It is interesting to note that in the Wikipedia page for "culture" there are layers of assumptions that stand out and make culture seem non-negotiable. The truth is, though, culture's clothing (or layers) can be removed to better identify the areas in which change is needed. The first assumption relates to the definition of culture. The Wikipedia page on culture defines it as a whole with interdependent and coordinated parts. It even goes as far as stating that culture is “the way of life for an entire society.” But, making culture seem like an organized whole is erroneous. This idea is a reproduction of our hegemonic society. We are taught to view culture as a homogeneous whole. To state that an entire society can be organized under one culture is preposterous; even within a biological culture it is plural. Within a society you have a myriad of cultures not just a myriad of variables. You can chose to ignore them or you can chose to incorporate them into your definition of culture. Therefore, it would be impossible to use the word "culture" in a singular form. "Multicultural" comes closer to accuracy, but as you will read later, the best way to describe the myriad of cultures in this world existing within and alongside each other would be "parallel cultures."
The other assumption regarding culture is the idea that culture is how we perceive the world. This definition is correct, yet, it is missing a very large part of what culture really is; because culture isn't just how we perceive the world, culture is also how we imagine it. Culture is what we imagine, how we imagine, where we imagine, why we imagine, who we imagine it with, and when we imagine. The truth is culture would be better defined if we said it was the “phenomena” and the “noumena” of the human world or what is thought and what is perceived by humans.
So, if you analyze culture from the perspective of thought and perception, even the separation of culture as mass, elite, and vernacular is too limited. "There’s little evidence for the existence of a cultural elite who would consume 'high' culture while shunning more 'popular' cultural forms," says Doctor Tak Wing Chan. This separation would beg the question of whether you might be performing vernacular culture but imagining it as elite. You could, then, change the meaning of vernacular because at some point what you are performing could some day become elite; for example, opera. In the same way couldn’t you use a form of mass media like youtube as a way to create vernacular culture? Take a look at all of the home videos on youtube, as another example (The Pop Vernacular ). So, Raymond William’s argument that contemporary definitions of culture should include "a general process of intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic development"; "a particular way of life, whether of a people, period, or a group"; and "the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity" seems more adequate.
The notion of culture as “What is thought and what is perceived” should be applied to large societies. In analyzing a large society it seems there is a larger culture accompanied by smaller subcultures. This would be true if you were looking at culture from the perspective of the large society. But, if you are looking at culture from the perspective of a subculture I doubt you would agree with this idea. The way in which these subcultures think could be and probably are very different than the larger culture. Therefore, you would have to give these groups of people with distinct sets of behavior and beliefs the place of a culture and not a subculture. This notion would ultimately open up for the idea of parallel worlds or cultures. Parallel cultures would explain the way in which people live side-by-side geographically but not side-by-side in perception or thought. It would also explain the way in which these cultures are entangled with each other on issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sex, politics, aesthetics, religion, work and labor.
Finally, the other problem with the Wikipedia page on culture stems from the orientalist notion of religion. The Wiki states that “philosophy and religion are often closely interwoven in Eastern thought.” The truth is it isn’t just in Eastern thought that philosophy and religion are interwoven. Both in the Western and the Eastern worlds religion is entangled in the way culture takes its shape. In culture as well as in religion you will find two very distinct ways in which thought and perception are entangled. The first is anthropological where humans worry about such things as preventing harm to a person, or oneself; reciprocity and fairness; loyalty to one's group; respect for authority and hierarchy; and a sense of purity or sanctity. The second is aesthetic, and the aesthetic pertains to similar judgments. “I think whatever is true of aesthetic judgment is true of moral judgment, except that in our moral lives we do need to justify, whereas we don’t generally ask others for justifications of aesthetic judgments.” So, anthropologically and aesthetically religion can be defined as what, who, how, when, where, why, we imagine and perceive the world. And, in the same way religion can be defined by such categories.
So, in analyzing the assumptions we come to the question is culture non-negotiable? Well, when spanning the world of culture we would have to agree upon the fact that culture is virtual and we would then have to mull over the nature of reality. But, as Tony Walsh put it "Reality is the thing you can't log out of." So to answer that question we turn to gamers "wherein [they explain] that while a game can be played with or without real-life consequences, real life itself is governed by non-negotiable rules. Whereas culture itself is negotiable and you can undress it to better identify it, the rules of real life are non-negotiable and can't be undressed or removed.
"It is characteristic of all culture that it builds a man made, artificial world, superimposed on the natural world in which man lives. But man can fulfill himself only if he remains in touch with the fundamental facts of his existence, if he can experience the exaltation of love and solidarity, as well as the tragic fact of his aloneness and the fragmentary character of his existence. If he is completely enmeshed in the routine and in the artifacts of life, if he can’t see anything but the man-made, common-sense appearance of the world, he loses his touch with and the grasp of himself and the world. We find in every culture the conflict between routine and the attempt to get back to the fundamental realities of existence. To help in this attempt has been one of the functions of art and of religion." - John Taplin