Cultures are the shared practices, values, norms, and beliefs of individuals within a cultural community. Cultures are not rigid systems of logic or the clash of opposing classes, but rather a way of perceiving and acting upon the world around us. Cultures allow people from different backgrounds to interact within a common framework, thereby developing a sense of belonging and a commitment to a set of shared values and traditions. Cultures are a group of people who share a common heritage, language, history, tradition, and lifestyle.
There are many definitions of culture. The Oxford Dictionary’s entry for “culture” includes the definition as “the general attitude, outlook, and experiences of a people concerning their historical development and society”. In studying cultures as members of a group, we come to understand that each culture has its own strengths and weaknesses, which give rise to many variations within the group. In addition, there are differences in the norms of each cultural group, which also create differences in behavior and interaction between individuals within the same cultural community.
Cultures can be viewed as a group identity that transcends the barriers of race, nationality, or sex. There are four broad categories of cultural identities: ritual, universal, ethnic, and local. Ritual cultures are those that are widespread in most areas of the world and have roots that stretch back to early civilizations such as the Mayans and the Aztecs. People of these types of cultures generally practice social norms, and are highly structured by religion, region, and family relation. Ritual cultures tend to be highly materialistic, but at the same time value things such as honesty and social etiquette.
Universal cultures are those that are widespread throughout the world and share certain beliefs and attitudes, but tend to differ greatly in religion or belief systems. These cultures tend to value equality and fairness, and are not rigidly organized by religion. People of these types of cultures are generally open to new ideas and practices, but tend to be wary of changes in social norms. Because of the universal nature of these cultures, people tend to be open-minded, but not always willing to adapt to new ways of doing things.
Ethnic and tribal cultures are the last two types of culture. These cultures are highly localized customs and beliefs. These cultures are highly ritualized and their norms are based on the location of where the person is from. Different ethnic or tribal groups in a country may all have their own traditions and beliefs, but these traditions and beliefs are unique to their particular society culture. These societies tend to be isolated and do not participate in the norms of other cultures and may even be reluctant to acknowledge the existence of cultural differences.
The main idea behind cultural theory is that every human group has an innate set of cultural traits that are adapted over time to suit its environment. A minority culture is one that has been historically isolated from the rest of society, or one that has faced internal threats from its neighbors but is otherwise similar to the rest of the culture. Cultures are therefore not rigid categories; rather there are many different types of cultural systems existing in the world today. It is interesting to note that although all cultures share certain similarities, each culture has its own strengths and weaknesses that can be attributed to its history, geography, and environment. This makes it possible for cultural variation to occur without causing major political problems in the societies that share the cultural traits.