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Petroglyphs are in modern-day Gobustan State Reserve, Azerbaijan, dating back to 10,000 BCE and indicating a thriving culture. Credit: Baku87.

Mead (1955) said that culture “is an abstraction of the body of learned behaviour which a group of people who share the same tradition transmit entire to their children, and, in part, to adult immigrants who become members of the society.”[1]

Theoretical culture[edit]


  1. "[t]he arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation",[2]
  2. "[t]he beliefs, values, behaviour and material objects that constitute a people's way of life",[2]
  3. "[a]ny knowledge passed from one generation to the next, not necessarily with respect to human beings",[2] or
  4. "[t]he language and peculiarities of a geographical location"[2]

is called a culture.

"A culture is the combination of the language that you speak and the geographical location you belong to. It also includes the way you represent dates, times and currencies."[2]

Culture "refers to all the ways in which human beings overcome their original barbarism, and through artifice, become fully human."[3]

"The very word culture meant 'place tilled' in Middle English, and the same word goes back to Latin colere, 'to inhabit, care for, till, worship' and cultus, 'A cult, especially a religious one.' To be cultural, to have a culture, is to inhabit a place sufficiently intensive to cultivate it—to be responsible for it, to respond to it, to attend to it caringly."[4]

Culture "originally meant the cultivation of the soul or mind, acquires most of its later modern meaning in the writings of the 18th-century German thinkers, who were on various levels developing Rousseau's criticism of "modern liberalism and Enlightenment". Thus a contrast between "culture" and "civilization" is usually implied in these authors, even when not expressed as such."[3]

Culture is "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."[5] Alternatively, in a contemporary variant, "Culture is defined as a social domain that emphasizes the practices, discourses and material expressions, which, over time, express the continuities and discontinuities of social meaning of a life held in common.[6]

Culture is "the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time."[7]

Terror management theory posits that culture is a series of activities and worldviews that provide humans with the basis for perceiving themselves as "person[s] of worth within the world of meaning"—raising themselves above the merely physical aspects of existence, in order to deny the animal insignificance and death that Homo sapiens became aware of when they acquired a larger brain.[8][9]

Material culture[edit]

The concept of material culture covers the physical expressions of culture, such as technology, architecture and art, whereas the immaterial aspects of culture such as principles of social organization (including practices of political organization and social institutions), mythology, philosophy, literature (both written and oral literature), and science comprise the intangible cultural heritage of a society.[10]


Cultural change can be brought about by growth, development, evolution, involution, renovation, reconception, reform, innovation, revivalism, revolution, mutation, progress, diffusion, osmosis, borrowing, eclecticism, syncretism, modernization, indigenization, and transformation.[11]


It has been estimated from archaeological data that the human capacity for cumulative culture emerged somewhere between 500,000–170,000 years ago.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. Mead, M. (Ed.). (1955). Cultural patterns and technical change. New York: Mentor Books.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 culture. San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 23 December 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Velkley, Richard L (2002). The Tension in the Beautiful: On Culture and Civilization in Rousseau and German Philosophy, In: Being after Rousseau: philosophy and culture in question. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 11–30. ISBN 978-0226852560. OCLC 47930775.
  4. Sorrells, Kathryn (2015). Intercultural Communication: Globalization and Social Justice. Los Angeles: Sage. ISBN 978-1412927444.
  5. Tylor 1974, 1.
  6. James, Paul; Magee, Liam; Scerri, Andy; Steger, Manfred (2015). Urban Sustainability in Theory and Practice: Circles of Sustainability. London: Routledge. p. 53. ISBN 978-1138025721. OCLC 942553107. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  7. Meaning of "culture", In: Cambridge English Dictionary. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  8. Pyszczynski, Tom; Solomon, Sheldon; Greenberg, Jeff (2015). Thirty Years of Terror Management Theory. 52. pp. 1–70. doi:10.1016/bs.aesp.2015.03.001. ISBN 978-0128022474. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  9. Greenberg, Jeff; Koole, Sander L.; Pyszczynski, Tom (2013). Handbook of Experimental Existential Psychology. Guilford Publications. ISBN 978-1462514793.
  10. Macionis, John J; Gerber, Linda Marie (2011). Sociology. Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 53. ISBN 978-0137001613. OCLC 652430995.
  11. Panikkar, Raimon (1991). Pathil, Kuncheria, ed. Religious Pluralism: An Indian Christian Perspective. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (ISPCK). pp. 252–99. ISBN 978-8172140052. OCLC 25410539.
  12. Lind, J.; Lindenfors, P.; Ghirlanda, S.; Lidén, K.; Enquist, M. (2013-05-07). Dating human cultural capacity using phylogenetic principles. 3. p. 1785. doi:10.1038/srep01785. ISSN 2045-2322. PMID 23648831. PMC 3646280. https://web.archive.org/web/20161002081545/http://www.nature.com/articles/srep01785. Retrieved May 23, 2018. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]