chapter  3
43 Pages

Politics, Culture, and Social Processes

T.S. Eliot once observed that culture is made up of those things that make life worth living (1948). Culture in this sense refers to things we call “high taste,” or artifacts such as classical music, expensive art, or gourmet food. As sociologists, we understand that culture has both material and nonmaterial dimensions. For example, material forms of culture are displayed in museums and archives. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence on display in the National Archives in Washington, DC, are examples of highly symbolic forms of material culture, including the architecture of the temple-like National Archives building. Nonmaterial forms of culture include music played or speeches given on the Fourth of July to celebrate the principles in those documents. As the study of culture has grown in sociology, it has confirmed the fact that culture is essential to the functioning of society and its component social structures and groups.