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Interactions and Culture Social and Cultural Interaction
Among people interaction two factors play an important role: (i) stability and (ii) matching (cf. marriages and divorces). Everyone would like to have a stable entourage made by matching people (e.g. same interests, culture, …).
Cultural animals, unlike social animals, don’t relate to each other only as individual. Their relationship is shaped by the broader social network. This make a crucial difference between social and cultural animals: merely social animals essentially interacts on a onetoone base.
When two cultural animal interact there’s always the presence of a third party, i.e. the culture as a whole (e.g. laws, rules, norms, … and other manifestations of the collective are present to constrain the interaction). Various kind of interaction
Onetoone interactions (sex, fighting, playing,…) are transformed in humans because of our belonging to a culture. The collective penetrate the dyad to shape and organize it.
Because of the group (and belongingness) an individual faces two main projects: (i) getting along and (ii) getting ahead. Four major form of human relations (Fiske)
1. Communal sharing: all members of the group own and use everything. (Work well with intimate relationships)
2. Authority ranking: subordination is transitive. (e.g. military)
3. Equality matching: everyone counts the same and expect to be treated the same. (pure democracy)
4. Market pricing: individual relationships are based on a broad network of relationships (the market) and everything is assigned some degree of abstract value. Selfishness and Social Conscience
Since morality operate on social bonds, nowadays law is its logical replacement because people interact more and more with strangers.
The operation of morality depends on guilt which is strongly linked to close relationships.
Guilt is one of the most interpersonal emotions.
People don’t break laws because of the fear of the consequences, but people are keen to continue making sacrifices insofar as they understand that the reward of living in a cultural society are immense. Life in modern society depends on an implicit contract (cf. Wittgenstein’s form of life). – The family
Historical and crosscultural finding allow to conclude that the core meaning of family is the parentchild bond, not the husbandwife one. The latter is at the core only in modern Western societies.
The parentchild bond is extremely durable. The Israeli kibbutzim and Soviet Union tried to rise children without the usual parentchild bond, but they soon had to renounce.
In farming societies children were indispensables. Later in industrial societies as well since they contributed to the family income and the subsistence of old parents. Marriage and family
The modern family took shape over centuries. People started getting married because of love rather than accepting parents arrangements. The husbandwife bond became an expression of emotional intimacy rather than an economic merge among families.
Children were a sound economical investment. No longer. This contributed to the decline of the family size.
Society has interest in sustaining families because they form a useful unit to take care of individuals and connect them to the broader cultural system. Sex
Unlike other species a sex act is filled with meaning: it can be an act of love, rebellion, an attempt to have a child, …
No unregulated sex among cultural animals
Dilemma: The main (sociocultural) danger of sex is trough intercourse (unwanted pregnancies/diseases). Could people be satisfied with halfway measures? If so society could tolerate say oral sex in premarital and extramarital activities. Unregulated sex
1. Unwanted pregnancies. This is highly costly for the society
2. Sexually transmitted diseases. In some African societies where all manner of sexual expression is encourage a third of the women end up sterile because of STD.
3. Sex can lead to violence. Some degree of sexual possessiveness is universal. This would threaten the primary relationship.
Not surprisingly culture uses morals and laws to regulate sex. Culture also influence sex in a subtle way. The sexual economy rests on the assumption that sex is a female resource and so men give women other resources to get sex. The price of sex
Increase/decrease with the men/women ratio (e.g. in society with high abortion of females premarital sex become rare and men may often sign for a permanent commitment before having sex, the rate of teens pregnancies goes up when there is a shortage of men because women must compete and the competition reduces the price of sex, fashion studies reveal that women wear shorter shirts when there is a competition for men.…).
In sexual economies women will have conflicting impulses, i.e. a chronic ambivalence between the desire en joy of sex and keep the price for sex high.
In modern Western cultures the pressure on women to restrain their sexual activity comes from other women. In some nonWestern culture surgical techniques to diminish women sexual desire is also reinforced by women (this typically occurs in society where women lack education, financial independence and their only asset is sex). Violence and Aggression
The control of violence is more imperative than the control of sex.
Aggression and sex are not on the same level: people want sex for its own sake while violence is done as a mean to obtain something else.
This means that it is difficult to link aggression to innate, biological basis. Much aggression and violence can be understood as a mean of resolving conflicts and external influence over others.
Why cultures oppose aggression?
