Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reaction to Long's Idea of Culture

After reading the excerpts of D. Stephen Long's "Theology and Culture" multiple times over, I am finding it increasingly difficult to write this post. This is because, honestly, I am finding it impossible to constrain my frustration. I feel as if Long spent the majority of his text, or at least, the text we were assigned to read, drawing points that illustrate the term culture's transition from noun of process to metaphor, and the complexity of assigning it a definition, while a surprisingly small amount of text was given to his actual idea of culture.
At one point, Long cites H. Richard Niebuhr's definition of culture as "That total process of human activity and that total result of such activity to which now the name culture, now the name civilization, is applied in common speech... it compromises language, habits, ideas, beliefs, customs, social organizations, inherited artifacts, technical process and values." This idea of culture as something that encompasses all social actions and interactions, is one that is very similar to mine.
On page 21, Long states that "the meaning of culture is not found in a precise definition, but in the various uses for the term," making the case that the term "culture" is the same as the term "hammer," since both have multiple uses that depend on the circumstance in which they're used. I found this statement irritating and obvious. While I understand his argument, and recognize its validity, I feel that it is a moot point. This applies to many other words, and when you're attempting to define a term, you simply have to accept the term as static, despite its other possibilities.

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