Material and Non-Material Culture in Sociology

In sociology, both material and non-material culture are part of culture. Culture not only includes tradition, values, beliefs and practices but also includes manmade objects like buildings, transport communication and artefacts.

Definition of Culture

According to Green culture can be defined as “the socially transmitted system of idealized ways of knowledge, practice and belief, along with the artefacts that knowledge and practice produce and maintain as they change in time”

Material Culture

Materials culture refers to the physical features that define a particular culture, Society or group such as home, school, business, church, etc. These structures develop a perceptual scheme of describing the members and overall atmosphere of the society. It includes material or concrete things used by man such as houses, households, commodities, different kinds of apparatus, instruments, weapons, pots, and means of conveyance, etc.

Example of Material Culture

Building, Means of transport and communication, and artefacts are examples of material culture

Non-Material Culture

Non-Material cultures refer to the non-physical aspects (Language, symbols, norms values) of a culture or society which serve to define the feelings, morals, or beliefs of the people in that group. It includes abstract things such as different customs, conventions, methods, arts, knowledge, and religion of societies.

Example of Non-Material Culture

Language, customs, beliefs, traditions and practices are the examples of non-material culture

Difference Between Material and Non-Material Culture

Sociologist William F. Ogburn distinguishes the material and non-material culture.

Material CultureNon-Material Culture
Material culture refers to the object that satisfies the material needs of human beingsNon-material culture on the other hand refers to non-tangible aspects of culture like customs, traditions, practices
Example: Building, Transport and artificial objectsExample: Language, Symbol, norms, values etc.


Both material and non-material culture are equally important in shaping the society and the lifestyle of human beings. Both are subjected to change over time and have a strong relationship to shaping the society of any particular nation

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