Difference Between Culture and Identity

Culture vs Identity

Culture and identity, as both being social constructs, understanding the difference between culture and identity can be a problem for some. When speaking of society, we often use the term culture. This refers to the lifestyles that people embrace in becoming a part of a society. In this sense, culture is a social construct. Identity is also a social construct where the identification of people or else the manner in which they groom who they are is also influenced by the cultural attributes. Culture encompasses everything in a society and makes a profound impact on the individual’s identity. This occurs in both the case of individual and group identity where the formulation of identity is very much fueled by the role of culture in a society. This article attempts to provide a descriptive image of the two concepts while highlighting the differences.

What is Culture?

When paying attention to culture, it can be stated that this is a term, which carries a profound meaning. Simply, it encompasses everything that makes up the lifestyles of a society. This includes traditions, values, norms, food, religion, attire, clothing, etc. This highlights that culture is a very broad concept. In other words, culture is about the making of a man or an individual.

Each society has a culture of its own that is transmitted from one generation to another, through socialization. From the birth itself, we are socialized to be a part of a culture, which is further reinforced through not only the informal institutions at play, but also the formal ones. There are different varieties to culture. Some of these are the dominant culture, sub culture, global culture, and popular culture. However, for understanding, let us consider it as a manner of lifestyle. Culture influences the individuals of society in the creation and growth of identity.

What is Identity?

We all have an identity as to who we are individually and also as a group. This concept of identity can be defined as the manner in which we define ourselves. A person’s identity is created due to both personal factors as well as external factors. The influence of culture through the process of socialization powers this development. We all have different identities. This can be mainly categorized as personal identity and group identity.

Personal identity refers to how we define ourselves as an individual. Group identity, on the other hand, allows us to define ourselves in relation to others. The various ethnicities, nationalities, religions, gender, class, caste are some of the categories under which we formulate our group identity.Identities not only promote a sense of belonging, which is essential for humans as social beings, but allow people to fit into a group and be identified as part of it.

For example, an individual’s group identity as a woman or else a Catholic highlights the fact that the individual is a part of that group and shares commonalities with others in the same group. Also, it is interesting how a single person can belong to a number of groups in forming his or her identity. Imagine a man who is married, has children and works as an engineer for a corporation. His identity is created as a father, as a husband, as an employee so on and so forth. This brings to focus that an identity is not a single factor or trait, but it is a combination of things. Also,while some identities of a person remains the same throughout the life span, some change with time as he or she embraces new perspectives and shares new experiences as well.

Difference Between Culture and Identity

a father, a husband, and an Employee

What is the difference between Culture and Identity?

• Culture includes traditions, values, norms, food, religion, attire, clothing, etc. which makeup the lifestyles of a society. Identity can be defined as the manner in which we define ourselves.

• Culture is transmitted from one generation to another through socialization, but not identity.

• There are different types of culture such as dominant culture, sub culture, global culture and popular culture.

• Whereas, identity can be individual identity or group identity.

• The relationship between the two stem from culture being the foundation on which identity is created.


Images Courtesy: Courtship of Eddie’s Father photo via Wikicommons (Public Domain)