Explain Culture and its types also explain components and characteristics of culture.

(1) Introduction

Culture is one of the most important concepts of social sciences. Culture and society co-exist. They are inseparable. Culture is the center of the society and no society can exist and develop without its culture. The study of human society remains incomplete without study of its culture.

(2) Definition Of Culture

(i) Complex Whole

Culture is that complex whole, which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits that are acquired by man as a member of the society.

(ii) way of life

Culture is the way of life, which is transmitted from of generation to generation.

(iii) Body Of Thought & Knowledge

Culture is the body of theoretical and practical thought and knowledge, which man can only possess.

(iv) Set Of Behaviour Patterns, Values, Assumptions & Experiences

Culture is a set of accepted behaviour patterns, values assumptions and shared common experiences.

(3) Types Of Culture

Types of culture are:

  • (i) Material culture
  • (ii) Non-material culture
  • (iii) Real culture
  • (iv) Ideal culture

(i) Material Culture

(a) Definition

Material culture refers to the physical objects, resources and spaces that people use to define their culture.


These physical aspects include homes, markets, cities, schools, colleges, universities, mosques, offices, factories, tools means of production, goods and products, shops, and so on.

(b) Explanation

Material culture can be explained:

  • (b-i) Behaviours & perceptions
  • (b-ii) Man-made
  • (b-iii) objects External, mechanical & useful objects
  • (b-iv) Products of human activity
  • (b-v) External & utilitarian
  • (b-vi) Human convenience
  • (b-vii) Progress of society
  • (b-viii) Fast change

(b-i) Behaviours & Perceptions

All of the physical aspects of material culture help to define its members’ behaviors and perceptions.


Technology is a vital aspect of material culture in the present world. Everyone is to learn to use computers to survive in his profession.

(b-ii) Man-Made

Objects Material culture consists of man-made objects.


Man-made objects are as furniture, automobiles, buildings, dams, bridges, roads and so on.

(b-iii) External, Mechanical & Useful objects

Material culture is closely related with the external, mechanical and useful objects.

(b-iv) Products Of Human Activity

Material culture consists of products of human activity or effort, which is concrete, tangible and observable. These products control human environment and make human life easy and comfortable.

(b-v) External & Utilitarian

Material culture is external and utilitarian.

(b-vi) Human Convenience

Material culture is invented for human convenience: it can be easily communicated and, therefore, makes human life more comfortable, luxurious and meaningful.

(b-vii) Progress Of Society

Material culture contributes to the progress of society.

(b-viii) Fast Change

Material culture changes faster

(ii) Non-material Culture

(a) Definition

Non-material culture refers to the nonphysical ideas that people have about their culture: these ideas include beliefs, values, rules, norms, morals, language, organizations and institutions.


Capitalism, Islam, education, democracy, worship, secularism and socialism are examples of non-material culture.

Non-material culture can be explained:

  • (b-i) Intangible & Abstract Things
  • (b-ii) Several processes
  • (b-iii) Internal
  • (b-iv) Slow change
  • (b-v) Aspects
  • (b-vi) Importance

(b-i) Intangible & Abstract Things

Non-material culture consists of intangible and abstract things.


Customs, values, habits, beliefs and language are intangible and abstract things.

(b-ii) Several Processes

Non-material culture refers to several processes that a culture uses to shape its members’ thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Symbols, language, values and norms are the most important processes.

(b-iii) Internal Non-material

culture is something internal and it does not have physical existence or shape. It cannot be seen and touched.

(b-iv) Slow Change

Non-material culture changes very slowly.

(b-v) Aspects

There are two aspects of non-material culture:

  • (x) Cognitive aspect
  • (y) Normative aspect

(x) Cognitive Aspect

Cognitive aspect deals with knowledge.

(y) Normative Aspect

Normative aspects consist of norms, rules and values,

(b-vi) Importance

Non-material culture is important because it helps to determine human behaviour and has a strong hold on an individual.

(iii) Real Culture

(a) Definition

The culture, which we follow in our social life, is real culture. Only a part of such culture is followed.

(b) Explanation

Real culture can be explained:

  • (b-i) Social life
  • (b-ii) Partial obedience
  • (b-iii) Example

(b-i) Social Life

Real culture can be observed in our social life. Only a part of such culture is adopted in social life.

(b-ii) Partial Obedience

The whole culture is never real because a part of it remains without practice: part of real culture is, in fact, followed.

(b-iii) Example

Islam is real culture for the Muslims. But it is not fully followed in social life by the Muslims: only some parts of Islam are usually followed.

(iv) Ideal Culture

(a) Definition

The culture, which is presented as a pattern or precedent to the people, is called ideal culture.

(b) Explanation

Ideal culture can be explained:

  • (b-i) Goal of society
  • (b-ii) Explanation
  • (b-iii) Partial achievement
  • (b-iv) Real culture
  • (b-v) Example

(b-i) Goal Of Society

Ideal culture is the goal of the society.

(b-ii) Explanation

Ideal culture is explained in books, speeches and so on.

(b-iii) Partial Achievement

Ideal culture can never be achieved fully because some part of it remains out of practice.

(b-iv) Real Culture

The part of ideal culture that is practiced in social life is called real culture.

(b-v) Example

Islam is ideal culture for the Muslim. The whole Islam is not followed in social life because some parts of Islam are not followed. Its part, which are followed, is real culture for the Muslims.

(4) Components Or Elements Of Culture or elements of culture are:

  • (i) Communication
  • (ii) Behavioural component/element.
  • (iii) Cognitive components/elements

(i) Communication

Communication is a component or element of culture:

  • (a) Language:
  • (b) Symbols

(a) Language

(a-i) Definition

Language is a source of communication and to transmit message from one person to another.

