Identifying American Culture
We’re moving towards defining ideology. I’d like us to take the time to think about, consider, and, eventually, post to the forum (later–not today), thoughts on “American Culture.” As the definitions of “culture” mention, culture is defined by shared values, beliefs, and behaviors of a group. Although we can’t make universal statements regarding the essential features of every member of a culture, we can point to some prevailing cultural values and not absolute, universal beliefs.
Keeping with the idea of postmodernism, we’ll have to address the plurality of values based on the fact that there are multiple groups with multiple conditions, myths, and (common) experiences.
And what of the individual’s values…
With a partner (or small group of 4-5), I want you to come up with an American value and discuss it for the next few minutes.
- Identify an American value–define it.
- Is it hegemonic–a value of the dominant group? Note: A value of the dominant group may “trickle down” to be a value held by the masses. Additionally, groups, such as the middle class, may have values that can be said to be prevalent and, therefore, dominant in a culture.
- Consider the middle class ideal of a “good education.”
- What about the middle class value of a “home in the suburbs”?
- Defend why the value is American (it could also be a value of another culture).
American Values Images
Below are some American values with images for our disucssion.
- Manifest Destiny (Game)
- John Gast’s American Progress (1872)
- American Engineering Progress (Golden Gate Bridge)
- Instant Gratification
America’s idea of civilization is tied to technological advancement and scientific application (esp. medicine).
Studying Culture Requires a Humanistic Approach
This class is going to take a different approach to science and technology. Instead of explaining how something is constructed or applied, we’re going to consider the value humans place on science and technology. The key word in any definition you find on “culture” will be shared–or a synonym. Without the concept of sharing values, attitudes, and assumptions, there would be no culture(s) and no society(ies). We will often point to big-picture values that are prevailing in a culture but not universal. Also, there isn’t just a single American or Western culture. Although we can point to common values shared across so-called Western cultures, we cannot assume there’s uniformity among participants.
For instance, what does it mean to have freedom? Are you free to do what you want? Are you free to do as you please in your job as long as you finish your work? What do we mean when we regurgitate that “Americans have the most freedom of any group in the world”?