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What Is Culture?

Culture is a set of beliefs, practices, and symbols that are learned and shared by people. It is a holistic, dynamic, and integrated set of behaviors that shapes people’s worldviews, their life paths, and their identities.

It includes knowledge, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people over the course of generations through individual and collective striving (Sir John Lubbock; Lucien Levy-Bruhl).

A core of culture is formed by values, broad tendencies for preferences of certain state of affairs to others: good-evil, right-wrong, natural-unnatural. Values may be consciously expressed or not; they are typically unconscious to most of those who hold them.

The outer layer of a culture is represented by symbolic objects and activities, such as symbols, heroes, and rituals. Symbols are words, gestures, pictures, or objects that carry particular cultural meaning but can only be recognized by those who share the same culture. Often new symbols develop and old ones disappear. Symbols are a powerful way for a group to communicate its cultural identity and to maintain the continuity of its traditions.

Symbols are also a way for individuals to recognize each other. They may represent a person’s status or role, a social position, or a relationship to the natural environment. Symbols are not only important in the everyday lives of members of a culture but also play an important part in political and social life.

They are important for establishing a sense of community and belonging, and they may provide guidance and protection from external threats, such as disease or war. They can also create bonds between individual members of a culture, and they can offer opportunities for learning.

These intangible aspects of a culture are often regarded as being more significant than their tangible or visual aspects. They can be considered to be the most essential aspect of a culture, and they are often the most difficult for outsiders to understand and appreciate.

The value of the intangible aspects of a culture is also often disputed, with some arguing that they are worthless and irrelevant, while others believe they have tremendous significance for individuals. The most common view is that they are a necessary component of a healthy society, and that any attempts to eliminate them would be harmful.

It is important to note, however, that although it may be the case that some forms of intangible cultural elements are valuable to an individual, there is no single set of intangible items which can be considered the core of a culture. It is important to remember that a culture can change in response to internal and external forces, such as environmental change or shifts in demographics, which is not always the case.

Moreover, while it is true that some forms of intangible cultural elements may be lost, it is not necessarily the case that this loss has to be regretted, as it might be the result of changes which benefit human rights or promote more inclusive cultural practices and norms.

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