Society, Culture and Socialization


“An autonomous population whose members are subject to a common political authority, occupy a common territory, have a common culture, and have a sense of shared identity”

  • A society is the largest group with which most people can identify
  • Members of a society are interdependent
  • Societies are constantly changing and evolving
  • No society exists in isolation

Social Structure:

“The relatively stable and enduring patterns that organize social relationships and provide a framework for society”

  • The building block of common experience, it is essential to all aspects of everyday social interaction

Elements of Social Structure:

  • Statuses and Roles:
    • Status- A social position an individual occupies
    • Roles- The collection of rights, obligations and expectations that accompany a status
  • Social Institutions:
    • “Organized patterns of beliefs and behaviors centered on basic social needs”


  • “A set tangible and intangible elements … that gives shape and meaning to the everyday lives of a particular group of people.”
    • Social structure and culture
    • High vs. Popular culture

Elements of Culture:

  • Material—tangible
  • Non-Material—intangible
    • Beliefs—shared ideas about how the world operates
    • Values—attitudes about what is desirable and moral
    • Norms—rules of conduct, create order
    • Folkways and Mores and Laws
      • Sanctions
    • Rituals
    • Technology—technologies help define a culture
    • Communication—basis for shared understanding of reality
      • Language
      • Symbols

Experiencing Other Cultures:

    • Culture Shock—the feeling of disorientation and stress people experience when they enter an unfamiliar cultural setting
    • Ethnocentrism—the tendency to evaluate other cultures in terms of our own and to conclude that the other is inferior
    • Cultural Relativism—the view that a culture must be understood in terms of its own meanings, attitudes and values

Learning Our Own Culture:

    • Cultural Integration—the extent to which different parts of a culture fit well together
      • Complex, heterogeneous societies vs. Small, homogenous societies
    • Socialization—“learning about and adopting the values, norms, beliefs and other non-material elements of a culture and becoming familiar with its material elements”
    • Enculturation—immersion in a culture to the point where it feels natural, second nature

Subcultures, Countercultures, Cultural Change:

    • Subculture—a set of understandings, behaviors, practical and symbolic objects, and vocabulary that distinguish a particular group from other members of their society
    • Counterculture—“against the culture”
    • Cultural change has three sources
      • Alterations in the natural environment
      • Contact with other cultures
      • Discovery of new knowledge


    • The process by which an individual becomes a functioning member of the surrounding society
    • Nature vs. Nurture—are we who we are because of heredity or our social environment?

Theories of Socialization:

    • Functionalist—socialization makes society possible
    • Conflict—socialization controls people, insures that inequalities will be reproduced
    • Social learning theory—social learning occurs through conditioning and observation
    • Symbolic interactionist—focus on the development of the self

The Looking Glass Self: Charles Horton Cooley:

    • Our image of ourselves is based on how others see us and how we believe others see us
    • The theory hast three parts:
      • How we imagine others see us
      • How we imagine people judge what they see
      • How we feel about people’s reactions to what they see

Agents of socialization:

    • Family
    • Schools
    • Peers
    • The workplace
    • Mass media
    • Social institutions (family, religion, education, political and economic system)


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