What is Culture?
Updated: Mar 18
In discussions about what is ‘culture,' I often notice confusion and disagreement.
To me, a useful definition of ‘culture’ is what we have stored in our subconscious and share with others in a society, community or organization. It is this subconscious storage in the brain that largely shapes our behaviors: what we feel, think and observably do.
Trouble is that many anthropologists ignore how much our subconscious shapes our behaviors. They rather leave this consideration out of their frameworks of analysis, although the subconscious accounts for about 90% of all behaviors.
I like my definition because it helps us understand behavioral commonalities. If we want, for instance, to modify a behavioral commonality it is necessary to discover the root cause. And that is "culture" as I see it.
It opens our eyes for the need of subconscious learning in a community at the earliest stage. That is just after birth or, if you want, in the womb already. There is much scientific evidence on such processes.
But don’t expect quick results. The subconscious is hard to reach for any change.
Anyway, the definition of ‘culture’ that I appreciate is not related to the assembled fine arts, nor to higher education (Bildung). It also does not cover the assembled crafts and artefacts.
Neither does it include attitudes, motivations, intentions or worldviews. Nor does it include a religion or an ideology. And it does not include behavioral commonalities, including rituals and ceremonies.
All those things are not culture. All those things are shaped by culture, by culture as underlying causation.