Essay on the Important Functions of Culture – Man is not only a social animal but also a cultural being. Man’s social life has been made possible because of culture. Culture is something that has elevated him from the level of animal to the heights of man.
Man cannot survive as man without culture. It represents the entire achievements of mankind. Culture has been fulfilling a number of functions among which the following may be noted.
1. Culture is the Treasury of Knowledge:
Culture provides knowledge which is essential for the physical, social and intellectual existence of man. Birds and animals behave instinctively. With the help of instincts they try to adapt themselves with the environment. But man has greater intelligence and learning capacity.
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With the help of these he has been able to adapt himself with the environment or modify it to suit his convenience. Culture has made such an adaptation and modification possible and easier by providing man the necessary skills and knowledge. Culture preserves knowledge and helps its transmission from generation to generation through its element, that is, language.
Language helps not only the transmission of knowledge but also its preservation, accumulation and diffusion. On the contrary, animals do not have this advantage. Because, culture does not exist at sub-human level.
2. Culture Defines Situations:
Culture defines social situations for us. It not only defines but also conditions and determines – what we eat and drink, what we wear, when to laugh, weep, sleep, love, to make friends with, what work we do, what God we worship, what knowledge we rely upon, what poetry we recite and so on.
3. Culture Defines Attitudes, Values and Goals:
Attitudes refer to the tendency to feel and act in certain ways. Values are the measure of goodness or desirability. Goals refer to the attainments which our values define as worthy. It is the culture which conditions our attitude towards various issues such as religion, morality, marriage, science, family planning, prostitution and so on.
Our values concerning private property, fundamental rights, representative government, romantic love, etc., are influenced by our culture. Our goals of winning the race, understanding others, attaining salvation, being obedient to elders and teachers, being loyal to husband, being patriotic, etc., are all set forth by our culture. We are being socialised on these models.
4. Culture Decides our Career:
Whether we should become a politician, a social worker, a doctor, an engineer, a soldier, a farmer, a professor, an industrialist, a religious leader, and so on is decided by our culture. What career we are likely to pursue is largely decided by our culture.
Culture sets limitations on our choice to select different careers. Individuals may develop, modify or oppose the trends of their culture but they always live within its framework. Only a few can find outlet in the culture.
5. Culture Provides Behaviour Pattern:
Culture directs and confines the behaviour of an individual. Culture assigns goals and provides means for achieving them. It rewards his noble works and punishes the ignoble ones. It assigns him statuses and roles.
We see, dream, aspire, work, strive, marry, enjoy according to the cultural expectation. Culture not only controls but also liberates human energy and activities. Man, indeed, is a prisoner of his culture.
6. Culture Moulds Personality:
Culture exercises a great influence on the development of personality. No child can develop human qualities in the absence of a cultural environment. Culture prepares man for group life and provides him the design of living. It is the culture that provides opportunities for the development of personality and sets limits on its growth.
As Ruth Benedict has pointed out, every culture will produce its special type or types of personality. This fact has been stressed by her in her “Patterns of Culture” – an analysis of the culture of three primitive societies.
Yet another American anthropologist by name Margaret Mead has stated that “a culture shapes the character and behaviour of individuals living in it”. This fact she has established in her “Sex and
Temperament in Three Primitive Societies” – a study of New Guinea tribal life.
It is true that the individual is exposed to and molded by the culture of the group into which he is born. But the culture provides not only for ‘universals’ but also for ‘alternatives’.
There is not only conformity in cultural learning but also variations. Still no individual is completely culturally determined. Every individual is unique in any culture. The uniqueness may be based on individual differences in ability, aptitude and learning.
The impact of culture on the individual is not always identical in every case. Every individual is sooner or later exposed to influences which are not completely predetermined by culture. He meets other people outside the culture.
Travelling, books, radio, cinema, television, theatre, newspapers expose an individual to many influences outside the culture. Various biological and social factors bring about the uniqueness of the individuals in any culture.