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Culture and Society

Culture and Society

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize the impact and influences of culture on society.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain Globe; Public Domain:

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Welcome to this episode of Sociology, Studies of Society. Today's lessons on culture and society. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So culture is one of those words that we use all the time, that we know what it means, but it's kind of hard to define. Well, today, I'm going to give you a definition of what that is and also talk about how sociologists view culture and society. So what is culture? Well, culture, according to sociology, is just ways of thinking, acting, and objects that form a people's way of life.

And there are two different aspects of culture. There's material culture and non-material culture. So material culture of physical things created by cultures. Now these are actual objects that you can reach out and touch, a lamp, maybe a desk, a sofa. And they differ from non-material things, which are ideas created by cultures, art, music, literature.

Now there are some items that could be considered both, but at its core, it's just two different categories, material culture, physical objects, and non-material, those ideas created by cultures. And then you have to add one distinction. When you're looking at culture, technology is an aspect of culture, and it's just the application of knowledge to shape the world and peoples lives.

So sometimes in the modern world, we seem to think of technology as computers, iPhones, but technology could be a hammer. It could be even a stone hammer. It's the application of knowledge-- so that knowledge about how stone works and how a handle can give you more leverage with an object and you're shaping the world around you. That is also a technology.

So then what is society? Well, society is just people interact within a culture, within a defined area. The only difference between culture and society is that society requires that it happens within a defined area. And then there's also culture shock.

Now, culture shock is when a person is disorientated from experiencing an unfamiliar culture of aspect of culture. You often hear about this from someone moves to a new city or moves especially to a new country. The culture there is different. And they have to get acclimated to the way that people live there and what are the expectations in that culture.

So today's takeaway message, culture is the ways of thinking, acting, and objects that form a people's way of life. And there's mature culture, the physical things created by cultures, and not material, the ideas created by cultures. We also learned about technology and technologies, the application of knowledge to shape the world and people's lives.

And then we learned about society. So that's people who interact within a culture and within a defined area, and culture shock, a personal disorientation from experiencing an unfamiliar culture or aspect of culture. That's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon.

Terms to Know

Learned sets of behaviors and ideas that are acquired by members of a society.

Culture Shock

Feeling confused, threatened, disoriented, or even angered by contact with an unfamiliar culture.

Material Culture

The physical "artifacts" of our culture like our buildings, highways, food production systems, household objects, and technologies.

Non-Material Culture

The elements of culture that are intangible; i.e. ideas, languages, customs, and beliefs.


A group of people who live in a delineated space such as a nation and share common symbols, language, and culture.


Any useful tool or skill. Technology is more than just "high tech" computers and electronics, which are things that we commonly think of today when we hear the term. A simple hammer and nail was at one point a revolutionary technology. Looking at technology as any useful tool or skill introduces a historical component to the concept.