What is culture definition elements types characteristics

Meaning of Culture

Culture refers to the set of material and spiritual goods of a social group transmitted from generation to generation in order to guide individual and collective practices. It includes language, processes, ways of life, customs, traditions, habits, values, patterns, tools and knowledge. culture definition

The function of culture is to ensure survival and facilitate the adaptation of subjects in the environment.

Each culture embodies a worldview in response to the reality that the social group lives . There is, therefore, no social group devoid of culture or “uneducated”. What does exist are different cultures and, within these, different cultural groups, even with respect to the dominant culture.

The term culture is also used in restricted senses , either to refer to the values ​​and habits that govern specific groups, or to refer to specialized fields of knowledge or activity. In both cases, the word culture is always accompanied by a qualifying adjective . culture definition

For example:

  • political culture : “Our country suffers from a messianic political culture.”
  • organizational culture : “Our organizational culture is based on helping people.”
  • physical culture : “The school must provide physical culture to children.”

Origin of the term culture

The concept of culture has varied throughout history. In its etymological origin , the word culture comes from the Latin cultus which means “cultivation” or “cultivated”. This term is the past participle of the word colere which means ‘cultivate’.

In the Middle Ages, culture designated a cultivated land. In the Renaissance the idea of ​​the “cultivated” man appeared, that is, someone instructed in literature and fine arts.

From the 18th century, the term culture began to be systematically used to refer to enlightened knowledge. In the nineteenth century culture also encompassed good manners and customs.

With the development of social sciences in the twentieth century, the sense of culture has been expanding, until we find what we attribute today. culture definition

Elements of the culture

Every culture is made up of a set of basic elements. The most important are the following:

  • Cognitive elements: refers to the knowledge accumulated within a certain culture for survival against nature and adaptation within the social group.
  • Beliefs: covers the set of ideas that the cultural group establishes about what is true or false . It is linked to the value system.
  • Values: these are the criteria that serve as role models, since they guide those that are considered acceptable and unacceptable principles and attitudes to guarantee the continuity of the group.
  • Norms: these are specific codes of action that regulate the relationship between individuals based on shared values. It includes the sanctions system . There are two types of rules:
    • Prescriptive rules : indicate the duties and obligations.
    • Proscriptive rules : indicate what should not be done. culture definition
  • System of signs and symbols: are all arbitrary and conventional communication resources used by the social group to transmit messages. We can mention language , writing , graphic signs and symbols .
  • Non-normative forms of behavior: they are those behavioral traits that differentiate one social group from another, even within a shared culture. It is what is called idiosyncrasy .

 Different types of cultures

There are different types of cultures that depend on their nature, in which we can see some important ones:

  •  social group . This culture is the most general, it is based on the values, traditions, ethics and morals that a particular social group has, and they are governed when it comes to understanding the world around them.
  • Political  . It means that relationship and understanding that a certain society has within the political world, its way of approaching economic, social, etc …
  • Sports  . It is based on relationships between athletes and with the sport itself, where there are a number of cultures or rules (some not written) that explain this relationship.
  • Environmental  . It is based on the relationship that human beings have with their ecosystem, whether based on recycling, environmental care, etc … culture definition
  • Family  . It is based on that culture that contains the closest values ​​and customs within the family circle.
  • Work  . It consists of those customs, values ​​and hierarchies that are typical of labor relations.
  • Personal  . It is characterized by having characteristics and values ​​of each person.


All cultures are characterized by sharing a series of elements, among which we can point out the following:

  • they cover all human practices ;
  • arise in opposition to nature (instinct vs. knowledge);
  • they represent a worldview ;
  • they express themselves symbolically ;
  • provide social order ;
  • its survival depends on communication ;
  • consolidate traditions ;
  • they are dynamic , that is, they transform;
  • they are more or less open , that is, they are susceptible to the influence of other cultures. Therefore, they are subject to processes of culture definition

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