The Role of Culture in Society

The Role of Culture in Society

Culture to a society gives people within that society a common collective consciousness and subjects to discuss about, that in turn shall strengthen the ties of people within that society, and make it more socially cohesive. It also gives people in that society a sense of collective identity, and a feeling of belonging to a place and/or a group of people larger than oneself.

However, one of the functions culture fulfills comes from the limitation of individuality under specific circumstances, which is also used in order to preserve the collective identity and cohesiveness. An extreme example would be a guy dressed up in an SS uniform in public in Israel. The Israeli culture would most likely condemn that man and preach to others that such fashion shouldn’t be followed in the country, because the holocaust is bad and anti-semetism is very harmful to the Jewish people.

That is an extreme example of how culture can encourage certain feats of its members, and condemn and shame certain other feats — and all in the name of the preservation of the societal identity.

Hence why culture, while it strengthen societal ties, can also limit one’s actions, and not always rightfully like in the example I just gave. Everything that is considered “weird” or “strange” in a culture, justified or not, will likely to be condemned by that culture and thus attempt to limit the range of actions of the individual, since the growth of eccentric activity is harmful to the preservation of the societal identity of which granted by culture.

A most common example to the limitations a culture attempts to force, is through the usage of the expression of “the fashion police” — some sort of an unofficial figure of authority telling people what they should wear and what they shouldn’t. It’s a sure thing to be condemned by individualists, because such authority has no actual right, nor the authority, to supervise our private wardrobes.

And thus we have the two-sided coin of culture — an “armorsmith” of the collective, and a “warden” of eccentric individuals and of those who chose less preferable paths.

Like in the official bodies of democracies, the notion of culture should not have a complete loss of control, as that would harm societal identity to societal people, but shouldn’t have complete control over everything in society, as that would harm those who are more of “black sheep” by nature. Hence why culture shouldn’t be followed at all costs, but shouldn’t be, either, completely abandoned, especially in modern times where people of the same culture are likely to be complete strangers to each other, in which culture fulfills the position of giving them something in common in the name of cooperation.


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© 2019 Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosopher