The smallest, indivisible unit of culture is called an element of culture. In material culture, such an element will be some deeper indivisible object, for example, a nut, in immaterial – shaking hands as a part of the ritual of greeting. There are thousands and thousands of such units in any culture.
As a rule, cultural elements do not exist independently, without connection with other elements; usually many elements of culture are interconnected. The totality of cultural elements that have arisen on the basis of some initial element and functionally related to it, is called a cultural complex. For example, a sport game (football) is a cultural complex. It includes both material elements (ball, gates) and non-material (the rules of the game, the ethics of refereeing). The unification of several cultural complexes creates a cultural institution (family, school). For example, the institution of marriage includes cultural complexes of dating, church weddings and weddings, etc.
Among the cultural elements, the basic, or main, elements are notable. The basic elements of spiritual culture include:
The language is the conceptual-logical and symbolic-symbolic apparatus, which is inherent in the worldview of a particular people. All people master the world, comprehend, fix its elements and occurring changes in their own way, a bit different from others. A human being structures and perceives the world around him or her through the conceptual-logical apparatus. It is the language that is the most capacious, accessible and accurate way of transferring culture from person to person, no other methods have been found.
The values lie in the foundation of culture. Different cultures differ primarily in a different set of values. In this set, the basic values that determine the content of culture and the way of its bearer’s life are distinguished. The function of basic values is the protection and preservation of the social group integrity - the bearer of this culture (patriotism, faith in God, etc.).
The opposite (or incompatibility) of basic values hinders the interaction of cultures and the perception of even non-basic values and behavior patterns. For example, the work of women in the manufacture or their participation in public life is a perfectly normal phenomenon in the life of European countries, in Russia, the United States, etc., but it is condemned in most Muslim countries, since such a European basic value as gender equality is contrary to the fundamental values of Islam.
However, there are values common to all cultures and peoples, so-called universal (respect for elders, caring for children, etc.). On the basis of such values the interaction and mutual enrichment of cultures, cultural assimilation is possible.
A value is any object that can satisfy a social or individual need. The system of values of a social subject can include the following values:
- life-purposal (concepts of good and evil, happiness, purpose and meaning of life, etc.);
- universal, which, in turn, are divided into:
a) vital (life, health, personal safety, welfare, family, education, qualifications, etc.);
b) public recognition (high social status, hard work, etc.);
c) interpersonal communication (honesty, kindness, unselfishness, etc.);
d) democratic (freedom of speech, conscience, national sovereignty, etc.).;
- particular (attachment to the "small homeland", the family, as well as all kinds of fetishism (faith in the gods, the pursuit of ideals, etc.).
The value system is extremely important for a person: the value system is a kind of program of activities and communication associated with the choice of behaviors that would make this activity and communication successful. Values are developed by society in the process of socio-historical activity and are transmitted by individuals and subsequent generations in the process of education, upbringing, etc. They orient the person in the social reality, direct and stimulate his or her activity. The process of values assimilation occurs in the course of the individual’s socialization.
Values are the basis of social assessments, i.e. shared by most people's notions of what is good, beauty, justice, happiness, etc. Values indicate what is the most important thing in culture that should be respected and preserved.
The way of consolidating and preserving the cultural values are cultural norms.
The cultural norm is a rule, a model, a standard of proper behavior in accordance with generally accepted values.
The norm is mainly used to regulate people's behavior. The norms contain a requirement to act in a certain way. Various forms of coercion provide their enforcement and prescription, from public to state.
A set of norms forms a normative system.
The main types of normative systems include: custom, morality, religion, law.
Let us dwell in more detail on custom and morality.
Custom is a spontaneously formed, habitual, stereotyped way of people's behavior. It regulates the behavior of the group members, strengthens group cohesion, brings the individual to the social and cultural experience of the group.
Examples of customs are wedding, celebrating the New Year, going on a visit, etc. Compliance with the norms of custom is ensured by the power of the public opinion - we behave as prescribed by the custom, without asking ourselves why it is necessary to behave in this way, and not otherwise. The implementation of ordinary norms is often expressed in rituals and ceremonies - a strictly defined sequence of symbolic actions that embody certain social phenomena.
Ceremonies accompany the most important moments in a person's life – the birth (christening, the registration of a newborn into special civil status books), adulting (initiation), the creation of a family (church marriage or marriage registration), death (civil funeral, burial). The social meaning of the ritual is to promote the best assimilation of group values and norms by the individual, and the strength of the rite lies in its emotionally psychological impact on the individual. This is what the aesthetic side of the ritual is aimed at - music, songs, dances, expressive gestures, etc., accompanying ritual actions.
It is not only the religion that the ritualism is connected with. Actually, ritual actions are common in all spheres of social reality: military oath, students’ initiation, the opening of a monument, the inauguration of the president, etc.
A variety of custom are morals.
Morals are especially valued for the group venerable customs, which have moral significance.
The word "mores" is also of ancient Roman origin, it meant "sacred custom". It is from it that the concept of morality occurs.
Morality – the complex of cultural norms, which are based on the ideals of good, fairness, honesty, etc., inherent to the culture.
For example, the custom of celebrating a birthday does not refer to morals, and the custom of hospitality refers.
A special form of morals is taboo - an absolute prohibition imposed on any action, subject, word. Tabooing (the process of imposing taboos) was widespread in archaic societies, it protected the group from various dangers. But in modern cultures, taboo has not disappeared. Tabooed are the individual parties of blood relations - for example, the prohibition of incest (marriage and sexual relations with relatives), the process of nutrition - the ban on cannibalism, the ban on eating of pork for Jews and Muslims,
The custom that is preserved and transmitted from generation to generation is called tradition (from the Latin tradicio - transmission, tradition).
Tradition is a way of reproduction, the transmission of the main content of culture - values and norms – from one generation to another.
Traditions retain all the most valuable in culture. The mechanisms of such transfer are folklore, i.e. oral tradition, and imitation, i.e. repetition of the pattern of behavior. Adequacy is achieved through repeated repetition of simulated actions, and that is the great role of rituals.
In pre-industrial societies, the majority, and in pre-literate all the content of culture was transmitted through tradition. With the invention of printing, the creation of libraries, universities, the invention of radio, television, i.e. the creation of fundamentally new carriers of information as a result of technological progress, the cultural significance of traditions in the life of society began to decline. While in pre-state societies custom acted as the main form of regulating people's behavior, in the future, with the development of society, the main role played institutionalized systems, for example, law.
The importance of traditions for the life of society is great. In society they act, like heredity in a living organism. And just like the violations in the apparatus of heredity can lead to the death of the organism, the cultural destruction and loss can lead to the degradation of society. Traditions accumulate the cultural experience of all previous generations and pass it on to their descendants, which allows them to build their life from the place where the ancestors stopped.
The cultural tradition interrupting (as a result of natural disasters or wars) leads the society to decline. The loss of traditions means the loss of social and historical memory, as a result of which people stop feeling themselves a subject of history, just as a person who has lost his memory stops feeling himself a person.