This paper attempts to establish the difference between material and non-material culture. It
Material vs Non-material Culture
will also discuss the importance of culture as a tool for a country’s development with specific examples drawn from certain domains of life. Principally, the paper will begin with a brief introduction followed by definition of key terms before differentiating the concepts under study. This will be followed by a brief conclusion of key issues in the essay.
Torres (2008:81) defines “the way of life of a people. It includes their eating habits, dressing, mannerism and any other socially learned and transmitted behavior, Ideas, norms, values and beliefs”. All these factors are largely dependent on the kind of culture we belong to as the products of this culture. Material is defined as something used in making items or the substance used to make things. It is also referring to information such as facts, notes, and research used in the making of a book, movie, or other work, (Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation). Culture refers to the pattern of human activity and the symbols, which give significance to this activity. Culture is represented through the art, literature, costumes, customs and traditions of a community. Different cultures exist in different parts of the world. The natural environment greatly affects the lifestyle of the people of that region, thus shaping their culture. The diversity in the cultures around the world is also a result of the mindsets of people inhabiting different regions of the world.
Principally, the word culture has many different meanings. For some it refers to an appreciation of good literature, music, art, and food. Delia (2003) says culture for a biologist, it is likely to be a colony of bacteria or other microorganisms growing in a nutrient medium in a laboratory Petri dish. However, for anthropologists and other behavioral scientists, culture is the full range of learned human behavior patterns. The term was first used in this way by the pioneer English Anthropologist Edward B. Tylor in his book, Primitive Culture, published in 1871. Tylor said that culture is "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society." Of course, it is not limited to men. Women possess and create it as well. Since Tylor's time, the concept of culture has become the central focus of anthropology.
Culture is a powerful human tool for survival, but it is a fragile phenomenon. It is constantly changing and easily lost because it exists only in our minds. Our written languages, governments, buildings, and other man-made things are merely the products of culture. They are not culture in themselves. For this reason, archaeologists can not dig up culture directly in their excavations. The broken pots and other artifacts of ancient people that they uncover are only material remains that reflect cultural patterns--they are things that were made and used through cultural knowledge and skills. Studies of archeologists could be the sources of material culture while that which just exists in our minds is non material culture by contrast.
There is a clear difference between material and non-material culture. The non material aspects of any culture are its beliefs, customs, philosophy, patterns and ways of communication like verbal and non-verbal and its government. The material aspect of culture consists of the physical. These are houses, food items, factories, raw materials and technologies. Every culture is the product of this interaction between its' material and non material aspects, (Torres, 2008).
The other difference between material and non-material culture is that since culture is used in different contexts, it also gives the meaning to an object (material culture). For example, a ring might be just an artifact, but in a society where wedding rings are exchanged, it will be valued differently while non material culture might be difficult to handle.
The difference between material and non-material culture is that it is easier to change the material culture of any society than the non material part of it. This is because culture is a socially learned and transmitted behavior. Ideas, norms, values and beliefs are largely dependent on the kind of culture we belong to as the products of this non material culture. The non material aspects of any culture are its beliefs, customs, philosophy, patterns and ways of communication (verbal and non-verbal) and its government. The material aspect of culture consists of the physical. These are houses, food items, factories, raw materials and technologies. Every culture is the product of this interaction between its' material and non material aspects.
Another difference between material and non-material culture is that material culture is easily lost into cultural universals while non material culture is not. Material culture in culture universals refer to those learned behavior patterns that are shared by all of humanity collectively. No matter where people live in the world, they share these universal traits. Examples of such "human cultural" traits include: communicating with a verbal language consisting of a limited set of sounds and grammatical rules for constructing sentences. Using age and gender to classify people like teenager, senior citizen, woman, man). Classifying people based on marriage and descent relationships and having kinship terms to refer to them (e.g., wife, mother, uncle, cousin). raising children in some sort of family setting. Having a concept of privacy. Having some sort of leadership roles for the implementation of community decisions. Having rules to regulate sexual behavior. Distinguishing between good and bad behavior, (Torress, 2008).
While all cultures have these and possibly many other universal traits, different cultures have developed their own specific ways of carrying out or expressing them. For instance, people in deaf subcultures frequently use their hands to communicate with sign language instead of verbal language. However, sign languages have grammatical rules just as verbal ones do.
The importance of culture cannot be over emphasized. Culture is important as it gives a nation or individuals a sense of belonging and national heritage. The cultural values of a community give it an identity of its own. A community gains a character and a personality of its own, because of the culture of its people. Culture is shared by the members of a community. It is learned and passed from the older generations to the newer ones. For an effective transfer of culture from one generation to another, it has to be translated into symbols. Language, art and religion serve as the symbolic means of transfer of cultural values between generations.