(a-ii) Explanation

This element of culture can be explained:

  • (x) Importance
  • (y) Emotions, thoughts, beliefs & knowledge
  • (z) Example

(x) Importance

It is an important element of culture: there can be no culture without language.

(y) Emotions, Thoughts, Beliefs & Knowledge

It is through language that human beings create, share, preserve and transmit emotions, thoughts, beliefs and knowledge

(z) Example

 Arabic, Urdu, Chinese and English are languages that are used in different cultures.

(b) Symbols

(b-i) Definition

A symbol is anything that carries a particular meaning that is recognized by the people, who share a culture.

(b-ii) Explanation

This component of culture can be explained:

  • (x) Importance
  • (y) Function
  • (z) Example

(x) Importance

It is an important element of culture: culture is a system of symbols.

(y) Function

Symbols condense very complex ideas, emotions and values into simple material forms.

(z) Example

¬†“V” is a symbol that is used for victory. And “cross” is the main religious symbol of Christianity.

(ii) Behavioural component/Element

Norms are behavioural component of culture:

  • (a) Definition
  • (b) Importance
  • (c) Types

(a) Definition

Norms consist of those rules of conduct and models of behaviour that are prescribed by a society.

(b) Importance

Norms are important because they keep a person within the boundary of society and its culture.

(c) Types

Types of norms are:

(c-i) Folkways

  • (c-ii) Mores
  • (c-iii) Taboos
  • (c-iv) Law

(c-i) Folkways

Folkways are social norms that govern everyday behaviour among members of a society.

(c-ii) Mores

Mores are those customs and group routines that are thought by the members of society to be necessary for the group continued existence.

(c-iii) Taboos

Taboos are negative mores: they forbid or prohibit certain behaviour patterns.

(v-iv) Law

Law is system of rules that a society sets to maintain order and protect person and property from harm.

(iii) Cognitive Components/Elements

There are some cognitive elements of culture:

  • (a) Definition
  • (b) Different cognitive elements

(a) Definition

Cognitive elements of culture are those element through which an individual-learn how to cope with an existing situation whether natural or social.

(b) Different Cognitive Elements

Different cognitive components are:

  • (b-i) Values
  • (b-ii) Beliefs
  • (b-iii) Ideas
  • (b-iv) Knowledge

(b-i) Values

(x) Definition

Values are general abstract moral principles that define what is right or wrong, good or bad, desirable or undesirable.

(y) Explanation

Culture is full of values, and values vary from society to society.

(b-ii) Beliefs

(x) Definition

Every sect within a culture having some beliefs for cultural refuge. These beliefs are responsible for the spiritual fulfillment of needs and wants.

(y) Example

Oneness of God, end of prophet hood, Holy Quran and day of judgment are beliefs of the Muslims.

(b-iii) Ideas

(x) Definition

Ideas are non-material aspects of culture and embody man’s conception fhis physical, social and cultural world.

(y) Explanation

Ideas are the basic units out of which knowledge is constructed and a word emerges.

(b-iv) Knowledge

Knowledge is the storehouse where representations, information, facts, assumptions, etc. are present.

(5) Characteristics Of Culture

Characteristics of culture are:

  • (i) Learned
  • (ii) Social
  • (iii) Sharing
  • (iv) Transmission
  • (v) Continuous
  • (vi) Accumulative
  • (vii) Integrated
  • (viii) Dynamic
  • (ix) Variable & Changeable
  • (x) Responsive
  • (xi) Gratifying
  • (xii) Relation with society
  • (xiii) Adaptive
  • (xiv) Pervasive

(i) Learned

Human being does not inherit culture biologically, but learns it from the company with others in the society.

(ii) Social

Culture develops in the society through social interaction. Human being acquires it by associations with other human beings. Therefore, it is not individual, but social in nature.

(iii) Sharing

The members of society share culture. It is not possessed by a single or some individuals. Rather it is shared by majority of individuals.

(iv) Transmission

(a) Transmission From One Generation To Another Generation

Culture is transmitted from one generation to another: it usually passes from parents to children.

(b) Transmission Among Members Of Society

Culture is also transmitted among the members of society.

(v) Continuous

It is continuous process. It is a continuous and spontaneous process. However, it never rernains constant.

(vi) Accumulative

Culture is not created in one day or one year. It gradually accumulates through centuries.

(vii) Integrated

Its various parts are integrated with one another and any new element which is introduced is also integrated.

(viii) Dynamic

Culture is not static. Rather it is dynamic. It undergoes changes. However, it changes with different speeds from society to society and generation to generation.

(ix) Variable & Changeable

Culture is variable and changeable. It varies and changes from society to society. It also varies within a society from time to time.

(x) Responsive

Culture is responsive to the changing conditions of physical world. It intervenes in the natural environment and helps human beings against all dangers and natural calamities.

(xi) Gratifying

Culture provides proper opportunities for satisfaction of our social and biological needs and desires. In fact, culture is a process through which human beings satisfy their needs and desires like food, clothes, home etc.

(xii) Relation With Society

Culture has very strong relation with society. No society can exist without its culture, and there can be no culture without its society.

(xiii) Adaptive

Culture is adaptive. Different aspects of culture adapt with new environment or challenges. In fact, it helps man to adjust himself in new or changing environment.

(xiv) Pervasive

Culture touches every aspect of life. Therefore, it is pervasive in nature.

(6) Conclusion

It can be finally stated that culture is dynamic. It is subject to slow, but constant change. It is a learned behaviour and, therefore, is not inherited behaviour. It is transmitted from generation to generation and from group to group.

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