

Decisions about engaging in military action or diplomatic negotiations are inherently political and carry profound implications for international stability. The strategies and alliances cultivated through political channels define a nation’s approach to defense, emphasizing politics as an indispensable force in maintaining national security.

Politics Impacts Global Relationships and Diplomacy

Political leadership directly affects how nations interact with each other, wielding diplomacy as a tool for building relationships, resolving conflicts, and promoting mutual interests. Political actions at this stage can have far-reaching consequences, determining trade patterns, forging alliances, and setting the tone for international cooperation.

In examining the role of politics in global relationships, consider the following:

  • Trade: Agreements between countries can either strengthen ties or lead to tension.
  • Peacekeeping: Political commitments to international peacekeeping missions promote global stability.

The political arena is where decisions on foreign aid and international treaties are made, reflecting a nation’s stance towards global issues such as human rights, environmental concerns, and world health. The interconnectedness of countries today makes politics a crucial actor in the delicate balance of global diplomacy.

Politics Plays a Role in Social Justice and Human Rights

Politics serves as a battleground where issues of equality, representation, and fairness are fiercely debated and addressed. Public policies that emerge from political processes reflect societal commitments to protecting the rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of background or status.

Central themes of social justice touched by politics:

  • Equality and anti-discrimination laws
  • Access to justice and legal representation for marginalized groups
  • Protection of rights for vulnerable populations

Through advocacy, legislation, and policy-making, politics is instrumental in shaping a more equitable society. Stirred by social movements and public sentiment, political will is the driving force behind meaningful change in the areas of social equity and human rights.

The politics of social justice aims to rectify systemic inequalities and uphold the intrinsic rights of every person, underlining politics as a force for societal progress and moral accountability.

Politics Allows for Citizen Participation and Democratic Change

Democracy thrives on the active participation of its citizens, facilitated by political processes. Politicians and elected officials represent the people’s voice, making engagement in electoral processes and policy-making part of the backbone of democratic societies. Citizen participation extends beyond voting to include activities such as advocacy, protest, community organizing, and serving on public committees or boards.

Ways politics empowers citizen involvement:

  • Voting in elections to choose representatives
  • Public consultations on significant community projects or laws
  • Grassroots movements influencing policy changes

Through these mechanisms, people exercise their power to influence government actions, contributing to the shaping and reshaping of societies in alignment with the public will.

Politics Is Key to Societal Values and Priorities

The values and priorities that are held up by a society are often crystallized through the political process. Politics reflect cultural beliefs, moral principles, and collective aspirations articulated through laws and policies.

The political dialogue, whether conducted on the floors of legislative buildings or in town hall meetings, captures the pulse of a society’s values—from humanitarian efforts and peace-building to economic advancement and innovation.

Elements illustrating societal values in politics:

  • Social welfare and support systems
  • Environmental conservation and sustainability actions
  • Promotion of arts, heritage, and cultural programs

These elements represent just a slice of the broader spectrum of values that are debated and decided in the political realm. As politics responds to the changing tides of societal opinions and beliefs, it also serves as a catalyst for triggering the reevaluation and evolution of these values, highlighting its integral role in the development and expression of societal identity.

Politics Sets Labor Rights and Working Conditions

Labor legislation, safety standards, and worker compensation policies are just a few aspects of employment that are dictated by political will. These policies not only safeguard workers but also set the stage for labor relations and define the social contract between employers and employees.

Key aspects of labor influenced by politics:

  • Minimum wage levels and overtime rules
  • Health and safety regulations in the workplace
  • Rights to collective bargaining and unionization

These critical elements of labor rights demonstrate how politics intersects with the everyday realities of workers, advocating for fair treatment and ensuring that labor markets operate with respect for human dignity and equitable practices.

Politics Impacts Infrastructure and Public Services

Infrastructure — the physical framework of society, including transportation systems like roads and bridges, public buildings, water supply, and power networks — is a prime example of politics in action.

Political leaders allocate budgets for infrastructure projects, which not only drive economic growth but also directly affect the quality of life for citizens. The availability and condition of public services such as schools, hospitals, and law enforcement are also tied to political agendas and policies.

A glance at key infrastructure components and services:

  • Transport:  Roads, rail networks, public transit systems
  • Utilities:  Water treatment, electricity grids, internet access
  • Social:  Schools, hospitals, police and fire services

The decision-making process about which projects are prioritized, how funds are distributed across regions, and what standards are set for maintenance and safety is inherently political. Such decisions often reflect the broader priorities and values of the elected government, demonstrating the intersection of political will and public welfare.

