The Importance of Culture

The Modern Survival Guide #87

This is misleading, but it’s surprisingly hard to get a good image for “culture”
Society, in a nutshell

How Culture is Made

To recap the prior articles: based on incentives they receive, individuals create or work within institutions in order to accomplish major goals. Institutions establish practices, customs, and organizations as a means of accomplishing their goals, and then protect and perpetuate these things.

The Importance of Culture

Culture is important because it creates the world in which we think we live. Note the emphasis. The world in which we think we live forces us into particular patterns of behavior and provides certain acknowledged incentives to us. We don’t have to live in that world; that’s the whole point of countercultural movements. But the dominant culture is the default option, and most people, most of the time, will never give much thought to other options.¹

Culture Creates Incentive Structures

Let’s talk about incentives — an incentive is anything that motivates or encourages you to do something. Incentives surround us every day, in huge webs of obligation and need-fulfillment, and most of them we never even think about.

  • “Normal” provides a list of options
  • Culture creates assumptions
  • Assumptions determine which of the options we pick
  • Incentive structures therefore feature choices that follow “normal” options through assumptions to show how a need turns into a resolution

Takeaway: Culture is Pervasive, Insidious, and Important

If you take nothing else away from this article, these are the three things to remember:

  • Culture is insidious: it provides direction for every action, in some cases forces direction on you, often without your conscious knowledge.
  • Culture is important: you can’t change the world without changing the culture; if you try, the culture will just roll you over, render you irrelevant, and drive you into conformity. If you want to change the world, look to the Wheel to incentivize people to change institutions to change the culture to change the incentives to change the individuals to change the institutions… and round and round we go.

Searching for truth in a world focused on belief.

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