This guide will cover:
Sociologists have been studying culture for as long as the discipline has existed. Early research focused on culture through the study of the arts, religion, and knowledge. Theoretical treatises (e.g. from Marx, Weber, and Durkheim) are also often considered part of the sociology of culture cannon. However, the study of culture as a distinct subfield emerged in the 1980s. Today, the American Sociological Association has Culture Section that grows in membership each year.
Two women participate in a traditional Japanese Usucha tea ceremony. Photo by Todd Fong.
Brian Steedland's entry in the Oxford Bibliography on the Sociology of Culture provides us with a good working definition of culture:
Culture is the symbolic-expressive dimension of social life. In common usage, the term “culture” can mean the cultivation associated with “civilized” habits of mind, the creative products associated with the arts, or the entire way of life associated with a group. Among sociologists, “culture” just as often refers to the beliefs that people hold about reality, the norms that guide their behavior, the values that orient their moral commitments, or the symbols through which these beliefs, norms, and values are communicated. The sociological study of culture encompasses all these diverse meanings of “culture.”