What is Culture? 20 Definitions from Sociology

What is Culture? 20 Definitions from Sociology

What is culture? This blog post explores 20 different definitions of culture from sociology, along with the authors who proposed them. We will discuss the different aspects of culture that these definitions highlight, and how they can help us to understand the complex and diverse ways that people live their lives.

Culture is a complex and multifaceted concept that has been defined in many ways by sociologists and other social scientists. In general, culture can be understood as the shared beliefs, values, norms, and practices of a group of people. It encompasses everything from the way people dress and eat to the way they think and feel.

20 definitions of culture from sociology, with the authors who proposed them:

  1. Edward Tylor (1871): Culture is "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."
  2. Bronislaw Malinowski (1944): Culture is "the sum total of the ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another."
  3. A. L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn (1952): Culture is "a historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life."
  4. Clifford Geertz (1973): Culture is "a system of symbols and meanings that provides people with a framework for understanding and interpreting the world around them."
  5. Pierre Bourdieu (1977): Culture is "the structured and structuring set of dispositions that individuals acquire through their upbringing and social experiences."
  6. Jeffrey C. Alexander (2003): Culture is "the symbolic construction of social reality."
  7. Michel Foucault (1972): Culture is "a system of power relations that shapes the way we think and act."
  8. Sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault: Culture is a "habitus" or "discourse" that shapes our thoughts and actions.
  9. Harold Garfinkel (1967): Culture is "the way we make sense of the world."
  10. Erving Goffman (1959): Culture is "the presentation of self in everyday life."
  11. Geert Hofstede (1980): Culture is "the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another."
  12. Nancy A. Scheper-Hughes (1992): Culture is "the tissue of lived experience."
  13. Margaret Mead (1928): Culture is "the way of life of a people."
  14. Claude Lévi-Strauss (1963): Culture is "the science of symbols."
  15. Victor Turner (1969): Culture is "the social drama."
  16. James Clifford (1988): Culture is "the travel of meaning."
  17. Paul Rabinow (1986): Culture is "the laboratory of power."
  18. Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson (1997): Culture is "the location of politics."
  19. George Marcus and Michael Fischer (1986): Culture is "the production of difference."
  20. Timothy Mitchell (1988): Culture is "the invention of tradition."

These are just a few of the many definitions of culture that have been proposed by sociologists and other social scientists. There is no single, universally agreed-upon definition of culture, but all of these definitions share the common understanding that culture is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that shapes the way we think, feel, and act.


Culture is a central concept in sociology and other social sciences. It is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that is constantly evolving. By understanding culture, we can better understand ourselves and the world around us.

I hope this blog post has given you a better understanding of what culture is and how it has been defined by sociologists. If you are interested in learning more about culture, I encourage you to read some of the works by the authors mentioned in this post.


Thank You

Find your topic