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Society and Culture

Further Study

Study Questions

Further Study Study Questions

How did the domestication of plants and animals change society?

The domestication of plants and animals by hunting and gathering societies led to the birth of horticultural and pastoral societies. Horticultural societies planted crops and were able to stay in one place until they had exhausted the soil. Pastoral societies relied on the domestication and breeding of animals for food, allowing people to live in areas where crops did not grow. Because these societies were able to produce more food than they needed, people were able to concentrate on tasks other than food gathering. Job specialization emerged.

In the United States, fast-food chains are part of the material culture. What values do these fast-food chains reflect? What parts of our material culture reflect the opposite values?

The popularity of fast-food chains in the United States demonstrates that Americans value speed and convenience over quality. The popularity of fast food shows that Americans favor instant gratification over sacrifice, even if what they are sacrificing is their health. Americans also don’t value spending time at the dinner table as a family. On the other hand, Thanksgiving, a national holiday, stresses family and home-cooked food. Gyms and fitness equipment, meanwhile, reflect an American concern with fitness and health.

Compare and contrast subculture and counterculture.

A subculture is way of living that is different from, but not opposed to, the dominant culture. In a pluralistic society, such as the United States, there are many subcultures. Religion, occupation, political ideals, and sexual orientation can define a subculture. A counterculture is a subculture that opposes the dominant culture, rejecting its values. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s, hippies in the United States eschewed material possessions and the accumulation of wealth.

How would you describe the dominant culture of the United States? What are some its values and beliefs?

The dominant culture of the United States is that of white, middle-class, Protestants of northern European descent. The dominant culture consists of people who are the most powerful and/or the most numerous. In the case of the United States, men are still considered the dominant culture, even if they aren’t numerically superior. Some of America’s shared values are freedom, equality, hard work, persistence, success, separation of church and state, and belief in the American dream.

Identify and describe a taboo in your culture. Why is that practice taboo? Is it taboo in other cultures?

Having sex with a close relative is taboo in American culture. Sex with a close relative is viewed negatively because it can produce genetically defective offspring. In addition to being a taboo, incest between some family members is against the law. In isolated countries, or among European royalty, marriages between cousins is accepted, but most cultures frown on sex between closer relatives.

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