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[Xmca-l] Re: Thoughts on culture & liberty



Huw, I think there is an irreducible ambiguity and indeterminacy in the concept of "culture".
There are some very sound but quite different meanings.

For example, Franz Boas was the first person to use the word in the plural: "Cultures" and there can be no doubt that this concept, which designates a potentially self-contained whole of material resources, beliefs and forms of activity, is a useful and legitimate meaning.

On the other hand, some of us CHAT people confine the word "culture" to indicate the sum of all artefacts, including ephemeral artefacts like spoken words. But I use the term "constellation" rather than "sum" to indicate that the the culture is not just a pile of objects such as an archaeologist finds when they first dig up a site, but the specific meaningful relations between them all which makes them constitute a whole, that is, a culture in Boas's sense. (Again this distinction between mass noun and count noun!)

I think there could be reasonable definitions of culture in terms of activities only and in terms of beliefs only, but I think the concept of "culture" as something which one can have more or less of, is useful only in connection with individuals and their Bildung (i.e., a person's acquisition of and participation in the culture of their community). One could ascribe all sorts of adjectives to a culture, and maybe in an historical sense even the "loss" of culture - so I guess one just has to be open here.

Andy
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*Andy Blunden*
http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/


Huw Lloyd wrote:
I'm not sure if this is related to Paul's inquiry.

I have been considering some of the fundamentals and prerequisites for
developmental education and related issues.  In his articles, Vladimir
Zinchenko refers to culture as that which fosters (and stimulates)
psychological development.  It seems to me that Zinchenko includes "liberal
relations" within this remit, e.g. to delegate responsibility and authority
in equal measure, relations of trust, zpd dynamics, an open regard for
possibilities and encouragement for independent thinking -- the sort of
interpersonal regard that may be summed up as a regard for liberty.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but are these relations not the essence of culture
as opposed to, say, the man made parts of the environment or the collective
memories of a society etc?  For example, does it make sense to describe a
dogmatic society, or a institution run by administrators, as a culture?
Might it not, actually, be more correct to describe it by its relative
absence of culture?

Huw