Last edited 26 Jan 2021


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Culture is a society or community’s acquired body of knowledge, a multi-faceted phenomenon that is the product of civilisation and considered central to the study of anthropology. It comprises entities that are primarily associated with the arts and social sciences but can also include science, technology and other concepts such as:

Many of the above are a posteriori concepts – acquired through learning and experience. Different cultures associated with different races may embody all of the above or just have developed prowess in a few: one society may not be religious while another may see it as a core cultural component. One society or community may have evolved into a highly complex one with heightened cultural awareness which may be differentiated from another that is a less complex society.

Ethnic groups frequently use their cultures as a way to differentiate themselves by highlighting a distinguishing aspect such as musical development, conventions of dance, literary achievements or technological advancement.

The growth of culture is a slow process that develops as society progresses, from primeval beginnings to what is regarded today as ‘advanced’ culture. As societies progress, their cultures become enlarged and enriched.

Cultural interaction is a phenomenon of globalisation and the modern world generally, given the plethora of communication technologies through which global communities can interact with each other. Culture feeds off culture: one society may adapt to its own liking the habits and techniques of another culture thereby creating new cultural possibilities.

Cultures can also spawn subcultures. These arise when a group of people within a culture create a variation to differentiate themselves from their parent culture and which may be regarded as subversive by the other members of the society.

Subcultures typically have their own rules regarding values, honour, sex, work etc and can be associated with young people who wish to rebel against society. They differ from countercultures whose values are often substantially different to mainstream society.

A cultured person is usually one who has achieved a well-rounded level of knowledge in either the arts or sciences or both, and may be au fait with current affairs.

The term 'culture' can also be used in a local setting. For example, the 'culture' at a company may allow relaxed dress codes.

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