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Material And Non Material Culture Essay Topics

Culture consists of both material culture and non-material culture. Thoughts or ideas that make up a culture are called the non-material culture.[1] In contrast to material culture, non-material culture does not include any physical objects or artifacts. Examples of non-material culture include any ideas, beliefs, values, norms that may help shape society.


Language is one way humans are able to communicate, making it possible for people to share thoughts and opinions with one another. This type of communication impacts the formation of culture.There can exist variations in one language within sub-cultural groups.

Language and culture are closely tied together and can affect one another. One example of culture shaping language is the case of the Pirahã people. Their lack of words for numbers makes it impossible for them to have complex mathematical systems in their culture.[2] This could be a result of their cultural requirements: because they have no need for extensive mathematics, there would be no need for them to form number words.[2] The formation of American slang can also serve as a reflection of culture and has changed as American culture developed. For example, as people began speaking out in defense of homosexuality in the 1960s, vulgar language and slang became more acceptable to use and began to be included in dictionaries.

The theory based on the works of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf holds that language actually limits and shapes how people see the world around them. This theory of linguistic relativity would indicate that language alters and restricts the formation of language.


In his 1973 book, The Interpretation of Cultures, anthropologist Clifford Geertz refers to culture as "a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life,"[3] expressing the importance he placed on symbols in culture. Just like language, symbols form as a culture grows. People in a particular society attribute meaning to specific objects, and that imbued meaning transforms that object into a widely recognized symbol in that society. There can be symbols that cross cultural boundaries. For example, a cross is a universal symbol of Christianity, and is so universally known due to the prevalence of Christianity in different cultures. Though the first stop sign first appeared in Michigan in the United States,[4] the physical attributes are so well known in many different cultures due to its use in so many different countries. Some symbols meaning only to a particular cultures. In American culture, a white picket fence is a widely recognized symbol for a successful and happy suburban life.[5]


The culture that an individual is part of influences several aspects of that individual, including behavior. Through socialization, an individual will learn the values and norms inherent in their society and, in most cases, will behave according to those values and norms. Behavior is important because it can convey the values of a society. For example, in Japanese culture, which depends on the "fundamental relatedness of individuals"[6] it is important to fit in with those around you and maintain harmonious personal relationships. Individuals in Japanese culture behave to avoid exclusion from society, putting flexibility, empathy, and self-restraint above expression of personal thoughts and opinions.

Behavior can also have an impact on a culture. This can be seen in the caste system in India. In higher caste levels, it is customary for an individual to follow Sanskritic customs.[7] Those in the lower caste levels take on this behavior in order to move up in the caste system. This type of behavior has had an influence on Indian culture: the numerous lower caste individuals participating in Sanskritic customs helped spread those customs all throughout India.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Gerber, Linda (2011). Sociology. Toronto: Pearson. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-13-700161-3. 
  2. ^ abEverett, Daniel L. (2012). Language: The Cultural Tool. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 9780307473806. 
  3. ^Geertz, Clifford (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books, Inc. p. 89. 
  4. ^"The Evolution of MUTCD - Knowledge - FHWA MUTCD". mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov. Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  5. ^"White picket fences appease homeowners | TuscaloosaNews.com". 2015-09-02. Archived from the original on 2015-09-02. Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  6. ^Markus, Hazel R.; Kitayama, Shinobu. "Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation". Psychological Review. 98 (2): 224–253. doi:10.1037/0033-295x.98.2.224. 
  7. ^ abSrinivas, Mysore Narasimhachar (1952). Religion and society among the Coorgs of South India. Oxford, Clarendon Press. p. 30. 

Culture is the common denominator that makes the actions of the individuals understandable to a particular group. That is, the system of shared values, beliefs, behaviours, and artefacts making up a society’s way of life. Culture can either be represented fin form of material or non material culture. The definitions and specific traits of each of them are discussed below.

Material culture is a term representative of the physical creations made, used, or shared by the members of a certain society; it is the society’s buffer against the environment. The components of material culture are all the creations (objects) of the human kind and mind, for example, cars, faucets, computers, trees, minerals just to mention but a few.

The transformation of raw material into useable forms through the employment of knowledge is paramount in the achievement of material culture. For example, we make living abodes to shelter ourselves from the adversities of weather and for our own privacy at the basic level, beyond this we make, use, and share sophisticated, interesting and essential items relaying our cultural orientation.

For instance, the types of clothes one wears reflect so much into the culture we subscribe to like school, religion, or where the last vacation was spent.

Non-material culture on the other hand is the abstract or un-seen human creations by the society fashioned towards the behavioural influence of the said society. The components for the non-material culture include symbols, languages, values, and norms. For instance, the activities a society part takes like cricket in India, social institutions such as churches, schools, family, and so forth.

The use of language, the patterns of behaviour and beliefs, and values to it shape the direction of a society over time. Language in its influence on perception, values guiding what the society should be and norms forming the customs of the society.

Language in itself is the combination of symbols expressing ideas enabling people to think and communicate amongst each other, either verbally or nonverbally. Language helps in the description of reality, share experiences, feelings, and knowledge with other people.

The use of language enables the creation of visual images, distinction from outsiders thus maintaining societal solidarity and boundaries. It also serves as a unique tool in manipulation of symbols for the expression of abstract concepts and rules therefore creating and transmitting culture between generations.

The aboriginals for instance in their use of language confine to their society describing relationships rather than judging or evaluate. To them language shapes the reality in perception and experience indeed fronting the thought of neglecting some aspects of world traditionally viewed as important. Most of the aboriginal languages do not abhor the use of personal pronouns used to describe gender like he or she, with some amused by the western debate over whether God is a He or a She. For this, language is impact less on the world and reflects at the traditional acceptance of a certain region on the world map.

Language through preconceived ideas may reinforce perceptions about race and ethnicity in advancing the superiority of one a people against another.

The diversity of language in some parts of the world shows how it can influence the culture of the societies in such a country. Canada is one example of the diversities in language today with Aboriginal, French, and English speaking societies.

Language teaches cultural heritage and sense of identity in a culture. It also is a power and social control booster with perpetuation of inequalities between people, groups in that words can be used intentionally or not to gag people. The existence of hate in the Canadian society is one such scenario siring a lot of suffering in the country. The aboriginals lament on the assumption of the English language as a source of power and prestige citing the lack of movies in their language while the former has the lions share in the film business.

Language contributes a great deal in the advancement of the material and both the non-material cultures. Materially in that, the movie business is geared at economically empowering the culture of the English and non-materially in teaching the same on their heritage and identity.

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