Essay on Dominant Role of Culture in Society

This is a Literary Essay on Dominant Role of Culture in Society.

1. Division of Labour based on Culture:

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Human beings like all primates and mammals are structurally homogeneous. All the women are born with the same anatomical features and so the case with men. Unlike the termites they are not born with different anatomical characteristics suited to their caste functions. But in human society we find vast division of labour. Here culture plays its role. It is possible to train people for specific tasks through culture. Human society in this way is capable of creating its own occupational groups which are not based on organic peculiarities.


2. Continuous Sexuality Conditioned by Culture:

Human beings possess the same reproduc­tive physiology as those of anthropoids. But human society has continuous sexuality. We find con­stant association of men and women.

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This is possible because of the conditioning of this sexuality which is, different from that of a ‘system of dominance’ found among the apes and monkeys. The phenomena of repression and sublimation, of marriage, adultery, incest, prostitution can describe the cultural conditioning of sexuality at the level of human beings.


3. Symbolic Communication:

Human beings have greater neural complexity and hence have greater capacity for learning than the primates. Man has evolved a system of arbitrary symbolic communication through which knowledge, attitudes, skills etc., can be transmitted from one genera­tion to the next.

In the case of apes and monkeys learning must take place in the actual situation and the range of their learning is also very much limited. The possession of language is a boon to the human beings through which one can convey to the others a clear idea of situations which are not present and of the behaviour appropriate to such situations.

4. The Speed of Learning:


Cultural learning can speed up the process of learning to a great extent. One can profit from the failures and successes in the learning of another. Though there is still the element of trial-and-error it can be reduced to the minimum.

The techniques adopted and the experience gained by the previous generation can provide guidance for the learning of present gen­eration. Culture has been assisting man as a short-hand method of acquiring knowledge.

5. The Volume of Learning:

The system of symbolic communication, a product of culture has increased not only the speed of learning but also the volume of things learnt. The human beings capacity to learn techniques, devices, principles, rules, beliefs, rituals, ideas, attitudes, theories etc., is beyond compare.

The primates or mammals are no match to them in this regard, Culture accumu­lates. Each generation adds its own to the cultural heritage. Hence human beings can learn more and learn better knowledge.

6. Division of Labour in Learning:

Still even under cultural conditions, the quantum of one person’s learning in his lifetime is very much limited. Further, it is not necessary for all the members of the group to learn the total culture in order to get its profit. Through the social arrangement of the division of labour it is possible to make different people to learn different things with mutual benefit.

7. Social Survival Depends on Culture:

Culture belongs to the society and not to the indi­vidual. Hence survival does not depend upon the strength and talents of particular individuals. It depends upon the culture of the group as a whole. Since different human groups possess different cultures conflict would take place among them.

In this cultural struggle the group that is the most efficiently organised and has the most advanced techniques would dominate over others. The Span­iards, for example, could conquer and impose most of their culture on the Indians of South America by means of their cultural superiority and not by their biological superiority.

8. The Cultural Invention of Writing:

With the invention of writing the cultural transmission has become quite easier. Writing, in contrast to verbal communication, allows ideas to be ‘stored’ apart from the immediate communicating situation. By fixing ideas to writing it is possible to spread communication far and wide.

Through writing men can insure that the great contributions will be incorporated into cultural heritage. Writing can add to and intensify the degree of specialisation. Writing extends the effectiveness of symbolic communication in human society. Other inventions such as printing, radio and telephone, television etc., may do the same.

9. Normative Control of Behaviour:

The symbolic communication has given rise to what is known as ‘legitimacy’ or the ‘normative’ in the human society. This peculiarity is not present among the monkeys and apes. Any human situation has two aspects: the facts and the attitude or sentiment toward facts. Attitude is conveyed as a part of cultural heritage.

It is there before the presence of the actual situations, particularly, the attitudes and, sentiments relating to what ‘ought to be’ and ‘ought not to be’ are very powerful. We are more prone to approve or disapprove of the facts, particularly the actual behaviour of the individuals on the basis of these received judgments or sentiments.

This trend adds a new dimension to our social existence which is of tremendous importance in exercising control over individual conduct. The normative ideas exist in the minds of the individuals. They are communicated as judgments on conduct and they influence the course of external events.

For ex­ample, a man can talk, play, work, eat, drink, write, sleep, or do anything legitimately or illegiti­mately, depending upon the kind of social situation that is defined. His behaviour, including his sexual behaviour is defined normatively and not biologically.

10. The Moral Order of the Human Society:

As against the animal society the human society has not only a factual order but also a moral order. These two are causally interdependent. In the human society, the normative control exists because the individuals are always responsive to the judgements of others. Since they are subjected to the transmission of attitudes and ideas they are bound to be responsive, to the judgements of others.

These received judgements of others become in course of time their own judgements about themselves. They approve or disapprove of their own acts and those of their fellow members. The concepts of conscience and ‘feelings of guilt’ confirm this tendency of the people. An assessment of success or failure in one’s endeavour to attain ends is also mostly influenced by the opinions of other. An individual is thus motivated to the esteem of his fellows.

11. The Normative Factor Modifies Bio-Social Traits:

Further, the presence of the norma­tive factor complicates every bio-social trait that we have inherited from our anthropoid ancestors. For example, the system of dominance, has been greatly modified by the cultural definition of legiti­mate and illegitimate dominance. In human society, we find a system of normatively sanctioned power called ‘authority’.

This often overrules other bases of power such as strength, ability, person­ality, etc. Further, persons in authority may use their legitimate power even in illegitimate ways. Thus, it is clear that in the study of human society we must take into account not only facts but also the normative attitude toward facts. Both are included in the reality which is called socio-cultural.


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