It is important to recognise that culture is a concept that is paradoxical: it is both inherently stable as well as being inherently dynamic. Thus, all cultures are resistant to change. The primacy of the early socialisation and inherited traditions within the family circle ensure that these values are the most resistant to change: those that are everyday family rituals, recipes, etc. However, within every society there is a dynamic for change that recognises the conflict between old and new values.
This dynamic is more powerful in modern societies, particularly when the influence of the media can rapidly circulate knowledge of new values though out society. Much of the information that is circulated in these ways deliberately contains a message for change: for example, political speeches. However, very often the attempt to influence is concealed beneath the veneer of general entertainment that deflects the reader’s recognition away from the intention to persuade consumers to adopt new ideas and values.
Furthermore, there are also some specific influences that can come into conflict with the stability of inherited culture. One process by which this happens is called acculturation: contact with other cultures. As you will recognise, this process has become more common and widespread in the last century with holiday travel that is widely available and relatively cheap. As we have already seen, another major source for change is found with the media.
Traditional societies developed their cultural values in isolation to a large extent, seeking solutions that worked for them. With the global electronic media of the twenty first century the processes of socialisation and resocialisation have become rapid and global, and incorporate a much wider range of interests than the communal good. In these ways it can be seen that the introduction and acceptability of different food products can be made more widespread and penetrating than before.
The media, in all its forms, presents sets of lifestyle values that may compete with traditional values to either win acceptance or cause a backlash of resistance. The potential for resisting or accommodating changes in cultural values is dependent upon the nature of the change and the degree of compatibility with existing values, and the type of culture: whether the culture is slow and resistant to change as in pre industrialised societies, or where rapid change is viewed as a an asset as in post industrial societies.
In all societies, those who become the mechanism for welcomed change, the innovators, can be seen to achieve high social status. Culture therefore determines the overarching values and attitudes for the group. Food attitudes and beliefs are part of the overall cultural value system, so that food choices, habits and rituals are in themselves symbols of meaning for the group. These food behaviours therefore take on a raft of symbolic meanings beyond the issue of staving off hunger and using what is available.
In this way, the choices made are imbued with a raft of other meanings that are read and understood by the group as social markers. This clearly has implications for the individual who can use the symbolism of food choice to demonstrate their personal social status and position in the group. To summarise then, it is clear that the overall provision of food in all societies is determined by the human digestion system and the physical environment that determines which particular food products can be grown.
However, it is significant that within this huge range of availability, every society makes very specific choices abut what is acceptable for consumption, as well as about the particular ways that the chosen food is prepared, cooked and eaten. The decisions that are made about acceptable food are determined by the group, or at least by a significant majority. The process by which the shared values are passed on to each new generation has generally been achieved though formal and informal process of socialisation that take place most importantly in early childhood.
For this reason those values tend to be most resistant to change. However, in modern societies, the new dimension of the mass media has changed the balance of the mechanisms for socialisation, so that new influences can now be successfully circulated across cultures through appeals to the consumers’ sense of social status within this mediated cultural framework. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge section.