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A Theoretical Approach to Culture and the Study of Its Theory Essay

The concept of culture is a broad and elaborate subject that identifies with the common practices of different groups of people. Our textbook defines culture as the total pattern of human behavior and its products, embodied in thoughts, speech, action and artifacts. I personally view culture as a concept that helps us develop and identify within our own society, and societies of others. We see and experience culture everyday lives. It can be identified though groups in their beliefs, dress, language, traditions, music, food religion and “upbringing”.

I personally come from a West Indian background, as my parents are from the Caribbean. Although I was born in America, foods I prepare are from Caribbean recipes. In my home calypso music is often played and if mother gets angry she begins to use words and put together words that would only make sense in our culture. Culture functions in such a way that is sociological, psychological and biological. For example sociologically, culture gives groups a sense of belonging. Psychologically groups of people create what they consider to be “normal behavioral patterns” that may be abnormal to one of a different cultural base.

Culture functions biologically in the sense of reproducing their societies from generation to generation and the need for food and shelter to survive. We can tell someone of Asian decent not only by their physical traits, but also by their cultural practices. I believe our culture is embedded in us from the very beginning of our lives. From when we are babies our environment, family consciously and unconsciously molds us into learning a particular type of culture. Now more than ever because of technology and global diversity and integrations we see multiculturalism.

This is where there is an acceptance of various cultures and the practice of more than one culture in people. There are significant differences in various cultural backgrounds, whether it’s Western or Eastern, but this is what makes culture ever evolving, continuously growing and intertwining. In the early stages some have tried to bring the connection between evolution and ethics. We have learned from theorists Charles Darwin who to life the theory of Human Evolution and natural selection, Sir Edwards B. Tylor who is noted for the concept of animism and Herbert Spencer whom is often linked to the phrase “Survival of the Fittest”.

Charles Darwin was a pronounced and insightful theorist from the 18-19th century. What makes Charles Darwin best known is his theory of human evolution of man and natural selection. With Darwin’s human evolution, he came up with the concept that all like organisms came from simple form, which is “the origin of man”. In explaining Darwin’s theory of natural selection he believed more organisms are produced than can survive or reproduce. This creates an environment where they compete for resources and to reproduce successfully. His theory discloses some have successful genes/ traits and some do not.

He believed the more powerful or successful traits/genes that are in organisms and ten passed on to offspring. The stronger traits are continuously passed on and as passed on lead to further success. Darwin believes these traits are “naturally selected”. In this way nature somehow selects traits that are more fitted for the various conditions in the environment in which they are in, these traits become and those traits tend to last over time. The steady accrual of the changing traits over an extended period of time in conjunction with a changing environment brings forth evolution.

Hence linking to the phrase survival of the fittest. Over time as Darwin’s studies developed, he began to zoom in the links between animals and humans instincts. He was also convinced that organisms are all descended from common ancestors. To elaborate, he believed two organisms could be traced back through evolution at some point their linear will meet, and example would be human and chimpanzees. The success of Darwin’s theories lead to Darwinism which is the theory that all living things descended from an original common ancestor through natural selection and random variation without aid of intelligence or nonmaterial forces.

Many theorists during Darwin’s concept and after used this as the foundation of their theories that they built on. Social Darwinism is where Darwin’s ideas were applied to society. Another cultural revolutionist or social Darwinists as they were referred to was Herbert Spencer. Hebert Spencer is well known for being an evolutionary theorists during the 1900s that took Darwin’ concepts of evolution to the next level.

The phrase in which he is population for is “survival of the fittest” which as derived from Darwin’s concept of natural selection, but he indeed is the originator of this phrase. Spencer embraced Darwinism His theories also embodied Lamarckian and also saw selection as a means of maintaining human quality. When we hear survival of the fitness we think of possibly a battle in means of survival, but Spencer was more making reference to stronger species out living and out living the weaker ones and being able to increase and develop because of being stronger.

He believed evolution evolving from simplest form to a more comprehensive form as in human beings, and that nature’s laws plays a role in the changes. Spencer also penned “Principles of Psychology” and stated that human minds were somehow linked to natural laws. What stood out to me about Spencer was his opposition in government assisting underclass. He was also against them from interjecting in economic and social affairs. He was against this because his view was it helped preserve the unfit or inferior people and assisted them in obtaining resources such as healthcare.

He believed helping them would prove to be unbeneficial because it would only lead to them producing and/or reproducing more unfit people, possibly creating the “survival of the un-fittest”. He was adamant in thinking these people were lazy and did not want to work and assisting them would only enable them. In which the strong should prosper and the weak should be pushed aside Spencer also believed in individual competition and wanted to minimize government’s role in society to make survival only of stronger willed people.

Lamarckism’s is the belief that organism pass on certain characteristics to offspring. Connected to his Lamarckian beliefs Herbert Spencer believed in a biological based hierarchy of races. He also believed as they grew they zoomed in on the “evolutionary history” of their race. To take this belief even further he believed characteristics even negative ones such as lying and stealing, from their race were passed down to children. Sir Edward Burnett Tylor fathered the currently accepted concept of animalism; he was influenced by Darwin’s theory of biological evolution.

Development of culture and society from simple to complex forms. Europeans had sought to explain the existence of various “primitive” societies, some believing that such societies represented the lost tribes of Israel, others speculating that primitive peoples had degenerated since the time of Adam from an originally “barbarous” to an even lowlier “savage” state. European society was taken to epitomize the highest state of existence, “civilization. In the late 19th century, Edward Burnett Tylor and Lewis Henry Morgan elaborated the theory of unilinear evolution, specifying criteria for categorizing cultures according to their standing within a fixed system of growth of humanity as a whole and examining the modes and mechanisms of this growth. A widespread reaction followed; Franz Boas introduced the “culture history” approach, which concentrated on fieldwork among native peoples to identify actual cultural and historical processes rather than speculative stages of growth.

Leslie White, Julian Steward, and others sought to revive aspects of sociocultural evolutionism, positing a progression ranging from bands and tribes at one end to chiefdoms and states at the other. More recently some anthropologists have adopted a general systems approach, examining cultures as emergent systems. Others continue to reject evolutionary thinking and look instead at historical contingencies, contacts with other cultures, and the operation of cultural symbol systems.


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