What is meant by the terms ‘culture’ and ‘subculture’? Why are the two different?
Culture is part of the
influences that impact the consumer. That is, culture represents
influences that are imposed on the consumer by other individuals.
The definition of culture offered in one textbook is “That complex whole which includes
knowledge, belief, art, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man
person as a member of society.” From this definition, we make the following observations:
Culture, as a “complex whole,” is a system of interdependent components.
Knowledge and beliefs are important parts. In the U.S., we know and believe that a
person who is skilled and works hard will get ahead. In other countries, it may be
believed that differences in outcome result more from luck. “Chunking,” the name for
China in Chinese, literally means “The Middle Kingdom.” The belief among ancient
Chinese that they were in the center of the universe greatly influenced their thinking.
Other issues are relevant. Art, for example, may be reflected in the rather arbitrary
practice of wearing ties in some countries and wearing turbans in others. Morality may
be exhibited in the view in the United States that one should not be naked in public. In
Japan, on the other hand, groups of men and women may take steam baths together
without perceived as improper. On the other extreme, women in some Arab countries are
not even allowed to reveal their faces. Notice, by the way, that what at least some
countries view as moral may in fact be highly immoral by the standards of another
country. For example, the law that once banned interracial marriages in South Africa was
named the “Immorality Act,” even though in most civilized countries this law, and any
degree of explicit racial prejudice, would itself be considered highly immoral.
Culture has several important characteristics: (1) Culture is
. This means that all
parts must fit together in some logical fashion. For example, bowing and a strong desire to avoid
the loss of face are unified in their manifestation of the importance of respect. (2) Culture
rather than being something we are born with. We will consider the mechanics of
learning later in the course. (3) Culture is manifested within
of acceptable behavior.
For example, in American society, one cannot show up to class naked, but wearing anything from
a suit and tie to shorts and a T-shirt would usually be acceptable. Failure to behave within the
prescribed norms may lead to sanctions, ranging from being hauled off by the police for indecent
exposure to being laughed at by others for wearing a suit at the beach. (4) Conscious awareness
of cultural standards is limited. One American spy was intercepted by the Germans during
World War II simply because of the way he held his knife and fork while eating. (5) Cultures
fall somewhere on a continuum between static and dynamic depending on how quickly they