The Building of Cultures

The Building of Cultures

The Building of Cultures

The Building of Cultures

Excerpt

The term culture has come to be used by anthropologists, sociologists, and others as a designation for that totality of a people's products and activities, social and religious order, customs and beliefs which, in the case of the more advanced, we have been accustomed to call their civilization. We speak of Egyptian, Greek, and Chinese, or of European or American civilization, for we regard these peoples and ourselves as civilized in contrast with the great mass of uncivilized, barbarous, and savage peoples. But these latter have, as a matter of fact, their own cultures, "civilizations" as definite and characteristic as those of their more favored relatives. Indeed, the Eskimo or the Australian aborigines, the Mongol, and the Congo Negro exhibit a far greater individuality in their modes of life, customs, and beliefs than did the Greeks and Romans, or than do the Italians, Germans, or English of to-day. Culture is thus a better term to use than civilization when we are discussing mankind as a whole, or comparing one people with another, for it carries with it no connotation of high or low, of advancement or degeneration, and may be used without prejudice in reference alike to primitive savages or to ourselves.

The culture of any people comprises the sum of all their activities, customs, and beliefs. These fall rather naturally into three main categories--the physical, the social, and the religious. The first of these--which the anthropologist is accustomed to speak of as comprising material culture, since it deals primarily with material things--includes such factors as food, dress, dwellings, implements, arts and indus-

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