Politics Determines Power Dynamics within Society

The distribution and exercise of power within a society are profoundly shaped by political structures and policies. Politics decides who gets a voice in the public sphere and how different interests are balanced against each other. The power dynamics within a nation can drive change or maintain the status quo, affecting everything from economic disparity to access to resources.

Consider these facets of power dynamics:

  • Political mechanisms:  Voting systems, representation, checks and balances
  • Socioeconomic status:  Wealth disparity, class divisions, and social mobility
  • Access to resources:  Availability of quality education, healthcare, and housing

Such dynamics are not static but flow and shift as political decisions reshape the landscape of opportunity and control. The recognition of the essential role of politics in crafting these dynamics underscores its importance as a tool for either liberating or constraining societal progress.

Politics Enables Minority Representation and Advocacy

Representing the interests of minority groups is a crucial function of politics, affording those who might otherwise be marginalized the opportunity to influence decisions that affect their lives.

Political systems that encourage diverse representation and provide channels for advocacy enable these groups to play an active role in shaping policy and bringing attention to their unique challenges and perspectives.

The influence of politics on minority representation:

  • Legislative seats:  Quotas or affirmative action to ensure diversity
  • Policy focus:  Addressing issues specific to minority groups
  • Advocacy:  Support for organizations or movements representing minority rights

The fostering of an inclusive political landscape, where all communities can have their voices heard, is vital for the health of democratic societies. Political advocacy and representation serve as conduits for respect, recognition, and the pursuit of justice for all members of society, regardless of their minority or majority status.

Politics Affects Environmental Sustainability Efforts

Environmental sustainability has become a cornerstone issue in politics as society grapples with climate change, habitat destruction, and resource depletion . Political decisions are integral to the implementation of policies and practices that promote ecological balance and long-term environmental health.

Through laws and regulations, politics can drive conservation efforts, renewable energy adoption, and the responsible management of natural resources.

Reflecting on environmental politics:

  • The introduction of emissions standards helps mitigate pollution.
  • Support or opposition to green energy projects impacts the speed of transition away from fossil fuels.
  • International agreements, such as those targeting climate change, rely on political diplomacy and commitment.

Environmental sustainability positions not only reflect a government’s commitment to conserving resources for future generations but also speak to the global cooperation required to address challenges that transcend borders.

Politics Influences Technological Innovation Policies

Political leaders and lawmakers are responsible for crafting policies that promote technological advances while considering ethical implications, privacy concerns, and social impact. Political decisions play a crucial role in steering research funding, patent laws, and the overall direction of technological development.

Key impact points on technology due to political intervention:

  • Incubation of innovation through grants and subsidies
  • Data protection and privacy laws
  • Balancing technological progression with job market implications

Policies set the stage for how technology is integrated into society and commerce, and thus, political foresight and governance are indispensable in shaping a future where technological benefits are maximized and the risks are mitigated.

Politics Affects International Trade and Economic Relations

The arena of international trade is shaped by political decisions that influence tariffs, trade agreements, and diplomatic relations. While politics defines the rules for how countries engage commercially, it also has the broader task of ensuring that such engagement benefits the national economy and aligns with domestic policy goals.

Illustrating trade and economic relations in politics:

  • Trade Agreements:  Deals like NAFTA or the European Union ‘s Single Market define trade relationships and set economic policies.
  • Trade Disputes:  Political negotiations are tools for resolving conflicts and removing barriers to commerce.
  • Economic Sanctions:  Used as a political tool for applying pressure in international disputes or to promote human rights.

The shaping of trade policies and agreements by political bodies reflects the strategic interests of nations and the interdependency of the global economy. Political decisions here are crucial in forging paths toward shared prosperity and managing the complex web of international economic relations.

Politics Sets Immigration Laws and Policies

Immigration laws and policies are a clear reflection of a nation’s political climate and societal values. These laws determine who is allowed to enter a country, under what conditions, and how immigrants are integrated into society.

Aspects such as border control, asylum procedures, and pathways to citizenship are all shaped by the ruling political ethos, reflecting a nation’s stance on multiculturalism, security, and humanitarian obligations.

Immigration policy areas affected by political decisions:

  • Visa Regulations : Who gets to visit, work, or study.
  • Refugee Treatment : The response to humanitarian crises.
  • Integration Policies : Measures that facilitate or hinder the integration of immigrants into society.

The complexities of immigration issues require a nuanced political approach, balancing the economic, cultural, and humanitarian aspects to carve out policies that are fair, enforceable, and aligned with a country’s broader goals.

