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Culture systems

The anthropologist Leslie White (1900-1975) suggested that for analytical purposes, a culture could be viewed as a three-part structure composed of subsystems that he termed ideological, technological, and sociological. In a similar classification, the biologist Julian Huxley (18871975) identified three components of culture: mentifacts, artifacts, and sociofacts. Together, according to these interpretations, the subsystems-identified by their separate components-comprise the system of culture as a whole. But they are integrated; each reacts on the others and is affected by them in turn.

The ideological subsystem consists of ideas, beliefs, and knowledge of a culture and of the ways in which these things are expressed in speech or other forms of communication. Mythologies and theologies, legend, literature, philosophy, and folk wisdom make up this category. Passed on from generation to generation, these abstract belief systems, or mentifacts, tell us what we ought to believe, what we should value, and how we ought to act. Beliefs form the basis of the socialization process . Often we know-or think we know-what the beliefs of a group are from their oral or written statements. Sometimes, however, we must depend on the actions or objectives of a group to tell us what its true ideas and values are. "Actions speak louder than words" and "Do as I say not as I do" are commonplace recognitions of the fact that actions, values, and words do not always coincide. . .

The technological subsystem is composed of the material objects, together with the techniques of their use, by means of which people are able to live. Such objects are the tools and other instruments that enable us to feed, clothe, house, defend, transport, and amuse ourselves. We must have food, we must be protected from the elements, and we must be able to defend ourselves. Huxley termed the material objects we use to fill these basic needs artifacts. . .

The sociological subsystem of a culture is the sum of the expected and accepted patterns of interpersonal relations that find their outlet in economic, political, military, religious, kinship: and other associations. These sociofacts define the social organization of a culture. They regulate how the individual functions relative to the group, whether it be family, church, or state. There are no "givens" as far as the patterns of interaction in any of these associations are concerned, except that most cultures possess a variety of formal and informal ways of structuring behavior. Differing patterns of behavior are learned and transmitted from one generation to the next.

From Human Geography: Landscapes of Human Activities New York: William C. Brown Publishers 1990

definitions of culture