Components of Culture Essay

Components of culture

            We all exist within a system which dictates our values and beliefs - Components of Culture Essay introduction. As such, there is a general system of values and beliefs passed from generation to generation which shapes our sense of identity and define our existence. All these may be classified as culture. Culture as such is a way of life which is mostly derived from the society through various ways. Language, values, norms and beliefs are the main components of culture which ultimately determines how well an individual is integrated into the society. As such, every human society has some set of codes and rules which ultimately directs individual’s actions within the social set up.

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            Culture may be said to be the set of signs and rules that individuals use to signal their similarities and differences with each other. As such, it is the set of rules which make people form a collective identity while also embracing individual differences. Most cultures affirm their existence by condemning anyone who goes against the set rules. Others are very permissive. There are questions, largely ethical and political, which are at stake with regard to how open or closed a given culture is to divergent behaviors and attitudes especially to individuals considered to be inside it and those considered to be outside it. The notions of inside and outside are set by the cultural signs and rules.

According to Raymond Williams, culture is a way of life. He also sees it as a structure of feeling. This gives the sense that culture is learned unconsciously yet it shapes awareness and reaction to things. An individual picks up culture and internalizes it. However, the existence of culture depends on the action of individuals according to the codes and conventions to it. Culture also influences other external entities apart from the members it defines. Such includes rituals, texts and artifacts which can be generalized as modes of communication. These in themselves are not culture. They are however the medium through which an individual learns his culture. Culture uses rituals and artifacts to maintain coherence across time and space even though it is not reducible to them (rituals and artifacts).

Cultures interpret and make sense for its members the concept of time and space. Culture provides the resource for handling good and bad fortunes. The sense of identity which is provided for by culture often makes individuals to cope with difficult circumstances. For instance, the American culture and identity helped in coping with the aftermath of terrorist attack on the twin towers. However, culture does not reverse fortunes.

            A new dimension to the concept of culture has been developed by modern living. As Karl Marx once said, capitalism is a changing force in the society and the modern society which it has helped shape is where “all that is solid melts into air while all that is sacred is profaned” (Marx, 1973). Capitalism has accelerated dynamisms which culture is attempting to make intelligible to its members. As such, many individuals have come to focus on culture because it guarantees continuity and meaning to life.
In conclusion, culture utilizes symbols, language, norms, values and beliefs manifested in rituals and artifacts so as to pass notions of identity. The structures of emotions which organize and derive sense from every day life are sustained by these resources of identity. Our definition of life and self identity is in most cases derived from the things that we consciously or unconsciously learn from our environment. As such, culture is therefore the totality of human existence as had been passed from generation to generation.


Karl Marx, (1973). The Revolutions of 1848, Penguine Books, Harmondworth, pp 70-71.

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