Culture Definition

The term culture, which comes from the Latin cultus, refers to the cultivation of the human spirit and the intellectual faculties of man. Its definition has been mutating throughout history: since the time of the Enlightenment, culture has been associated with civilization and progress.

In general, culture is a kind of social fabric that encompasses the different forms and expressions of a given society. Therefore, the customs, the practices, the ways of being, the rituals, the types of clothing and the norms of behavior are aspects that are included in the culture.

Manifestations of culture can be seen in museums.

Another definition states that culture is the set of information and skills that an individual possesses. For UNESCO, culture allows human beings the ability to reflect on themselves: through it, man discerns values ​​and seeks new meanings.

  • Abbreviationfinder: Find definitions of English word – Canadian. Commonly used abbreviations related to word are also included.


Depending on the analytical approach followed, culture can be classified and defined in various ways. For example, there are scholars who have divided culture into topical (includes a list of categories), historical (culture as a social heritage ), mental (complex of ideas and habits), structural (patterned and interrelated symbols) and symbolic (meanings arbitrarily assigned that are shared by a society).

Topical culture clearly differs from historical culture, which allows us to reflect on and understand the affective and effective relationship that exists between each group of people and their own past. His study is based on the events of our history taking time as a parameter. As it is not limited to the observation of historical literature, this type of culture encompasses more than historiography.

The dance, among the cultural traditions of a people.

Within the concept of topical culture we must include customs, beliefs, religion, traditions, forms of behavior, festivals and society, among other topics. The study of it gives us the possibility of grouping the different types of knowledge into well-defined topics that are taken independently: the economy and social organization are two clear examples.

Symbolic culture

With regard to symbolic culture, we can add that it is about the ability that human beings have to incorporate the traditions of each generation and share them with the next. Its name is due to the fact that these elements that are transmitted, which revolve around behavior, are not material. Other fundamental points of symbolic culture are values ​​and norms, both strongly linked to groups of people and impossible to apply to everyone.

Culture can also be differentiated according to its degree of development: primitive (those cultures with little technical development and that do not tend to innovate), civilized (it is updated through the production of new elements), pre-literate (it has not incorporated writing) and literate (uses both written and oral language ).

The culture industry

Finally, it should be noted that in modern capitalist societies there is a cultural industry, with a market where cultural goods are offered subject to the laws of supply and demand of the economy. Although in its origins it was mentioned in this way, it is currently used in the plural, cultural industries. It encompasses the creation, demonstration and distribution of cultural goods and services.

In everyday parlance, the term culture is often misused to refer to a person’s level of education, both to criticize them for not having risen high enough and to congratulate them on the contrary. Sentences like “ But what a lack of culture! » or « It is obvious that he has a lot of culture » are not correct, because we all have culture, we are immersed in one that corresponds to us from the moment we are born.