Cultural Change



Anthropologists are often interested in how culture changes over time.  All cultures go through periods of change and some cultures change faster than others.  For example, in the past 10 years, Chinese culture has changed very rapidly as western goods and products have become very popular.  Other countries, such as France, have created rules to prevent their culture from changing too quickly.  Recently, the French government passed a law that prevents companies from using English words instead of French words.  French people have also been slow to accept goods and restaurants that are popular in other countries.  For example, some French people strongly opposed the construction of “Disneyland Paris”, a theme park that was built in France in 1992.

Even though cultures change at different paces, the causes of cultural change are quite similar around the world.  One of these is technology and medicine.  In the United States the invention and development of birth control pills and other measures helped parents to limit the size of their families.  As a result, families grew smaller and parents could give more attention to fewer children.  The way that people raised their children changed and the relationship between parents and their children has become much closer in many families.  On the other hand, new technology has also created emotional distance among families.  With the invention of the television, video games, cellular phones, and computers, family members spend less time talking to each other and more time using different gadgets to talk to their friends or socialize with people on the Internet.

Cultures also change when they come into contact with other cultures.  Immigration, for example, often results in cultural change for both immigrants and the host culture. Immigrants often bring with them different ideas, food, music, language, and manners when they move to a new culture.  At first, people in the host culture may resist these differences, sometimes using violence or other forms of intolerance or discrimination.  Over time, however, cultural exchange occurs and both immigrants and the host culture influence each other’s ideas and way of life.  In Canada, for example, the government has a policy of multiculturalism where immigrants are encouraged to share their background cultures with Canadians while adopting and accepting Canadian culture.  Although this policy has encountered some problems, most people believe that it has been successful.

Cultural change can occur due to larger events.  For example, economic depression, war, and disaster can endanger societies, which must adapt to these challenges and events.  Because of these changes in society, ideas and ways of life also affect the entire culture.  For example, during World War II, many American men were sent far off to fight. Consequently, women were suddenly needed to work in the factories.  These female factory workers were vital to the war effort as they helped manufacture weapons, ammunition, and equipment for the military.  As a result of this change, ideas about women in the workplace slowly began to change throughout the last half of the 20th century and it is no longer culturally acceptable to believe that they should not have the right to work.