1. Because aggression interferes with the social system. It disrupt the division of labor.
2. The essential purpose of culture is to increase the goods to satisfy people need. Violence, in contrast, decreases the total amount of value. What a perpetrator gains by violence is almost always less than what the victim loses (the magnitude gap). Culture promotes alternative ways of resolving disputes (we even have Culture promotes alternative ways of resolving disputes (we even have rules for war). War
Sometimes cultures use violence rather than just restraining it. This rests on the belief that societies can gain by resorting to violence. Societies compete as individuals do.
The meanings construed by the culture can form part of the context of human aggression. Sometimes aggression arises from these meanings.
Unlike animal whose battle is essentially among the two of them, human aggression is often influenced by third parties and by the broader culture itself. Help
Early theories (e.g. K. Lorenz) suggested that evolution would inevitably shape animals to be purely selfish.
These views overlook two factors:
1. natural selection is for genes, not for individual. So helping a relative may improve the prospect of that gene to survive and flourish.
2. the simple view of helping as merely opposed to selfishness assume that helping is purely a zero sum proposition. But helping may sometimes benefit both parties and therefore qualify as a nonzero sum form of interaction. If two individuals help each other, both may benefit in the long run (this is particularly important given the division of labor and various specializations). Another benefit of helping is that it makes feel good.
Another benefit of helping is that it makes feel good.
People helps people they don’t know (e.g. money to charities). Why?
Because people recognize others as belonging to a common community. This is facilitated by empathic identification. Hence culture plays a role, for the connection to the collective promotes a wider sphere of helping than nature alone creates.
People, unlike animals, intervenes when unfairness is at stake. For it violates the culture’s rules. Only cultural animals have that. Altruistic punishment
Labs experiments show that people are keen to give away part of their money to punish free riders. This seems irrational since people lose money and thus reduce their profit.
It has important effect for promoting cooperation. When free riding went unpunished people became stingier with their When free riding went unpunished people became stingier with their contributions to the group and more and more tend to become free riders. In contrast when free riding were punished, it tended to diminish over time and people collaboration increased among the group.
Since cooperative contributions produced the greatest return for the whole group, everyone was best of when free rider were punished.
Patterns of altruistic punishment are crosscultural.
The sense of common community also explains the rise of institutionalized helping in human cultures that dispense help when it is needed (e.g. redistribution of money/wealth). Mating and Relationships
Among many animals partnership based on sexual intercourse can be extremely brief or lifelong. This depends on the species. Among human we find all kinds of duration (from one night stand to lifelong faithful marriage).
Culture tends to promote monogamy (adultery was illegal in many places and periods). Most nowadays societies are monogamous. Power
Power entails that one person has control over another person’s outcome.
In social animals power is typically based on fighting and it is often accorded to the strongest male.
The dynamic of power changes as we move from merely social to cultural animals. Culture and Power
Cultural life has progressively extended power in some way (e.g. money) and restricted it in some other ways (e.g. we cannot anymore have slaves, husbands are not anymore entitled to have sex with their wife without consent, …).
Both extension and restriction involve transforming power from the single to the collective. Unlike wild horses even some king serve as a symbol for the collective.
The collective share of meaning allows the formation of rules preventing the abuse of power. Furthermore, power must rely on legitimacy.
The quest to bolster legitimacy is typically an ongoing process for those in power (e.g. the use of religion to justify their role) Groups relations
There is a hidden dimension intensifying the evolutionary push toward group life. Life in nature involves competition and groups can compete better than single individuals. Since an individual cannot compete against a group, once a group exist, groups are likely to exist everywhere.
Once groups exists anywhere, everyone must join the group, if only for selfprotection.
Nature probably prepared us to align ourselves with others and to square off against other groups.
Ingroup favoritism: even when people are assigned to the groups at random without necessarily having anything in common and the group would be only temporary, people favor member of their own group. Us vs. them. Problems with groups
1. Diffusion of responsibility. (e.g. if many bystander witness an attack, the victim is worth of as if few or only one witness it). 2. Free riders. (e.g. people tend to put in less work when they’re merged into a group than when they work alone).
3. Commons dilemma. Related to the lack of individual responsibility. (e.g. common grazing causing overexploitation, overfishing, ).
4. Poor performance of committees. Committee appear to work by focusing on what member have in common rather than the various perspectives each member can contribute, As a result the group is less than the sum of its parts. This partly because people dislike to disagree and aim at consensus. Groupthink tends to promote a superiority and derogatory view about the external world. ...
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This document was uploaded on 10/26/2011 for the course PHIL 3501 at Carleton CA.
- Fall '07