Social Cultural Effects Money Use Concrete Examples Essay

  • Length: 5 pages
  • Subject: Economics
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #91687854

Excerpt from Essay :

social cultural effects money. Use concrete examples readings; addition

The social and cultural effects of money are quite considerable. However, they must be viewed within the proper sociological and, indeed, anthropological context for their effects to truly be appreciated. Money, regardless of the denomination or type of currency, is a capital means of procuring essential needs. Its value is strictly related to its ability to procure essential goods which are those pertaining to the basic elements that humans need to exist such as food, clothing and shelter. Therefore, the social and cultural effects of money are more accurately described as those relating to the things that money can afford or provide. Viewed from this perspective, there are several discernible ramifications that money engenders within contemporary and previous societies, all of which are related to the provisioning of essential elements of human existence.

Elucidated within the point-of-view of the preceding thesis, money is an integral measure of how well an individual can provide for himself and those he chooses to surround himself with. Prior to modern society, the hunter-gatherer model was the essential means of this sort of demonstration. Individuals utilized their own physical prowess to procure and manipulate elements of shelter and food and clothing as best they could. As society became more civilized, however, capital goods (money) were used to substitute for the actual physical procurement of these necessities. Thus, money is widely seen as a means of eking out an existence for oneself in this world, as well as a tangible means of demonstrating that an individual is capable of doing such a feat.

One of the common social institutions that has traditionally been associated with money is weddings. Most women in contemporary or in any other society did not desire to marry a husband who did not have the pecuniary means of providing for them. Due to this fact, the concept of a dowry was produced and endures to this day. Although a dowry is merely considered a formality due to some wedding traditions in contemporary times, this notion descends from one in which a man must prove that he has sufficient funds to take care of another's daughter. What is considered a formality in contemporary times was considered an essential requirement for the Nuer, a Sudanese tribe, during the early part of the 20th century. There is a substantial amount of evidence that indicates that a man could not select a bride unless he had a sufficient number of cattle. Cattle was widely used by the Nuer as currency (cite). Therefore, the negotiating of cattle in a marriage for a bride was an eminent indicator of an individual's ability to take care of his wife, which the subsequent quotation readily demonstrates. "…bridewealth negotiations invariably concluded with a declaration by the groom's family that additional cattle would be forthcoming on the marriage of the bride's daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters…" (Hutchinson 297). From an extremely pragmatic level, then, it is notable that money (which in the case of the Nuer took the form of cattle) was necessary to facilitate important social institutions such as marriage, which could just as easily be included as cultural institutions since marriage enables procreation.

Money also has other, less pragmatic effects on social institutions in society. The notion of class and wealth is inherently related to money -- both of these things have important social ramifications. Those ramifications primarily include a degree of social eminence or importance that money reinforces if not outright provides. For instance, in today's society, the rich are considered more important than the poor. There are a number of political strategies, for example, that advocate procuring the funding and support of the wealthy since that monetary support (and, by extension, political support, or so the theory goes) should exceed that of the destitute. The degree of social eminence intrinsically related to money is also countenanced by the Nuer in their transactions. In addition to practical applications of money such as to further one's heritage and to procreate with women in a lawful of marriage, the accumulation of cattle as currency is utilized as a status symbol. The subsequent quotation reinforces this notion. "The added sense of control over the world made possible by the cattle/human equation directly enhanced the social power of senior, cattle-wealthy men at the same time as it intensified feelings of dependence among other household members."

This quotation is highly importance since it denotes some of the most tangible representations of the social and cultural effects that money has on society. Firstly, it alludes to the fact that the attainment of currency is synonymous with that of power. Rather, accumulating money is the means by which individual are able to effect power, whether or not those individuals are politicians trying to procure wealthy voters' support or are Nuer cattle hoarders who have attained social dominance in their society. Additionally, this quotation alludes to the antipode of the accumulation of that power, which is the "dependence" it produces in society. For one to have another must have not -- if there are individuals with power then there must be those who have none. Consequently, those without power develop a sense of dependence on those with power. This fact applies to female family members who are dependent upon their older brothers who have lots of cattle, or to politicians who require the power of wealthy supporters to become elected. The ramifications of this quotation and this statement are clear -- money facilitates not only the procurement of essentials, but also power and revered social standing.

As such, one can successfully argue that money has a transcendent effect upon society and culture. It is useful to provide the necessities that humans require for life. It is also valued as a means of facilitating important social institutions such as marriage. Yet it can also transcend these applications and become a pursuit in and of itself, which is akin to the pursuit of luxury. All of the myriad people in the world who aspire to be rich, are actually in the pursuit of luxury. One might even posit that the central premise of the United States and one which its citizens adhere to the most strongly is the cultural meme of becoming rich. People want to be rich so that they no longer have to work and suffer, and so they can have the best of everything. In this context, money is a cultural manifestation in which people celebrate it not as means, but as an end in and of itself. This concept is illustrated within the culture of another African tribe, the Tiv located within Nigeria. The Tiv have certain pecuniary notions in which they trade goods for one another. However, certain categories of this form of commerce are "associated with prestige (shagba) in the same way that the first category is associated with subsistence" (Bohannon, p. 62). This quotation is central to the notion of money's effect on society and culture, because it delineates the crucial distinction between transactions and valuation of money that is aimed at substance, and that which is aimed at prestige. The latter, of course, is the pursuit of money for the means of luxury reasons.

The notion that money can transcend its original purpose, that as a capital means of obtaining necessary items, and transcend social institutions so that ti becomes an integral component of culture is evinced in a number of different ways. An example of the cultural values in the U.S. certainly proves this point handily. Within this country, regardless of the occasion, the event, or its significance, the proper way to acknowledge anything of true significance is simply by spending money. Whether or not the occasion happens to be a birthday, a promotion at one's job, or a good…

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