Culture Essay

  • Last Edited: May 16, 2018
culture essay

This essay examines the meaning of culture and provides several possible titles and topics that may be used as starting points for developing a paper on culture. It discusses the definition of culture, how culture is developed, and how cultures change. It shows how cultural identity and cultural differences are formed and how culture diversity is a fact of life. It also explains why in spite of diverse cultures commonly existing in one group there is usually a dominant culture that comes to the fore and is promoted by the leaders of the group. The essay closes with recommendations for other ways in which a paper on culture can be written.

Culture is the heart and soul of a society, group or organization: it is the manifestation of what a particular set of people thinks, feels, believes in, and holds as ideal. It is the communication of what a people view as good and bad, right and wrong. Throughout history, various cultures have come into existence, shaped by politics, religion, philosophy, technology, and myriad other factors that influence people and perspectives.

Cultures can be creative. They can also be self-destructive. For instance, some businesses have exhibited a dangerous workplace culture that ultimately brought the company to its knees. Case in point is the now notorious object lesson that was Enron: a company whose leaders fostered a culture of hubris and get-rich-quick scheming that inevitably led to the corporation’s spectacular blow-up (Mclean & Elkind, 2004). This essay will define culture, discuss culture identity, culture diversity, cultural differences, and explain why culture is important.

Titles

  • Cultivating a Good Culture
  • Culture Wars: The Battle for the Mind, Heart and Soul in the 21st Century
  • Where Do We Go From Here? The Crisis of Multiculturalism
  • Cultural Values: Identifying What Matters Most to Most People
  • Culture and Tradition: At the Crossroads

Topics

  • Modern culture, medieval culture, and ancient culture: A comparison
  • Aspects of Western culture that reveal a conflict at the heart of society
  • Why culture is vital and why what is vital has to be better understood
  • How to cope with competing cultures
  • Where does culture come from?
  • Why art, politics, religion, economics and labor are all manifestations of culture

Outline

I.  Introduction

a.  Brief definition of culture

b.  Brief overview of how cultures have developed to bring us to the present day

c.  Thesis: As culture is the expression of what is in men’s hearts, minds and souls, taking the measure of a given culture at any point in time will allow show the health of the hearts, minds and souls of those who effect that culture.

II.  What is Culture?

a.  Culture shows the heart, mind and soul

b.  Culture changes over time because life is not static

III.  Culture Identity

a.  That which defines the group

b.  Can be more than one factor

c.  Factors can be complementary

d.  Factors can be contradictory

IV.  Culture Diversity

a.  Diversity is a fact of reality

b.  Diversity of culture is celebrated in the modern era

c.  However, multiculturalism is not an ideal that has been historically pursued

d.  In most societies or organizations, there is one dominant culture that people are expected to conform to

V.  Cultural Differences

a.  How cultures vary

b.  Why it is important to understand cultural differences

VI.  Why is Culture Important?

a.  It shows the inner life of the group

b.  It provides motivation for the group

c.  It leads to mindfulness

VII.  Conclusion

Essay Hook

When you think of music, what you eat throughout the week, where you work, how you work, what you worship, what you value, how you talk, how you think, how you act, what you do—you are meditating to some degree on your culture.

Introduction

Culture is the sum of all parts of a society, group or organization. It is the complex arrangement of beliefs, values, ethics, communications, and actions of a people, group, organization or society. Cultures have changed throughout time because of various influences—money, power, sex, philosophy, ideas, tools, revelation: all of these factors have played a part in shaping cultures in history. Whether one is looking at the culture of China in 1000 AD or the culture of Athens during the Peloponnesian Wars, one can gauge the mindset of the people by examining how the groups within these places responded to these variables. To understand humankind at any one point in time at any one place, one need only examine the culture of that place in that time.

Thesis Statement

As culture is the expression of what is in men’s hearts, minds and souls (Mahatma Gandhi Quote, n.d.), taking the measure of a given culture at any point in time will allow show the health of the hearts, minds and souls of those who effect that culture.

Body

Define Culture / What is Culture?

As character is that which describes a person, culture is that which describes a group. Culture is collective. It is that which emanates from society, from people coming together as one. But just as every individual is unique, with his or her own personal thoughts and feelings, every culture is bound to have its internal conflicts, tensions, and issues, especially as more and more different people join the group or interact with the group. Life is not static but is full of transitions and changes. Perspectives alter, thoughts transform. Depending on how the group deals with these issues will determine whether the culture thrives, changes, or dies.

