Culture as a Progressive Way of Life


Culture is a progressive way of life that is largely dependent on the inevitable changes exhibited by human nature. The changes are guided by religion, morality, and the need for social fulfillment. The definition can be deduced by interpreting the arguments made in a book written by Matthew Arnold. According to Arnold, “culture is a harmonious expansion of all the powers that makes the beauty and worth of human nature and is not consistent with the overdevelopment of one power at the expense of the rest to create perfection” (62). To this end, human nature can be viewed as a phenomenon that revolves around its immediate surroundings. The surroundings inform the beliefs and the culture of the people. The dynamic nature of these surroundings means that culture is a progressive entity. As such, the changes are inevitable.

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In this argumentative paper, the author will explain how culture is a progressive way of life that is dependent on the inevitable changes in human nature. To this end, the author will discuss the various changes witnessed in the social parameters associated with culture. To support the arguments made in this paper, the author will refer to the ideas proposed in the book authored by Matthew Arnold and other sources.

Culture: Towards a New Definition

Culture entails a wide array of elements. According to Arnold, these factors include religion, wealth, greatness, and health (65). It is also noted that culture is created by the surrounding environment. Such an environment includes the workplace. For instance, McIlwee argues that organizational culture can be created to favor a particular group of people and to alienate others (18). McIlwee goes ahead to argue that the social powers that women have in the workplace are less than those of men (19). Consequently, culture in this context appears to be engineered by the male species.

Arnold provides a wider perspective of what they term as culture (64). They relate it to the ability of human actors to create perfection (Arnold 64). The powers cannot develop at the expense of others. The “others” referred to here are the parameters that are considered as the aspects of human culture (Arnold 67). It is regarded as a progressive phenomenon that modifies and manifests itself with time. For instance, education is the power of change that leads to shifts in occupational culture. Occupational culture is an adaptation that humans go through to fit into their dynamic surroundings (Arnold 73). For example, in the 1990s, women in the engineering sector earned less compared to their male counterparts. Today, the situation has changed considerably due to progressive changes in the powers of education (Dryburgh 664).

Culture as a Progressive Way of Life

As a progressive way of life, culture is determined by the inevitable changes in human nature. One’s way of life can be viewed as a virtue (MacIntyre 27). It determines how an individual discharges their social roles. It also informs their ability to achieve their desires and goals in life (MacIntyre 29). The virtues and the way humans interact are progressive phenomena. Culture involves the progression and modification of social elements (59). It involves dealing with human error, confusion, and perfection. According to Arnold, the desire for perfection among humans is the origin of culture (59). To this end, culture “moves by the force, not merely or primarily of the scientific passion for pure knowledge but also of the moral and social passion for doing well” (Arnold 59). On their part, Keesing provides a contradictory theory that defines culture as a structural and symbolic system (78). As such, society must uphold and adhere to a form of faith. The reason is that to sustain nature, individuals must be able to maintain their culture. However, the human mind reacts to changes in the environment. Consequently, the mind develops in efforts to keep up with these transformations.

For many years, Sociologists have conducted studies to understand social changes in society. The scholars highlight structures that can be used to measure social structures and the way they determine the daily activities of humans (McIlwee 40). In this sense, for an individual to exist in society, they should be able to adapt to new cultures. For instance, there is a specific culture created in workplaces. It defines who is permitted to do what within particular settings. In most cases, the phenomenon is found in professions that are dominated by one gender. The social dynamics in place determine the gender that dominates given careers.

Power relations in the workplace make it possible for a culture to develop. The aim is to promote interactions between people from different social backgrounds. To this end, the adoption of a progressive mindset allows for diverse groups of people to co-exist in society. For example, women found it hard to penetrate some fields in the past since they were male-dominated professions (McIlwee 18). Such fields include engineering. However, the position of women in these industries has improved with time. Such improvements are attributed to the implementation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act in the US. Other developed countries around the world have put in place similar legislation to achieve this objective (National Research Council et al. 84). To this end, culture as a progressive way of life in the employment sector is made evident.

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Inevitable Changes that Define Culture

It is noted that changes affect all aspects of human life. One of the attributes of this phenomenon is its ability to perfect human culture. According to Arnold, “it places it in the ever-increasing efficacy and the general harmonious expansion of those gifts of thoughts and feelings” (62). What the author is trying to say here is that culture is a component of perfection. It involves growing and becoming better. The challenges associated with perfection involve struggles and significant adaptations. For instance, women pursuing science and engineering careers have to work hard to change the mindset of people in society (Haas and Perrucci 198). Most people believe that only men can function in these industries.

