A Cultural Analysis of the United States

Published December 24, 2012 by Mayrbear's Lair


The United States of America is characterized as the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Her immense landscape is opulent and often described as bejeweled with purple mountain majesties.  These are a few of the celebrated images commonly associated with United States (US) culture.  A country’s culture is transmitted in a variety of ways beginning with recruitment and migration.  American culture evolved from a group of disparate people comprised of various religious, ethnic, and political influences.  It is traditionally considered a Western culture that consists of an Anglo majority which prevails politically and economically.  It is largely based on British culture with influences from Europe, the indigenous peoples, African Americans and to a smaller extent Asian Americans.  Due to the magnitude of the US culture there are numerous integrated but exclusive subcultures that exist within America (Frost, n.d.).  This analysis concentrates on three levels of American culture: (a) the observable artifacts, (b) the espoused values, and (c) the enacted values that helped it evolve and progress from an abounding multiplicity of origins and influences.  We begin by examining each level and how it delineates US culture.


Observable Artifacts

In general terms, the observable artifacts of a culture are the visual structures associated with it.  It is comprised of (a) symbols, (b) ceremonies, (c) linguistics, and (d) social spectacles that feature a kind of life that includes legends, tales, and lingo.  Stories are one way of transmitting cultural artifacts by explaining dualities, equalities, inequalities and past events.  They create identity, build strong social systems, and give a sense of belonging (Baack, 2012).  Two prominent examples of observable artifacts that dominant American culture are the symbols of the Bald Eagle and the distinguished red, white and blue of the country’s national flag.  These recognized emblems are typically displayed at conventional ports of entry like airports and harbors.  Many US citizens that spend considerable time outside their cultural arena may experience a warm hospitable reception with sensations of comfort and security when greeted by an exhibition of these cherished national artifacts.


Espoused Values

The next level associated with American culture is the diversity of the people that share explicitly stated espoused values which include strategies, goals and philosophies.  They are expressed by the conducts and principles distinctive of their particular type of social, ethnic or age group.  America is famously known as the land of opportunity and attracts individuals with similar ambitions.  Many immigrants arrive in this country motivated to create a better quality of life.  Their customs and espoused values are contributing factors to the wide variety of subcultural influences in the United States.  Initially individuals remain loyal to the cultural influences of their heritage.  Eventually however, they assimilate into, and help influence the American culture.

For instance, early generations of Americans with ethnocentric ideals established communities throughout America.  Newcomers migrated and settled in regions of similar language and ethnicity establishing smaller subcultural communities.  It was not unusual for example, to find neighborhoods segregated into African American, Greek, Italian, and Jewish, populations.  Individuals from these communities eventually dispersed for various reasons which include career opportunities and matrimonial influences outside their ancestral tribes.  Each developing generation now equipped with a variety of cultural influences helped stimulate the natural process of amalgamation that continues to expand American culture.  Additionally, settlers of a particular patois embraced the local vernacular and by the second and third generation, shaped by regional and educational systems, ultimately assimilated into the hodge podge of American culture.


Enacted Values

The last level of ostensible influence on US culture is depicted through the dominant enacted values that helped construct it.  For example, one early defining characteristic of the country as a nation was its legacy and the enacted values of slavery.  The persistence of economic and social inequalities was based on race influencing a faction of US culture with significant regional inflections.  Despite their differences, these sectors continue to experience economic transformations because Americans are a nomadic people frequently relocating from their regions of origin (United States of America, 2012).  Most Americans are aware of the many inequalities that exist in the nation.  Their divided principles were evident in the recent United States presidential election.  “The coexistence of multiple American spatialities, temporalities and their contradictions as well as the objectives of stabilization … are strategies Americans seek to naturalize social life with more stable and reassuring meanings” (Brown, 2005, p. 173).



The combination of observable artifacts, espoused values and enacted values create role clarity that help shape American culture and establishes a clear sense of purpose and understanding of her residents and their place in the global network.  When people from a particular country feel valued and achieve a sense of accomplishment it affirms a clear understanding of their function in society and in the global arena (Baack, 2012).  In conclusion, while diversity can create separation and distrust, American culture continues to evolve from a prolific history with an abundant variety of origins and influences shaped by the espoused and enacted values of her people.


United States of America. (2012). Retrieved November 7, 2012, from everyculture.com: http://www.everyculture.com/To-Z/United-States-of-America.html#b

Baack, D. (2012). Organizational Behavior. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Brown, R. H. (2005). Culture, Capitalism, and Democracy in the New America. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Frost, M. (n.d.). Culture of the United States. Retrieved November 8, 2012, from Martin Frost: http://www.martinfrost.ws/htmlfiles/american_culture.html

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