Man is a social animal and the society to which he belongs dictates the way he leads his life. Sociology is that branch of study which throws light on the intricate theories of society and culture. Society is a group of people who reside in a particular region and share common beliefs and norms. Culture is the values, the people of a particular society share. As given in the text, if we consider the society to be a human body, then culture is the personality it exhibits. If a person chooses to live in a culture that is foreign to him, then he experiences a disorientation which can be termed as a culture shock. People sharing a common culture reinforce their standards through both positive and negative reinforcements. For instance, a donation to a charity is tax exempted in most countries and a theft is punished by imprisonment. In fact in some Arab nations amputation of hands is carried out as a punishment for theft. (Schiraz, 1997)
An important aspect discussed in our reading is the concept of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity is defined by the author as variations found in different cultures. Eating habits are perfect examples. The text discusses eating of dogs and rats in Korea. Some East countries also eat worms, snakes etc, which is frowned upon here in west. If diversity exists between cultures of different nations it is not much of a challenge, because if a foreigner is not aware of a local culture it is not held against him, and people of the local community try to educate him on their customs. But there are cases where a single society hosts many cultures. This is called cultural pluralism.
A society is termed multicultural when its culture comprises of many subcultures. Under multiculturalism, many different minority groups come together to constitute a single main culture, and despite this unification the individual groups retain their uniqueness. While cultural diversity in America is discussed at length in our text, there are various other countries, which too have a lot of diversity among its people’s culture. India is a stand out example of this difference. As Siapera says, with population of over one billion, India is not just the world’s largest democracy but culturally and socially the most diverse. (Siapera, 2010) It has more than 100 different languages and dialects and five main religions, but Indians have peacefully co-existed despite these differences. Even today different states of this country have retained the distinctiveness of their culture and carried on the cultural practices which are unique to their geography. For example, Pongal is a festival which is unique to the southern Indian state of Tamilnadu, and every January it is celebrated in the state with grandeur and the same people celebrate the national festival of Diwali, which is common to the entire country, with equal zest.
America as a pluralistic society comprises of people from various ethnic groups, who despite working together to accomplish common national goals and upholding the cherished American values have succeeded, in retaining the characteristics and values of their individual culture. When Columbus and his men landed in this continent, they did so firmly believing in the cultural superiority of the Europeans. (Norgren and Nanda 2006) So for many decades, the European culture (particularly the Anglo-centric culture,) was the dominant culture in this country and the Native American culture was gradually abolished from this land.
But the twentieth century immigrants are drastically different. They have embraced the pluralistic nature of the American century and they live by the common, established American ideals. Also the developments in the field of communications like the email, mobile phones and the affordable air travel facilities, have ensured that the immigrants do not lose touch with their parent culture. Thus, they retain their identity of their parent culture, in spite of blending with the American society. Thus today’s American society is well and truly a pluralistic society.
Asghar Schirazi (1997) The Constitution of Iran: politics and the state in the Islamic Republic London. New York: I.B. Tauris. P.223-4
Eugenia Siapera. (2010) Cultural Diversity and Global Media: The Mediation of Difference. John Wiley & Sons. Pg. 41.
Jill Norgren, Serena Nanda (2006) American Cultural Pluralism and Law. Greenwood Publishing Group. Pg. 4