Culture Identity

Culture identity is that which gives definition to a group and to the individual members of that group.  Culture identity also indicates the foremost variable or factor that an individual or group views as being most important in defining who the person is or what the group is all about.  For instance, a Catholic might identify his or her Catholicism as the basis of his or her culture identity.  An American might view his nationality as the most important aspect of who and what he is.  A Jew might view being a Jew as the main factor in determining his culture identity.  A hardened criminal might view the underworld as the biggest attribute……

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Culture Diversity

In any one group, organization or society there may be many different people of various backgrounds and cultures working together under one roof or in one community.  While an organization tends to promote a single culture within that it expects all of its workers to conform to, in society multiculturalism tends to be promoted in the modern era.  That means that cultural diversity is celebrated:  many cultures are taught in school and respect for all people of all cultures is taught to young students.  At least, that is the idea in theory.  The reality shows that multiculturalism makes it difficult for uniformity of ideals to be embraced across the board, whether one is talking about an organization or a community or a nation.  In general terms, different cultures may share similar ideals, such as freedom, human rights, and so on; but in terms of how these ideals are pursued or possessed, a great deal of difference will be manifest from one culture to another  based on the cultural background and history of the people concerned.  The more diverse an organization, community, nation or world is, the more likely there is to be conflict related to perspective, communication, expression, belief, comprehension, attitudes, ideals, and interactions.  This is one reason that understanding is so important in a diverse setting:  the more culturally intelligent one is, the more likely one will be able to bring people together and help them to collaborate and align them under one common goal or vision that they can all share.

Diversity of cultures is a reality in the modern world in most societies—but only to a limited extent.  For example, in Germany where many migrants from the Middle East have gone following the dreadful wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, there is now a conflict between two cultures—the Germanic culture and the culture of the Middle East.  As a result, the dominant culture (the German culture) is taking steps to educate the immigrants so that they can better integrate into the German culture (Bennhold, 2015).  Thus, while it might be politically correct to celebrate cultural diversity in the modern era, the need for control, unity, uniformity, and conformity so that all stakeholders—whether in an organization or in a community—are aligned with the same ethical system, values, principles, ideals and laws can quickly supplant the desire to be politically correct.  In other words, it might sound like a nice idea to celebrate diverse cultures, but the reality is that multiculturalism is only something that can be celebrated on the side:  unless there is one dominant culture that everyone is expected to accept and embrace, it will not be possible to maintain order within one’s group.

History shows this well.  For example, in the ancient Roman Empire, the Christian culture was suppressed by the pagan Roman emperors because they did not want competition or conflict among the people of Rome.  The leaders wanted one culture to unite the people—not two.  As the Christian and the pagan cultures were antithetical, they could not exist in harmony and thus one had to be embraced and the other punted.  Until Constantine took the throne, the pagan culture was promoted.  When Constantine came to power, he liberated the Christian culture and Rome punted the pagan culture of its ancestors (PBS, 1998).

In the modern era, it is no different.  With the Reformation in the 16th century, Europe began to crack up with competing Christian cultures pulling people in various directions at once.  The Catholic culture of the medieval era was set against the Protestant culture of the modern era.  Wars ensued and in countries like England and parts of Germany and France, the Protestant culture was embraced over the Catholic culture.  Europe itself was divided on the whole, with nations like Spain and Italy remaining firmly Catholic.  Fighting continued in spite of the temporary peace that concluded the Thirty Years’ War and by the 20th century, a new culture emerged to set aside the warring religious cultures:  the culture of secularism emerged in the West and the East, with political correctness as its driving expression (Chotiner, 2014).

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences will range from attitudes about religion to political expression to economic ideas to morality, art, music, and community norms. Some cultures will eat different foods than others. For example, the food in India is very different from the food in America—and so too is the approach towards religion where in India most people are Hindus whereas in America most people follow some form of Christianity.