Politics Dictates Tax Laws and Public Funding

Taxation is a critical component of public policy, directly influenced by political ideologies and decisions. The structure of tax systems — who gets taxed, how much, and on what — is shaped by political authority.

Taxation directly relates to the government’s ability to fund public services such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure development. The decisions on public funding allocations reflect society’s priorities and the government’s role in redistributing wealth and economic opportunities.

Tax laws enacted through political processes play a central role in the economic health of a nation and the well-being of its citizens, resonating with the overall spirit of governance and equity.

Politics Shapes Public Opinion and Social Norms

Though less direct in its impact, politics also plays a profound role in shaping public opinion and social norms. Through rhetoric, policy initiatives, and public discourse, political figures and institutions influence societal attitudes and beliefs. Political dialogue can validate or challenge existing norms, thus steering the cultural direction of society.

Key ways politics shapes public discourse:

  • Debate and Legislation : Public issues debated politically often lead to shifts in social norms.
  • Media : Political messaging and alignment on media platforms can greatly influence public opinion.
  • Education : What is prioritized in educational curricula can reflect and guide societal values.

The interplay between politics and societal values highlights the importance of having diverse, inclusive political debates that reflect the range of perspectives within the community. This discourse not only reflects current societal norms but also has the power to transform them over time, attesting to the powerful role of politics in cultural evolution.

Politics Facilitates or Impedes International Trade and Economics

Trade and economic policy are at the heart of international politics. These policies define how countries interact on an economic level, establishing the rules and standards for trade, investments, and economic cooperation.

International trade agreements, such as free trade areas or customs unions, are the product of complex political negotiations that have wide-reaching implications for economies around the globe.

  • Trade barriers and tariffs can either protect domestic industries or promote international competition.
  • Foreign investment policies can attract global capital or protect homegrown businesses.
  • Currency valuation and monetary policies affect a country’s international economic competitiveness.

The degree to which politics either facilitates or hampers economic growth through these mechanisms often reflects a nation’s broader political objectives and economic strategies.

Politics Impacts Cultural Funding, Heritage, and the Arts

Political entities recognize the role of arts and culture in fostering a cohesive and vibrant society; hence, they make strategic decisions about supporting museums, theaters, historical preservation, and educational programs in the arts.

Cultural aspects influenced by politics:

  • Subsidies and grants for cultural institutions signal political acknowledgment of the arts’ societal value.
  • Decisions on what aspects of heritage to preserve speak to a society’s historical consciousness.
  • Initiatives to make arts accessible to all parts of society reflect a political commitment to cultural inclusivity.

The interconnection of politics with cultural life underscores the role political decisions play in the survival and accessibility of cultural expressions, impacting everything from communal identity to international cultural exchanges.

Final Thoughts

Recognizing the importance of politics is recognizing a part of our identity – as members of a community, as participants in democracy, and as stewards of change. Let’s not underestimate the power of an informed citizenry; for it is through our collective understanding and action that the wheels of progress turn.

As you sip your coffee or scroll through the news, remember that the ripples of politics are touching the shores of your life. Don’t shy away from the ebb and flow.

Dive in, engage, and let your actions, conversations, and votes be the droplets that help shape the mighty river of society. It’s in these subtle contributions that the significance of politics truly comes to

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    First, culture helps to develop a variety of skills. Cultural involvement and creative potential were essential to the "universal man" of the Renaissance. One of the most famous examples is Leonardo da Vinci. He combined scientific and writing activities with art. In the modern world, many celebrities agree.

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    Module 1: Understanding Culture, Society and Politics- Some Key Observation At the end of this module the student should be able to: - Articulate observation on human cultural variations, social differences, and social change and political identities Demonstrate curiosity and an openness to explore the origins and dynamics of culture and society and political identities.

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    This course uses insights from Anthropology, Political Science, and Sociology to develop students' awareness of cultural, social and political dynamics, and sensitivity to cultural diversity; provide them with an understanding of how culture, human agency, society and politics work; and engage them in the examination of the

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    Recognize the concepts of culture, society, and politics and their respective elements; and; Examine how the cultural, social, and political phenomena happening around them continuously influence or change them as individuals. Key Concepts. Agency - the power of an individual to change society or form a new one.

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    Understanding Culture, Society, and Politics ... ACTIVITY 2: Essay Writing Directions: The teacher will ask the student to write an essay on the threats to the tangible and intangible heritage based on their field trip experience. 14 Content: Looking back at human biocultural and social evolution Learning Competency 1: Trace the biological and ...

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    Culture. may be defined as the complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired, shared, and transmitted by man through interaction within a social group. Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Society, False, Politics and more.

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