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Culture and Social Structure Essay

Culture is a difficult thing to strictly define. Such a large variety of societal aspects fall under its realm, that it’s sometimes complicated to draw a line between what is part of a culture and what is not. To put it in extremely vague terms, culture is a way of life. All the traits that make up a particular society, from religious beliefs to modes of dress to art to methods of farming, build up a culture. Culture includes the good and the bad, the old and the new, the strong and the weak – essentially it includes “everything”.

Many varieties of cultures exist. There are the obvious ethnic cultures – African-American culture, Latino culture, Greek culture, etc., each with their own foods, art, religion, familial roles, and values. American culture, for example, is generally considered to be relaxed – apple pie, blue jeans, baseball and the like. Family roles are not set in stone, there is freedom to choose a religion based on one’s own comfort (or choose no religion at all), and while a certain level of morality is maintained, values are generally loose.

Compare this to the culture of the remote parts of India. There, a woman is required to serve her husband and his family, even after his death. They are very devout, and there is only one religion to “choose” from. They are held to a strict moral code, and anyone who violates this code is considered an outcast.

There are many other ways to consider culture. There is the culture of a particular age group. A septuagenarian has a way of life very different than that of a teenager. His music, dress, beliefs, and goals are generally dissimilar to those of his younger counterpart.

Or there is the culture of a particular time period. Pre-historic culture is, through modern inventions and human development, very different than the culture of today.

A very important part of any culture is the social structure within. The social structure is essentially the roles or positions that particular individuals or groups in a culture fall into. For example, in the American culture, the President takes on a leadership role, those in the armed forces take on a protective role, and everyday citizens take on the responsibility of keeping the economy alive.

On a much smaller scale, the social structure exists within a family as well. In your “typical” family, the mother takes on a nurturing position, while the father takes on the responsibility of earning money and providing for the others. Similarly, on a sports team, the coach is the leader, charged with guiding and motivating his players. The players themselves are responsible for putting forth their best effort and taking the team as far as it can go.

While culture can be hard to define using words, one need only look around to experience everything that culture contains. One’s everyday life is culture, from the worldwide culture that everyone lives in, down to the personal culture of one’s own house. Each person has a role in many different social structures, and each role is genuinely important. It is these roles, in these social structures that make up every part of every culture.

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