Culture and Change: An Introduction

Culture and Change: An Introduction

Culture and Change: An Introduction

Culture and Change: An Introduction

Excerpt

Few topics generate as much discussion among people as do culture and change. Today, one cannot open a newspaper or journal, watch a movie or television program, go to work or school without being confronted, directly or indirectly, with these topics. When not reading about a nation-state, regional, ethnic, minority, organizational, or special interest culture or conflict, people are reading about environmental, biological, demographic, technological, global, social, economic, or political change related to, or pressuring for still more change in, their cultures, communities, and lives. Socioeconomic and sociopolitical changes throughout the former USSR and other Eastern Bloc countries have focused the world's attention on culture, change, diversity, and multiculturalism in dramatic fashion. Suddenly, the United States is not the only nation-state to exhibit significant ethnic and racial diversity. There has been a consistent message that disappearing resources, overpopulation, waste, poverty, deforestation, global warming, ozone depletion, hunger, and other global problems threaten our continued existence unless some changes are made in our beliefs and practices. The small-scale or "primitive" cultures of our world continue to disappear at an alarming rate as they are assimilated into the various nation-states. Technology continues to change at a rate and volume perhaps unprecedented in human history. The development of a "world culture" seems assured as the money-dominated market-exchange economic system spreads throughout the world. The rate and scale of the changes now being experienced by people the world over is nearly overwhelming. In addition to the constant barrage of information on change occurring in our world, people everywhere are being asked to change some aspect of their lives or to bring about some change in the lives of others.

From its beginnings, the discipline of anthropology has been concerned with culture and change, focusing as it does on the origins, nature, and development of humans and their cultures. Culture is a central concept of anthropology, perhaps its cornerstone, and lies at the heart of questions about what it means to be human.

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