Cultural Sociology and Cultural Norms

Definition of Cultural Sociology

Think of cultural sociology as a giant library of information that explains why people act certain ways in different societies. Just like how each book in a library tells a different story, cultural sociology looks at various parts of society to explain the story of how we live.

Another way to understand cultural sociology is by imagining it as a map of human behavior. It helps us navigate and comprehend why people have different customs and activities, like celebrating new year’s in January in some places, but in the middle of the year in others. It’s like understanding the directions and paths that societies follow to express who they are.

Examples of Cultural Sociology And Cultural Norms

  • Religious rituals: Studying why a community may have a quiet ceremony for a new baby while another throws a large party helps us understand the diverse values placed on life’s milestones, reflecting beliefs and history.
  • Dress codes: This demonstrates cultural roles and status, such as judges wearing robes to indicate authority in the legal system, much like players wear uniforms to show team unity in sports.
  • Food customs: Observing some cultures’ preference for spicy foods or another’s enjoyment of sweet treats, or even the consumption of bugs in some regions, reveals the local resources and historical preferences that shape a group’s diet.
  • Social media behavior: Social media trends like selfies can highlight changing norms in self-expression and communication, illustrating the impact of technology on cultural behaviors.
  • Language slang: When slang like “lit” becomes popular, it shows how language evolves within cultural contexts, often driven by younger generations seeking to establish their identities.

Why is Cultural Sociology Important?

Cultural sociology is like a bridge that connects different societies. It gives us a deeper understanding of our own daily behaviors, beliefs, and why we see things the way we do. This knowledge helps us appreciate the complexities of our world, where an everyday act for one person might be unusual for another.

For the average person, understanding cultural sociology can prevent misunderstandings, reduce stereotypes, and foster respect among diverse groups. It can also encourage us to think about how we can be part of creating positive cultural trends, like recycling or supporting equal rights for everyone.

Origin of Cultural Sociology

Cultural sociology didn’t just pop up overnight. Thinkers were curious about how a society’s culture – its art, customs, and even the way people hang out – can influence the way the society works, like why certain jobs are valued more than others.

Controversies in Cultural Sociology

Scholars debate over whether culture is shaped by powerful institutions or if it’s culture itself that influences all aspects of life, including power and economy. They also argue over global influences, wondering whether cultures will merge into one or create new, mixed customs as we come together in a global society.

Types of Cultural Norms

There are different kinds of invisible ‘rules’ that we follow in our cultures:

  • Mores: These are the big no-nos or must-do’s in a culture, like respecting elders or disliking loud talkers in public places.
  • Folkways: These are the regular things we do every day, like wearing casual clothes to school but fancy outfits to weddings.
  • Taboos: These are things most people in a culture think are completely wrong, like someone waiting in line cutting in front of everyone else.

And there are other cultural rules, like actual laws that tell us what’s legal or not, and societal standards, which can be things society thinks is cool or uncool.

Other Important Aspects to Understand

Culture is like a live concert – it’s dynamic and always changing. Tattoos, for example, might once have been a no-go, but now they’re often seen as art.

Subcultures, those small cultural groups within larger ones, have distinct features, like skateboarders with their own lingo and style, showing diversity within a society.

A singular gesture, like a thumbs-up, can be positive in one place and insulting in another, emphasizing the need to know the context and meaning behind cultural actions.

Related Topics with Explanations

  • Anthropology is similar to cultural sociology because it studies human societies, but it often focuses on ancient cultures and biological aspects, like how human bones have changed over time.
  • Cross-Cultural Studies look at people from different societies to try and figure out what makes them similar or different. It’s like comparing two different family traditions to see what they can learn from each other.
  • Social Psychology blends psychology with culture, studying how people’s thoughts and behaviors are influenced by their community. It’s like examining why someone might feel nervous speaking to a large group.


Exploring cultural sociology gives us valuable insights into the ‘why’ behind our actions and beliefs, connecting us to the wider human experience. It shapes our understanding of traditions and practices from around the globe. Recognizing and respecting diverse cultures makes us better equipped to engage in meaningful dialogue and create a more understanding world.