Delta State University
SOC 101: Principles of Sociology
Spring Semester 2005

Study Questions
Week 3

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Topic for the Week:  Culture: The Building Blocks of Society

Readings for the Week:

Society: The Basics
, Chapter 2

Sociological Footprints, Chapters 12 (Harris) and 13 (Buss)


(1)  What is meant by culture?  What is the difference between material and nonmaterial culture? 

(2)  What is a symbol?  What are some elements of symbolic culture?  Give three examples of symbols and describe how they vary between cultures.

(3)  Identify ten important values in U.S. society.  For each, give examples of how this value is expressed; that is, what behaviors might indicate that Americans hold each value as important.  Can you suggest other values in addition to those suggested in the book that represent American culture?

(4)  What is a norm?  What important functions do norms serve in society?  What is the difference between norms, folkways, and mores?  Provide one example of each drawn from your own experience.

(5)  Explain the relationship between technology and social change.  What characteristics distinguish social organization in societies with various levels of technological advancement?  For example, what is the basis of their economy (production, consumption), their politics (authority), their religion, their families, etc.?  How does each type of society perform in terms of social equality?  What is the basis of variation in social inequality?

(6)  What is a subculture?  Identify two subcultures in the U.S., and describe what characteristics distinguish them from mainstream culture.  What is a counterculture?  How does a counterculture differ from a subculture?  Identify two contemporary groups that fit the definition of counterculture.  How does the mainstream respond to these countercultural groups?  Why?

(7)  The U.S. is considered a multicultural society.  Why?  Has this always been the case?  What are some of the benefits of multiculturalism?  What are some of the drawbacks?  How might multiculturalism promote or discourage cultural integration?

(8)  What effect has technology had on culture?  Identify specific ways in which technology changes culture.

(9)  Define ethnocentrism.  What are some positive and negative consequences of ethnocentrism?  What is meant by the term cultural relativism?  How does cultural relativism relate to ethnocentrism?

(10)  What evidence is there of the emergence of a global culture?  What factors contribute to global culture?  Is global culture based primarily on material culture, nonmaterial culture, or both?  What arguments refute the existence of a global culture?

(11)  What distinguishes structural-functional and social-conflict theories of culture?  What are the drawbacks of each argument?

(12)  Do sociobiologists use the same definition of culture as sociologists?  Explain.