Distinguishing Material & Non-Material Culture

Material vs Non-material Culture

Have you considered the distinctions between Material and Non-material Culture? This article delves into these two terms in depth. Culture is a means of symbolizing how people live, encompassing their lifestyles, creativity, art, knowledge, beliefs, values, norms, organizations, social relationships, and much more within a community. A specific community may possess one culture, and there is cultural diversity among different cultures. Each culture has its material and non-material cultural aspects. Material culture refers to the physical objects representing a particular culture, whereas non-material culture encompasses ideas, attitudes, or beliefs within a specific culture.

Understanding Material Culture

As previously mentioned, material culture comprises the physical objects that can be seen, touched, and felt. Regardless of their time period, archaeological sites created by people fall under material culture, which consists of human creations. Almost everything produced by humans can be considered material culture. Material culture has facilitated human life by building a bridge between humans and the physical environment, thereby representing humans’ relationship with nature. For example, a person might construct a house to protect themselves from sunlight, and this process of survival has led humanity to create numerous material things, adding value to their culture. Material culture includes buildings, architecture, songs, art, music, plant fields, canals, tanks, statues, and many other creations. Humans can use material culture to add value to their culture, and in the process, they might modify or exploit the environment. Regardless, material culture has established humans as the dominant beings on Earth.

Exploring Non-material Culture

Non-material Culture consists of ideas, values, or attitudes that shape a culture. Knowledge, beliefs, norms, and rules that form a society and influence people’s behavior can be considered non-material culture. Each culture has its belief system, which may include belief in gods and angels, heaven and hell, and numerous myths and legends. These beliefs are passed down from one generation to the next, helping to bring people together in a community. The attitude and belief system within a community are typically created by social institutions such as family, religion, government, and education. Non-material culture encompasses intangible things that do not have a physical existence like material objects. However, material objects can have symbolic value related to non-material things. For example, people have religious faith in their hearts (non-material culture), which can be symbolized by physical objects such as statues or emblems. Thus, non-material faith is embedded in the material object. A wedding ring has a material existence and can reflect love, care, and faith in each other between couples.

Key Takeaways

  • Material culture includes physical objects created by humans, representing their relationship with nature and adding value to their culture.
  • Non-material culture consists of ideas, values, or attitudes that shape a culture, encompassing knowledge, beliefs, norms, and rules that influence people’s behavior within a society.
  • Both material and non-material culture help shape a culture, signifying people’s lifestyles and creativity within a community, and are subject to change over time.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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