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What is “Culture”?

We’re not talking about those weird little green things that appear on a petri dish, but the cultures created by human societies.

Albert Camus said “Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle.”

Culture defines how we live, eat, and recreate. Culture essentially defines our lives. It’s partly behavior – how a society creates a sense of uniqueness, belonging, and shared values and perceptions -but it’s also what a culture creates: specific forms of communication, etiquette, beliefs, and customs that define one society from another. Language, food, art, jewelry, clothing and entertainment styles are all elements unique to specific cultures, even if shared between them, they also become part of another culture as well. Baseball, a uniquely American sport, is now an aspect of Japanese culture too.

Societies also have “subcultures” that can add to the uniqueness and diversity of that culture, or reject, distort or openly oppose that element of culture. Subcultures can be benign , like the Amish, or disruptive and even dangerous, like the “Weather Underground” or the “Manson cult” of the 60’s and 70’s.

Just as the term “cult“ is a fragment of the word “culture”, cults are also “fragments” of the society that created it, so can a subculture also be an essential part of a the main culture, adding to the progress and production of a society and it’s culture; such as the “corporate culture” that drives businesses and manufacturing, or the “entertainment culture” that drives Hollywood and the entertainment industry. A society is the “petri dish of culture”.

Many have tried to define “culture”. Perhaps the best definition is the one by Philip Bock:

“Culture is what makes you a stranger when you’re away from home.”