Human Nature and the Power of Harmonious Expansion

McIlwee argues that the culture of dominance is created in the “mind/body dualism” (19). It focuses on the superiority of a reason formed in the body. The reasoning is characterized by emotions. As such, reason and emotions become part of the same structure. The belief in the status quo and the need to protect what is perceived to be perfect still holds in most societies. Arnold attributes this stiffness to what they call greatness in possession (64). What this means is that losing something great is construed as a loss of love. About adaptation and the urge for change, Sociologists, feminists, and conflict theorists pose that some positions cannot be altered. The rigidity is brought about by the attitudes and behaviors learned in social settings. Consequently, this encourages the retention of the status quo in the workplace and at home (McIlwee 18). The argument for a progressive culture supersedes the status quo. The reason is that the latter cannot withstand the test of time (National Research Council et al. 16).

According to Bishop Wilson, “to promote the Kingdom of God is to increase and enhance one’s happiness” (Arnold 62). The transformation that religion underwent from the Roman Catholic to the introduction of Protestantism was inevitable. The belief in moral precision changed as people sought for spiritual perfection (Arnold 68). Similarly, a society flourishes when culture adheres to given virtues. The virtues allow for a unified purpose to thrive (MacIntyre 33). The codes of adaptation and acceptance in an ever-changing society make it possible for all individuals to flourish. For instance, the focus of occupational culture and organizational structures narrows down to success based on the dominant gender. Women in today’s professional careers have benefited from a culture that has withstood pressure from microclimates created in workplaces (Dryburgh 680).

The growth and development of the human mind are related to the transformation of the environment. MacIntyre views the nature of virtues as something pure and which should be preserved (28). The concept of doing well involves prior knowledge of the virtues related to a social role. Culture is regarded as a symbolic system in some societies. As such, people believe in their way of life. They work hard to preserve what they perceive as holy and spiritual (Keesing 79). The coherence of the factors involved here is debatable, especially where religion and faith are concerned. Arnold describes these changes as unavoidable (68). They are similar to the introduction of Protestant churches and new ways of thinking.

Culture transcends religion, education, population, and technology. All these parameters define a progressive way of life. Arnold describes culture as a harmonious phenomenon (62). It is determined by the expansion and development of the parameters that make human nature beautiful and perfect (Arnold 62). Various elements of human society, such as career progression, have faced challenges in their evolution. However, efforts have been made to ensure that everyone is accommodated. Haas and Perrucci observe that “the powers of harmonious expansion have seen many women enroll and take careers in professions that were considered a preserve of the man” (232). Consequently, everyone stands to benefit from cultural evolutions.


In this paper, the author argued that culture is a progressive way of life. It is characterized by change. As such, one can conclude that human culture is a living phenomenon that changes with time. By nature, humans are innovative actors. Consequently, life created and supported by this social environment is dynamic. The dynamism shows that various parameters of culture change over time. However, some people agitate for the retention of the status quo. They base their arguments on the stagnant nature of human life as viewed from their perspective of the world. However, these contrary opinions notwithstanding, culture remains a progressive way of life.

A critical analysis of the powers of social parameters and human behavior over time shows a tendency to change for the better. In line with this, governments should create a cultural environment that supports the progression of the female workforce. It is important to note that the academic and professional performance of women is comparable to that among men if the right structures are put in place.

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Works Cited

Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy. Edited by Jane Garnett, Oxford University Press, 2009.

Dryburgh, Heather. “Work Hard, Play Hard: Women and Professionalization in Engineering- Adapting to the Culture.” Gender and Society, vol. 13, no. 5, 1999, pp. 664-682.

Haas, Violet, and Carolyn Perrucci, editors. Women in Scientific and Engineering Professions. University of Michigan Press, 1984.

Keesing, Roger. “Theories of Culture.” Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 3, no. 1, 1974, pp. 73-97.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. “The Nature of the Virtues.” The Hastings Center Report, vol. 11, no. 2, 1981, pp. 27-34.

McIlwee, Judith. Women in Engineering: Gender, Power, and Workplace Culture. State University of New York Press, 1992.

National Research Council, et al. Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s. National Academies Press, 1991.

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