By Dr. Pham Huu Tien
The definition on the concept of culture is one of the most complicated definitions. Until the present, the number of definitions about culture has been up to hundreds, but unfortunately there has not been a final definition about this concept, as a result its definition is a constant equation. It is not a random phenomenon that at first it concerns the content of culture – where a certain field has the scope that is large in space and extends in time; has forms that are visual and have potential for development, has a scale that is not only an integration but also constantly spreads. Culture in the broadest sense is the crystallization of values from all mankind through the process of their development. Culture in its earliest appearances is shaped nearly simultaneously with the formation of humanity. Culture has a special and important role towards the social development. Culture is the spiritual foundation of society that is regulated simultaneously by the development of a society itself. Undoubtedly, every culture leaves profound and bold traces in the development of its respective nation. We can hardly find socio-economic achievements without the silhouette of culture expressed or reflected in many forms, shapes and angles. The development of each nation is the proportional representation of its cultural development.
Culture is not only a component in the back-bone of a society, it is also a reason for strengthening a versatile power in the development of each nation.
A culture of each nation has many characteristics and aspects that shape their individual faces. When comparing cultures, common characteristics are regarded as the similarity and differences among two or many cultures. Hence, in the relationship between cultures, each culture has its similarity and differences. The similarity exists in the concrete form and in the abstract form. The concrete form is considered as the similarity that is expressed in literature, dance, music, architecture, languages. The abstract form is considered as an abstract similarity that is expressed in a system of cultural conceptions. There can be mentioned several characteristics on the abstract similarity between cultures and these characteristics consist in laws, mores, constitutional rights and social progress. Moreover, the shape of laws have had an influence in the development of culture, in the case of the Republic of Azerbaijan, where century old laws and their acceptance in the local population have made possible a smooth coexistence between representatives of many religions in Azerbaijan.
1. The similarity on the basis for the formation and development of cultures. This basis includes the factors of nature, society and human development. Ancient culture, after all, cannot stand out of these factors. These factors define the content, form and type of culture. Although the formation of these factors does not happen simultaneously and the impact of each factor is a different level, they together affect the formation of culture, in which human factor is considered as the direct force in the formation and enrichment of culture. We can hardly fully understand culture if those factors are neglected. At the same time via cultural products, one can visualize at a certain degree the natural environment, social status and human feelings at a corresponding period. In a certain meaning, this characteristic can be considered as the relationship between reality and as a reflection on this reality. In this relationship, the factors of nature, topographic peculiarities, societal and human values become an object of attractive or subversive reflection where culture becomes the product of such a reflection. Of course, culture is not a copy of reality, not a snap of reality and the continuing shape of culture from ongoing reality is unlike the process of a printing machine.
2. The similarity about the style of cultural development, development of cultures occurs in two fundamental ways. Firstly, the mode of development happens inside of each nation via the process of inheritance and government participation. Culture is a continuous flow that is not separated by “the Great Wall”. In such a flow, there are cultural products of the past, despite of the ups and downs of history, passing through the challenge of time, now they have become traditional cultural products within their sustainability safety net. Several of these cultural products of the past accommodate new factors of the present time, receive new values of the present era, have transformed under many forms to create innovated cultural products. In culture, there are also modern cultural products that have arisen from new realities, from new events, from a pristine environment of modern societies. Moreover, we have cultural products of the past that have been eliminated due to their incompatibility with modern society or being unable to respond to strict tensions of the modern society. Secondly, the mode of development happens within an exchange between cultures, via the process of the preservation of the national culture and the process of receiving elitist principles from other cultures. The exchanges between cultures in the developing phases of history is a reality that reflects the growing demands of nations and cultures. Such a proactive exchange has differences about type, scope, shape … that are suitable to the level of the social development in each historical phase of the humanity as well as of each nation. In an exchange process, every culture encounters the opportunities and the challenges towards preserving their values as well as in the reception of elitist elements from other cultures. Naturally, the preservation and reception or infusion of other values into one’s culture is characterized by selected behaviour. Positive and negative expressions in cultures are the evidence of their ability to respond to these challenges and opportunities. The response to these challenges and opportunities mentioned above can be regarded as a thermometer that is measuring the vitality and strength of each culture. The development of each culture partly depends on solving threats and obstacles by turning challenges into opportunities, transforming obstacles into cultural integration, shaping intercultural dialogue such as the one embraced by Azerbaijan, Vietnam and other countries.
3. The similarity on cultural products. The cultural activity is not an activity that erupts from emptiness or nothingness. This activity must create certain products under a tangible form and intangible form in which the cultural values are included. Although the prominence of this form or other form in each culture is not the same, however these two forms always exist together. Of course, the division into two forms has only become relative because there is no tangible cultural product that do not bear the image of intangible ones to some extent and vice versa.
It would be a mistake to make drastic division between the similarities or differences among cultures. The assurance of similarities does not imply a denial of differences among cultures. In fact, similarities and differences are two organic elements of each culture, they embody a mutual affection and mutual transformation in certain conditions. If similarities are the premise of the integration of cultures then the differences are the premises for the diversity within cultures. Embracing an absolutist position on this aspect or that aspect of culture can create a conflict between cultures that our world has plenty of examples, in Africa, Middle East, Europe and other regions. Therefore, paying tribute to similarity can be taken hand in hand together with respect to the differences between cultures. Similarities are alien to the identification and isolation. The discrimination and the enlargement of hate towards differences has no place in culture.
The world is now entering in a phase in which globalization is the essential trend towards the development of the fourth science and is shaping a technological revolution. The current globalization trends create new opportunities and new challenges for areas of social sciences in which any culture cannot be excluded. The impact of globalization shortens the geographical distance between countries, national boundaries are gradually fading away; the penetration among many sectors in countries is increasing rapidly, leading to uncontrollable results, etc. Culture also is encountering new opportunities and new challenges. The cultures of each nation have never had the opportunity before to receive elements of cultural elites and values of other nation in such a rapid and multidimensional way as the one in the present. However, culture in the past has never been confronted with a higher risk of corrosion as now, including suppression policies toward national cultural values in certain countries. Therefore, similarities among cultures in the modern world also bear an equal fate.
Dr. Pham Huu Tien is the Director of Institute of Policy, Law and Management in Hanoi, Vietnam