Types, Elements & Subsets of Culture

Types, Elements & Subsets of Culture
Coming up next: Perceptions of Culture: Ideal Culture and Real Culture, Ethnocentrism, & Culture Relativism

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 Culture
  • 0:47 Types of Culture
  • 2:31 Elements of Culture
  • 3:59 Subsets of Culture
  • 5:47 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore that important but complicated aspect of all our lives: culture. Discover how cultures are categorized and composed, and then test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Culture

If I asked you to describe American culture, what would you say? You might mention some favorite activities: baseball, for example. Maybe you would discuss our shared values about the government, equality, and democracy. Or, perhaps you'd talk about hot dogs, soda, and t-shirts that say 'I heart New York'. These are all aspects of American culture. Culture is the set of patterns of human activity within a society or social group. Culture is how we act, think, and behave based on the shared values of our society. It is how we understand symbols, from language to hand gestures. It is everywhere, and we continually develop and define our culture on a daily basis.

Types of Culture

Studying culture is a big job. Social scientists, like anthropologists and sociologists, study culture to understand patterns of human behavior. While there are unlimited ways that people can express their culture, social scientists have developed two fundamental categories to define things produced by a society. First is material culture. Material culture is physical things that are created by a society.

In America, we have a strong material culture based on production of certain items, like cars. America is proud of its car culture. We make cars; we drive cars; we use cars as symbols of our place in society, wealth, or feelings about the environment. Cars, plus the other things that we physically create as Americans, define our material culture. Now, material culture does not mean that it is an object that is bought and sold; it can also be something we all make. For instance, macaroni art is a common thing we all did as children. It is something that is common enough to unite us and therefore part of our material culture.

The other category is nonmaterial culture, or the intangible things produced by a culture. In other words, the parts of culture you cannot touch, feel, taste, or hold. Common examples include social roles, ethics, beliefs, or even language. As a culture, Americans believe in equality. But you cannot hold equality, or make it out of macaroni noodles. Equality is something that does not actually exist; it is an idea that a culture produces about the treatment of people. This is nonmaterial culture, and it is just as big of an influence on our lives as material culture is.

Elements of Culture

The total culture of any specific society is composed of several elements, or parts. First is social organization. This is the way that society divides people. In most cultures, there is a ruler who is more powerful than the average person. In some cultures, there may be several levels of organization based on sex, age, occupation, or even reputation. Social organization is an important element of culture that defines how the society treats the relationships between different members of that culture.

The next element is customs, or the traditions, values, and social norms of a society. These help a society define their beliefs about right and wrong and create social pressure to obey those beliefs. Religion is another element, which demonstrates a society's morals and beliefs about humanity's spirituality and reason for existing. Language is a series of spoken, acted, or written symbols for communication. This is another crucial aspect of how we live our daily lives and connect to people in our society.

The last three elements of culture are government, the structures created by society to maintain order; economy, the rules of buying, selling, trading, and assigning value to things; and arts, the material expressions of beauty, emotions, and beliefs. A culture contains all of these elements to some degree.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account
Support