Understanding cultural differences is helpful in bringing people together so that they can work as one whole unit. It does not mean that cultural differences have to be abolished so that everyone exhibits the same cultural expressions; it just means that cultural differences should be respected for the sake of getting along so that an important task can be achieved. This is typically the approach taken in organizations, especially global ones. As people of diverse backgrounds come together in the workplace to participate in projects, there is a need for leaders to be mindful of cultural differences so that they know the best ways to communicate to people of particular cultural backgrounds. As every culture has different attitudes and expectations, knowing what these are will facilitate the development of a group.

Why is Culture Important?

Culture is important because it is the expression of the interior life of the group. It shows what is really on the inside. Had Enron’s leaders examined more closely the workplace culture, they would have seen that a very problematic expression of the interior life was manifesting itself and they could have intervened to address the problems revealed by that manifestation. Understanding how culture is the measure of a group’s health allows leaders to take steps to support the group in ways that can make it more healthy if need be. It is no different from a nurse who examines a patient, identifies symptoms of illness and prescribes the appropriate intervention. The symptoms show what is going on inside the body. Culture shows what is going on inside the interior life of the group—i.e., the heart, the mind and the soul.

Culture is also important because as it is expressed externally it serves as a kind of reinforcement or motivator of the group’s ideas and ideals. A group will be able to look around itself and see how the culture is shaping up and as the culture develops, the group will take further cues from the culture being manifested around it. It is a circular pattern that is self-reinforcing. The culture springs from the inner life of the group and in turn informs the inner life of the group. The culture indicates the identity of the group and the group takes its identity from its culture. People are motivated by others and by the ideas that are projected in their environment, which is what culture is all about. The more that those ideas in their environment are pronounced the more impactful they will be on the inner life of the group. This is why controlling a culture is so important to leaders and to organizations: culture is the foundation upon which the inner life of the group is fostered (Hahtela et al., 2015). The more that people understand how they themselves influence culture and how culture in turn influences people, the more mindful they can be of their thoughts, words and actions.

Conclusion

Culture is the barometer of a group’s mental, physical and spiritual health.  It shows what people are thinking, are feeling, and how they are acting.  A work of art, for example, is a manifestation of the interior life of the people:  it reflects the way the group or people of a society see the world and themselves.  Art can be used politically or socially to communicate ideas and ideals, but it is always a reflection of the culture in so far as it is an expression of the inner life.  Likewise, food, language, religion, and politics are all examples of the ways in which culture is expressed.  Ethics, virtues, values, and morals are part and parcel of a culture—and they are important aspects of organizational culture as well as group culture.  Leaders pay particular attention to the culture that is being manifested by people because this shows whether the people have a healthy interior life or not.  Leaders, in this sense, are like nurses with an eye on the patient, ready to intervene to address the needs of the interior life based on the signs that the culture signals.  There can be many different cultures within one society or group and they can all be respected so that the group can get along and function properly, but usually there is one dominant culture that the leaders of the group want all to conform to at least publicly so as to facilitate unity and uniformity.

References

Bennhold, K. (2015). Culture shock in the promised land of Germany. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/18/world/europe/migrants-germany-culture-shock-in-the-promised-land.html

Chotiner, I. (2014). Secularism is good for America—especially Christians. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/116509/secularism-america-good-everyone-including-christians

Hahtela, N., Paavilainen, E., McCormack, B., Slater, P., Helminen, M., & Suominen, T. (2015). Influence of workplace culture on nursing‐sensitive nurse outcomes in municipal primary health care. Journal of Nursing Management, 23(7), 931-939.

Mahatma Gandhi Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/mahatma_gandhi_160857

McLean, B. & Elkind, P. (2004). Enron: The smartest guys in the room. NY: Penguin. PBS. (1998). The great appeal. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/why/appeal.html

Closing

An essay on culture can take many forms.  It does not have to focus so much on the theory of culture or on the meaning of culture.  Instead, one could write a descriptive essay on a particular culture of one’s choosing in order to explore how that culture manifests itself through art, music, language, religion, politics, economics, morality, ethics, food, sport, and so on.  One could draft an informative essay that explores the various facets of a culture that existed in the past or of a culture that exists today somewhere in the world.  One could write a compare and contrast essay, taking two cultures and identifying their similarities and differences.  One could write an argumentative essay in which one type of culture is argued to be better or more effective at achieving the common good than another type of culture.  One could write a research paper on how workplace cultures are affected by different styles of leadership or by different ideals and visions.  In short, there are endless possibilities when it comes to writing an essay on culture.

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