A handy acronym for sorting out the way people organize their lives in a society--for organizing their culture.

The answers to these six questions – in different times and places – have created different kinds of political, economic, religious, social, intellectual, and artistic institutions. All these institutions form the cultural components of a people at a particular time and place. Below are some additional questions and details of each aspect of a culture, that people have answered to these six questions throughout history.

People throughout history—no matter when or where they lived—have had six human concerns, expressed in these six questions.

  • Political: Who shall be in charge?
  • Economic: How shall we make a living?
  • Religious: What shall we believe?
  • Social: How shall we relate to each other?
  • Intellectual: How shall we learn? How do we express ourselves?
  • Area: How do people depend on, adapt to, and modify the environment?


Who shall be in change? Who was in charge? How did the leader(s) get their power? (for example, hereditary, military power, by elections)  How was the government of the society structured? What kinds of freedoms were given to the people?

Based on Power

  • Monarch (Rule of one)
  • Dictator (Rule of one)
  • Single-Party State (Rule of a few)
  • Oligarchy (Rule of a few)

Based on Social Contract (Consent of the people governed)

  • Democracy - direct participation of the people (Rule by many)
  • Republic - participation through elected representatives (Rule by many)

Political Example: The United States can be classified as a Presidential Democracy. Citizens directly participate in government by voting for the president as well as for representatives at the federal (national), state and local level. The federal government is broken up into 3 branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. U.S. citizens have many freedoms defined in the country's constitution.


How shall we make a living? How did most people make a living? (agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, services, trades and professions, etc.) What were the main agricultural products? The main industries? The main services? Did this society depend on imports? What were the main imports? Did other societies depend on their exports? What were the main exports?

Agriculture - Subsistence or Commercial farming

Commerce - Buying and selling of goods

Trades and Professions - Banking, tourism, mechanic and other service professions

Industry - Forestry, Mining, Refining

Economic Example: The United States has the world's highest GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Because of its abundance of a number of natural resources, it is a world leader in manufacturing, technology, banking, and agriculture just to name a few. The United States has numerous trading partners around the globe. Canada, China, and Mexico are the United States' largest trading partners. The U.S. also imports and exports products from the European Union (EU).


What shall we believe? What were the main religious groups in the society? Where did we come from? (origins) What happens when we die? (destination after death) How shall we spend our lives? (purpose of life) Was there religious freedom in the society? Was religion part of the government? What general beliefs did the society have?

  • Origin: Where did we come from?
  • Destination: What happens when we die?
  • Purpose: How shall we spend our lives?

There are numerous types of religions around the world. Some of these include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism.

Religious Example: The original colonists to the area now known as the United States, settled here for religious freedoms and to escape persecution. There are numerous religions practiced in the United States. The largest being Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.


How shall we relate to each other? How was society organized? Authoritarian society based on servitude and/or slavery. Deference society based on rank in society. Egalitarian society based on equal rights under the law. Did the society have different social classes? If so, what were they? What were the main ethnic groups? What were the main languages spoken in the society? Construct a social pyramid that indicates the different social classes.

  • Authoritarian society - based on servitude or slavery
  • Deference society - based on rank
  • Egalitarian society - based on equal rights under the law

Examples include family order (patriarchal/matriarchal), gender relations, social classes, entertainment, lifestyles

Social Example: Prior to the Civil War, some areas of the United States were an authoritarian society because of legalized slavery. Today, the United States is an egalitarian society where everyone has equal rights under the law.


(The arts and education)

Education: How shall we learn? Was learning based on what others told you (authority), what you found out for yourself (self-discovery), or a combination of both? Did free public education exist? Did all members of this society have access to education? If not, who did not and why not? Did centers of higher education exist? If so, for whom? If not, why not? What educational opportunities existed for women and minority groups? What information sources were available for different groups in the population?

Ways we learn: Authority - Someone tells you.  Discovery - You find out for yourself.

We can look at the areas of math, science, philosophy, and inventions as examples of intellect.

Artistic: How shall we express ourselves? How did the society express itself artistically? (emotions, thoughts, ideas) What was its music and dance like? What were the major contributions of literature and writings? What were the major contributions in architecture and painting? What was the clothing like? What major discoveries or ideas were contributed by the society? What were the most popular sports and forms of entertainment?

People express themselves in many different ways. These include art, music, and writing (literature).

Intellectual Example: The United States has a free, public education system. It also has some of the best colleges and research facilities in the world. People come from many countries to take advantage of these educational institutions. Since the U.S. has many freedoms, artists have no limits on what they produce. People in other countries often imitate the music and clothing created in the U.S.


How do the people adapt to or modify their environment? How does geography influence the people (clothing styles, housing, etc.)? Are people located near important natural resources (water, wood, oil, etc.)? Do people need to compete for necessities in some places? If so, what happens?  (Think: religious, economic, intellectual, political)

Some examples of area include the location, physical surroundings, and/or movement of a place.

Area Example: The U.S. has many natural resources such as oil, natural gas, lumber, fresh water, and fertile soil. There are numerous climate regions which range from arid, desert to frozen tundra to humid, subtropical to Mediterranean.