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quotations about culture

The Law of Raspberry Jam: the wider any culture is spread, the thinner it gets.

ALVIN TOFFLER, The Culture Consumers

When people get immersed in a culture with strong new memes, it tends to be a sink-or-swim proposition. Either you change your mind, succumbing to peer pressure and adopting the new memes as your own, or you struggle with the extremely uncomfortable feeling of being surrounded by people who think you're crazy or inadequate. The fact that you probably think the same about them is little consolation.

RICHARD BRODIE, Virus of the Mind

The first step — especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money — the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.

CHUCK PALAHNIUK, online lecture, Dec. 5, 2004

To hide behind culture or tradition to justify anarchy is a gross insult to the very people whose culture or tradition may be paraded to glorify criminal conduct.

MAHENDRA CHAUDHRY, speech, Jul. 15, 2005

Specific, closed cultures like that surrounding comic books have allowed voices to be heard that might not have been audible in a world in which all cultural texts speak the same common language.

MATTHEW J. PUSTZ, Comic Book Culture

All the lessons of psychiatry, psychology, social work, indeed culture, have taught us over the last hundred years that it is the acceptance of differences, not the search for similarities which enables people to relate to each other in their personal or family lives.

JOHN RALSTON SAUL, Reflection of a Siamese Twin

Today, we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada as a metaphor of our national character and aspiration, its symbol a thirty-foot high cardboard picture of a slot machine and a chorus girl. For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment. Our politics, our religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice.

NEIL POSTMAN, Amusing Ourselves to Death

The family is both the fundamental unit of society as well as the root of culture. It ... is a perpetual source of encouragement, advocacy, assurance, and emotional refueling that empowers a child to venture with confidence into the greater world and to become all that he can be.

MARIANNE E. NEIFERT, Dr. Mom's Parenting Guide

War and culture, those are the two poles of Europe, her heaven and hell, her glory and shame, and they cannot be separated from one another. When one comes to an end, the other will end also and one cannot end without the other. The fact that no war has broken out in Europe for fifty years is connected in some mysterious way with the fact that for fifty years no new Picasso has appeared either.

MILAN KUNDERA, Immortality

Capital burns off the nuance in a culture. Foreign investment, global markets, corporate acquisitions, the flow of information through transnational media, the attenuating influence of money that's electronic and sex that's cyberspaced, untouched money and computer-safe sex, the convergence of consumer desire--not that people want the same things, necessarily, but that they want the same range of choices.

DON DELILLO, Underworld

I don't know what of our culture is going to survive, or if we survive. If you look at the Greek plays, they're really good. And there's just a handful of them. Well, how good would they be if there were 2,500 of them? But that's the future looking back at us. Anything you can think of, there's going to be millions of them. Just the sheer number of things will devalue them. I don't care whether it's art, literature, poetry or drama, whatever. The sheer volume of it will wash it out. I mean, if you had thousands of Greek plays to read, would they be that good? I don't think so.

CORMAC MCCARTHY, The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 20, 2009

All cultures have been mingled forever.

V. S. NAIPAUL, The Paris Review, fall 1998

Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle.

ALBERT CAMUS, attributed, Weird Tales, Summer 2011

The common culture of a tribe is a sign of its inner cohesion. But tribes are vanishing from the modern world, as are all forms of traditional society. Customs, practices, festivals, rituals and beliefs have acquired a flut and half-hearted quality which reflects our nomadic and rootless existence, predicated as we are on the global air-waves.

ROGER SCRUTON, Modern Culture

The stronger a culture, the less it fears the radical fringe. The more paranoid and precarious a culture, the less tolerance it offers.

JOEL SALATIN, Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal

Creating culture is just like any other act of construction in that we need raw materials to get the job done. The raw materials for the culture we create consist of cultural elements that either existed before we were born or were created by other people since our birth. We may put these elements together in ways that produce something genuinely new. But there is no other well to drink from, so existing culture puts limits on what we can think and do.

ROBERT J. BRYM, Sociology: Your Compass for a New World

Culture consists of connections, not of separations: to specialize is to isolate.

CARLOS FUENTES, Myself with Others

The notion of culture is like a window through which one may view human groups. Just as the view changes as one moves from window to window of a building, so the anthropologist's understanding of society changes as he or she moves from one definition of culture to another.

SERENA NANDA & RICHARD L. WARMS, Cultural Anthropology

The greatest discovery any alien anthropologist could make about our culture is our overriding response to failure: If it didn't work last year, do it AGAIN this year (and if possible do it MORE).

DANIEL QUINN, Beyond Civilization

Because culture is learned, members of a given society seldom question the culture of which they are a part, unless for some reason they become outsiders or establish some critical distance from the usual cultural expectations. People engage unthinkingly in hundreds of specifically cultural practices every day; culture makes these practices seem "normal." If you suddenly stopped participating in your culture and questioned each belief and every behavior, you would soon find yourself feeling detached and perhaps a little disoriented; you would also become increasingly ineffective at functioning within your group.

MARGARET L. ANDERSON, Sociology: The Essentials

One of the most effective ways to learn about oneself is by taking seriously the cultures of others. It forces you to pay attention to those details of life which differentiate them from you.

EDWARD T. HALL, The Silent Language

The means of transmitting the culture can take a variety of forms (proverbs, stories, art) and can have numerous "carriers" (family, peers, media, schools, church), but the key elements of culture (values, ideas, perception) must be shared by all members of the culture.

LARRY A. SAMOVAR, Communication Between Cultures

Culture is the basis for human social life. It provides ready-made norms, values, expectations, attitudes, symbols, and other knowledge that individuals use to communicate, cooperate, live in families and other groups, relate to people of their own and opposite sex, and establish political and legal systems.


Sometimes we feel we straddle two cultures; at other times, that we fall between two stools.

SALMAN RUSHDIE, Imaginary Homelands

Sexually progressive cultures gave us literature, philosophy, civilization and the rest, while sexually restrictive cultures gave us the Dark Ages and the Holocaust.

ALAN MOORE, 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom

Culture affects our views of reality. It provides the mental concepts by which people perceive, interpret, analyze, and explain events in the world around them.


Our culture has filled our heads but emptied our hearts, stuffed our wallets but starved our wonder. It has fed our thirst for facts but not for meaning or mystery. It produces "nice" people, not heroes.


Real culture lives by sympathies and admirations, not by dislikes and disdain — under all misleading wrappings it pounces unerringly upon the human core.

WILLIAM JAMES, "The Social Value of the College-Bred," Memories and Studies

Browse Culture Quotes II

Read Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on Culture

Read James Platt's essay on Culture


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