The term “society” is used to refer to individuals, who have a common interaction purpose, such as sharing common cultural practices within a given geographical locality. Culture is believed to constitute various beliefs, behavioral patterns, seeable and useable objects, and other characteristics that are considered typical of individual members within a particular society or group (Swidler, 2001). Research studies indicate that different people and groups define themselves through cultural lenses and conform to a set of shared values that have a significant contribution to society. Culture is considered a system of norms and values within the latter that guide people’s ways of conduct. To be cultured means to have the knowledge of arts, to be well-educated, stylish, and above all well-mannered in the eyes of the general public. There can be a high culture, which is essentially pursued by people belonging to the upper class. It consists of the classical music, theaters, and fine arts. On the contrary, a low or popular culture is essentially associated with the people from the working or middle class. It majorly constitutes sports, movies, and the rock type of music (Battani, Hall, & Neitz, 2012). The paper seeks to investigate various perspectives of culture and gives an in-depth understanding of how it enables individuals within any given society to act independently, while still allowing the latter to interact.
The development of the sociology of culture can be traced back to various interactions that exist in sociology that has been significantly influenced by the works of earlier scholars, such as Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, in their attempts to study anthropology through the analysis and description of culture itself (Swidler, 1986). The scholars identified various elements of culture, which included symbols, values, beliefs, language, and norms. The first are believed to be a set of objects with specific meanings attached by individuals, who share common values and beliefs. Language is considered to be a means of passing some information that involves the use of systems or objects. Values are a range of widely accepted standards dictating how individuals should behave, while beliefs are utterances held as truth. Norms are regulations referring to and dictating specific actions. Widely accepted ones re majorly referred to as mores. Those norms that are held with high regard or casually observed ones are generally called folkways, which constitute routine interactions (Hall, Grindstaff, & Lo, 2010).
While studying culture, Weber developed a theory that attempted to critically explain various concepts of cultural sociology. He argued that people developed tendencies of living in social groups that were associated with a specific status and standards. It enabled them to make choices on various ways of live and behavior. On the other hand, Karl Marx developed a theory based on various cultural conflicts. He argued that individuals, who were considered mighty in societies, came from the ruling class. These people made others their subjects. They communicated with each other in a manner that they considered respectful. It gave them the sense of social inclusion within the group, and they kept close contact and participated in various social activities (William, 1969).
These were subgroups of the larger population. He indicated that people categorized themselves in groups on the racial, gender, sexual, and religious basis. Then, they came up with their own culture differentiating them from other groups. He further noticed that interests within these subgroups emerged as a result of the motivation got from the wealth possessed. Individuals with the insignificant amount of possessions were considered to be of a lower status, while their wealthier counterparts had a higher one. Then, specific symbols were developed to signify that a person belonged to a certain group in society. These were largely associated with individual’s spiritual beliefs and seen in events organized by a group (Battani, Hall, & Neitz, 2012). Swidler studied the prevailing interactions that existed between different cultural practices and institutional systems. She advanced the argument that individuals in societies did not only express whatever they believed in, but also drew some inspirational teachings, transforming their shared values to be reflected in simpler ways that could be understood by others (Swidler, 2001). This transformation of culture was majorly shown through various drama and music performances, as well as theater plays. It enabled people to observe similar ways of behavior and saw the need to change them due to encountering problems that made them deviate and vary their actions. Then, teachings evolved to become part of human culture in society.
A deeper analysis of these studies reveals that individuals are highly influenced by their culture that enables them to act independently, though still allowing the larger society to remain intact. People have rights and freedoms that are to some extent limited to reasonable and necessary levels in any free democracy. Taking actions, individuals achieve an appropriate balance between their freedom of expression, association, and speech, and the protection of other members within the same group (Hall, Grindstaff, & Lo, 2010). It is what ensures that the society remains wholesome and at peace. Culture, which majorly dictates how people should carry out their activities, requires individuals to control their lives and various choices that they make within particular localities. As a result, their actions are injurious to other members of society. Thus, individuals’ rights and the freedom of expression, association, and assembly are results of dictates that culture has in society.
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There is also a significant relationship between the self and society, in which individuals exist. People have an influence on the latter through their actions. It is done through the creation of various groups, organizations, institutions, or networks within society. On the other hand, the latter influences human decisions through shared values, languages, and various meanings that enable people to make individual decisions of taking up the roles of others and engaging in social interaction, or reflect on themselves (Swidler, 2001). People’s actions are a reflection of society. Thus, it gives rise to the need of understanding the latter, where one exists, and the individual self that acts on the basis of decisions made in the context of social interactions.
Individual actions can be private or public. Societal norms must identify things and actions that individuals need to take to fit well within society. They define individual situations and enable people to act independently in the context of dos and don’ts in a certain group. These decisions are always influenced by certain aspects that play out in society, such as the social class one is in, general trends, and, to a larger extent, perceptions created by the media. The latter create some kind of desire in the minds of individuals, due to they compare social dictates in their society with those in others (Battani, Hall, & Neitz, 2012). In the end, certain decisions have to be made by people that will determine their private or public actions, either through the alteration of their culture or the acquisition of a totally new one. It clearly signifies that individual actions are influenced by society, where people act independently, whether in private or public. Observing its dictates ensures that society is the whole.
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In conclusion, culture is dynamic and symbolically coded. It is passed from one person to another and changes with time. Its evolution is based on its predisposed or restricted tendencies to change. Restrictions, which are in the form of resistance, are usually seen in religious beliefs, people’s habits, and other integrated cultural resistant beliefs. Changes in culture usually occur due to environmental factors, various technological inventions, and general interactions with other cultures. Individual actions, interactions, and resource transfers between people create patterns of actions that are recognizable and classify society into different classes (Swidler, 2001). Therefore, it can be concluded that society as a whole influences individual actions, enabling people to act independently and at the same time guiding their them in ascertaining that they conform to the set regulations. It essentially ensures that society remains intact and unified, even though individuals still act independently.