Hegel thought that the story of human history was the realization of certain ideals (freedom, the State, etc.) which had become universal to the human condition. It is that latter term which holds the greatest significance for any discussion of the meaning of culture: universal. Croce rightly saw the concept of ‘culture’ as being but the striving for the universal in the life of man. An individual’s culture is then the complete and absolute expression of all that is universal in his/her life. Croce also opined that ‘each true history is a contemporaneous one’ (Croce 1989, p. 14), the maxim for which he is famous. The implication here is that any perspective is greatly beholden to the epoch and place in which it is formulated. To apply his approach to historiography to his concept of culture requires no great leap of logic. Though culture strives for universality, it is still dependent on the individual in question: his/her language, faith, physical and political milieu, and/or socialization. From Croce’s framing of culture, one can obtain an idea of its use in the general field of sociology. Though the meaning of ‘culture’ has altered over time from its Romanticist origins, it is surely one which, depending on the given sociologist, concerns the universal and uniform in the life of the individual, of which society is but a collection.
Durkheim studied human culture through the nexus of what he referred to as the ‘collective conscience’. He conceptualised society and culture as being a sort of ‘collective psychology’ predicated upon understanding how and why values and beliefs were transmitted on a society-wide basis among individuals, regions, and generations.
[Culture] is the ensemble of links which attach one individual to another and to society and which make of the mass of individuals a coherent aggregate. It is this [which] is the source of solidarity and which forces man to count himself among others, to base his ...
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