What is culture?

Culture (Latin: //cultura//, lit. "Cultivation")[1] is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. However, the word "culture" is most commonly used in three basic senses:
  • Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
  • An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group.

Culture is in fact the unique possession of man. Man is born and brought up in a cultural environment. Man is not only a social animal but also a cultural being. Man cannot survive as a man without culture. Culture fulfils our needs and represents the entire achievements of mankind.
E. B. Taylor defined culture as "that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morale, laws, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."
Culture has been fulfilling a number of functions which may be divided into two - (a) for the individual and (b) for the group.
a. Importance to the individual:
(1) Culture distinguishes man from animal. It is the culture that makes the human animal a man. It regulates his conduct and prepares him for a group life. Without culture he would have been forced to find his own way which would have meant a loss of energy.
(2) Culture provides solution for complicated situations. Culture provides man a set of behaviour for difficult situations. In the absence of culture man would have been baffled even at the simplest situations. Culture not only defines but also determines what we eat and drink, when to sleep, when to laugh etc.
(3) Culture provides traditional interpretation to certain situations. Through culture man gets traditional interpretations for many situations according to which he determines his behaviour. For example, if a cat crosses his way he postpones the journey.
(4) Culture shapes personality. No child can develop human qualities in the absence of cultural environment. Culture prepares man for group life. It is culture that provides opportunities for the development of personality and sets limits on its growth.
b. Importance for the group:
(1) Culture keeps social relationship intact. Culture has importance not only for men but also for the group. Culture prepares man for group life. Group life would have been poor, nasty, and short if there had been no cultural regulations. Group solidarity rests on the foundation of culture.
(2) Culture has given a new vision to the individual. Secondly, culture has given a new vision to the co-operation of the individuals. Culture teaches him to think of himself as a part of the larger whole. It provides him with the concepts of family, state, nation etc. and makes possible the coordination and division of labour.
(3)Culture creates new needs. Finally, culture also creates new needs and drives, for example, thirst for knowledge and arranges for their satisfaction. It satisfies the moral and religious interests of the members of the group.
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