The classic definition of culture given by Sir Edward Tylor as early as in 1871 and which has been accepted by almost all sociologists and cultural anthropologists, reads as follows: ‘Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.’
The above definition clearly states that culture is not something which is genetically determined but it is socially transmitted through the process of communication. In sociological parlance, this process is known as ‘socialization’. It is socially learned and shared by the members of a society.
Paraphrasing the above definition of Tylor, noted social anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski called culture a social heritage which consists of both material (tangible) and non-material (intangible) things. This view has been extended by David Bidney, who defined culture as ‘the product of agro facts (products of cultivation), artifacts (products of industry), socio-facts (social organization) and mentifacts (language, religion, art and so on)’.
Early noted sociological writers R.M. MacIver and C.H. Page contended that ‘culture is the expression of our nature in our modes of living and thinking, in our everyday intercourse, in art, in literature, in religion, in recreation and enjoyment.’
Summarizing all the above definitions of culture, we may put it in a very simple terms as ‘culture’ is what we are (our dress pattern, eating patterns, languages, greeting ways, etc.), what we do (our all types of activities and pursuits such as agricultural, industrial, educational, political, informational, etc.) and what we have (tangible and intangible social and cultural heritage).
It is important to note here that culture does not refer to what people actually do, but to the ideas they share about what they do and the material objects that they use. The act of eating with spoon is not culture but the shared expectations (ideas) attached to the act of eating is culture.