Torres (2008) says the importance of culture is reflected in the sense that culture is a bond that ties the people of a region or community together. It is that one common bond, which brings the people of a community together. The customs and traditions that the people of a community follow, the festivals they celebrate, the kind of clothing they wear, the food they eat, and most importantly, the cultural values they adhere to, bind them together.
The other importance of culture is that it classifies people according to their dressing, appearance, speech and the general behavior. However, it should be noted here that culture and the society are not the same. While cultures are complexes of learned behavior patterns and perceptions, societies are groups of interacting organisms. People are not the only animals that have societies. Schools of fish, flocks of birds, and hives of bees are societies. In the case of humans, however, societies are groups of people who directly or indirectly interact with each other. People in human societies also generally perceive that their society is distinct from other societies in terms of shared traditions and expectations, O'Neil, (2006). There is a difference of opinion in the behavioral sciences about whether or not we are the only animal that creates and uses culture. The answer to this question depends on how narrow culture is defined. If it is used broadly to refer to a complex of learned behavior patterns, then it is clear that we are not alone in creating and using culture. Many other animal species teach their young what they themselves learned in order to survive.
Kroeber & Kluckhohn, (1952) says While human societies and cultures are not the same thing, they are inextricably connected because culture is created and transmitted to others in a society. Cultures are not the product of lone individuals. They are the continuously evolving products of people interacting with each other. Cultural patterns such as language and politics make no sense except in terms of the interaction of people. If you were the only human on earth, there would be no need for language or government.
The other importance of culture is that culture is seen as a system of social control, wherein people shape their standards and behavior. The cultural values form the founding principles of one’s life. They influence one’s principles and philosophies of life. They influence one’s way of living and thus impact social life.
The importance of culture lies in the fact that it is a link between people and their value systems. Read information about the different cultures of the world. O'Neil, (2006), Tylor (1974), Kim (2001), Kroeber & Kluckhohn, (1952) identifies the following as the impotence of culture. The first one is that culture Creates Identification. The culture and the values followed in a particular community display its own unique identity. By practicing a set of rituals and traditions, the community gains a unique character and personality, simply because of the culture of the people belonging to it. Being shared amongst various members of a community, the language, art, and religion serve as the major symbols of culture, thereby distinguishing it from other cultures in the society. Further, it is learned and passed on from the older generations to the newer ones, thereby keeping the culture alive and fresh. They also acknowledge that culture bonds People together. Culture is merely a bond or tie that keeps people belonging to a particular region or community together. Thus, people following similar rituals, customs, and values fall into one culture, thereby bonding them together. These include the festivals they celebrate, the kind of clothing they wear, the food they eat, most importantly, the cultural values they adhere to.
The other significance or importance of culture is that it establishes Principles. Culture is often viewed as an integrated system that controls the society. As such, people coming from a particular culture exhibit distinguished standards and behaviors. The cultural values that people inhibit form the founding principles of an individual’s life. Moreover, these cultural values highly influence a person’s principles and philosophies of life and one’s way of living. Thus, a culture is significant in affecting a human being’s social life.
Culture help people to stand up in a foreign Country. People who have seeped their cultural values and traditions in their lives display them in foreign lands as well. In today’s competitive world, most people migrate from their homeland to other countries in the quest of a better living. It is only due to their sustaining of the cultural values that they stay connected with their family and community, in particular. Further, they maintain their unique rituals and customs so that they do not mingle with the foreigners and lose out their traditions back home.
It can be concluded as pointed out in the paper that material culture refers to the physical objects, resources, and spaces that people use to define their culture. These include homes, neighborhoods, cities, schools, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, offices, factories and plants, tools, means of production, goods and products, stores, and so forth. All of these physical aspects of a culture help to define its members' behaviors and perceptions. Non-material culture on the other hand refers to the nonphysical ideas that people have about their culture, including beliefs, values, rules, norms, morals, language, organizations, and institutions. For instance, the non-material cultural concept of religion consists of a set of ideas and beliefs about God, worship, morals, and ethics. These beliefs, then, determine how the culture responds to its religious topics, issues, and events. However, when considering non-material culture, sociologists refer to several processes that a culture uses to shape its members' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Four of the most important of these are symbols, language, values, and norms. On the other hand, the paper also pointed out that the importance of culture is different ways. For example, it was clear that culture help people to stand up in a foreign Country and bond them together, it establishes Principles and creates Identification and that it gives a sense of belonging and national heritage.
Kroeber, A. L. and C. Kluckhohn, (1952). Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum
Kim, U. (2001). "Culture, science and indigenous psychologies: An integrated analysis." In D. Matsumoto (Ed.), Handbook of culture and psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press
O'Neil, D. (2006). Cultural Anthropology Tutorials, Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College, San Marco, California. Retrieved: 2006-07-10.
Torres, H. (2008). The Factors of Culture in Development. USA.
Tylor, E.B. (1974). Primitive culture: researches into the development of mythology, philosophy, religion, art, and custom. New York: Gordon Press.
Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation