Culture and Value Systems! Any Difference?
Values constitute one of the major pillars that give identity to the culture of a people. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines values as beliefs about what is right and wrong and what is important in life. If a people recognize an act or idea as essential in life, such act or idea becomes an accepted norm in the society and invariably translates to acceptable cultural component of the people’s existence.
Values, beliefs and norms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, specific definitions have looked at values as beliefs or what people believe in. Values are core aspects of a people’s culture. What then is culture? The term ‘Culture’ simply refers to the lifestyle a specific people are known for. Culture has variously been defined as manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively, the customs, civilization and achievements of a particular time or people (Sinclair, in Onyeisi 2007: 48); all the material and spiritual characteristics and products of human intelligence acquired from the remote past, in the advancement of humanity (Mbagwu 2007: 64). Culture is also seen as patterns of behaviour and thinking that people living in a social group learn, create, and share (Encata Encyclopedia, 2006); the entirety of norms, values, belief systems and life patterns that give a group of people an identity (Nwabueze, 2007: 184); a complex concept that refers to the common values, beliefs, social practices, rules, and assumptions that bind a group of people together (Dominick, 2009: 45). Culture is an important social reality which manifests in various aspects of life – religion, language, technology, sports, education, media, etc.
Life in itself is to an extent, a reflection of a specific culture. Most definitions of culture mention value as a major component of culture. Whether viewed as cultural, moral, social, or educational values, they shape the life of a people. Gemstone (2009: 1) has this to say about values in any society:
Values are the fabric of any society. They influence the beliefs and morals of the people. The values of any nation determine what is important to the people. They influence aspirations, thoughts, words and actions.
Value system, therefore, is an organized, accepted or functional set of common thoughts, words and actions which give a people cultural identity and determine what they cherish and recognize as important. The value system influences aspirations, thoughts, words and actions of a people. The value system cannot be divorced from a people’s culture. It has been described as “a major component of a society’s culture”, that is, ”systems of values and beliefs which are characteristic of that society” (Learning Commons, 2009: 1). Belief/value system significantly influences the culture of a people.
Culture has also been defined as consisting of learned behaviour. Beliefs and values affect virtually every learned behaviour; thus, these systems are a central component of the larger cultural systems in which they exist” (Learning commons, 2009: 1).
At least, you’ve noticed the slight difference between the two concepts – culture and value systems. It might not be an entirely good idea to use them interchangeably as is done by some people.
Learning Commons (2009). What is Culture? Values & beliefs
as components of Culture. http://www/wsu.edu/ gened/learn-modules. Retrieved 25-10-09.
Gemstone 2025 Nigeria (2009). Value system.
Dominick, J. (2009). The dynamics of mass communication: Media in the
digital age, 10th edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Mbagwu, F. C. (2007). The relevance of traditional values for
youth cultural development in Nigeria. Journal of Nigeria Languages and culture 9 (1): 64-69.
Nwabueze, C. (2007). Cultural Marketing in a Globalized society: Critical
role of Broadcasting. Journal of Nigerian Languages and Culture 9 (1): 184-191.
Onyeisi, E. M. (2007), Cultural mobilization through drama.
Journal of Nigerian Languages and Culture 9 (1): 48-50.