Anthropologist Linton’s classic illustration can be cited here to make it clear to what extent cultural borrowings – that is ‘diffusion’ takes place in every society.
Linton writes, “Our solid American citizen awakens in a bed built on a pattern which originated in the New East but which was modified in North Europe before it was transmitted to America. He throws back the covers made from cotton domesticated in India, or linen domesticated in the Near East, or silk, the use of which was discovered in China. All of these materials have been spun and woven by processes invented in the Near East. He takes off his paijamas, a garment invented in India; and washes with soap, invented by the ancient Gauls. He then shaves, a masochistic rite, which seems to have been derived from either Suwer or ancient Egypt… “ The illustration further continues. The hypothetical American citizen puts on shoes made from skins tanned by a process invented in Egypt.
He glances through the window, made of glass invented in Egypt. He takes an umbrella invented in Southeastern Asia. The paper he uses was originally an ancient Lydian invention. Steel knife he uses for cutting his bread is an alloy that was first made in South India. In another hand he holds a fork which was a medieval Italian product. The spoon he uses was originally a Roman invention.
The coffee that he sips with pleasure everyday is a product of coffee plant which was in the beginning an Abyssinian monopoly. He smokes cigars or cigarettes. This smoking habit he has borrowed from the American Indians. Similarly, the American uses or is benefited by many more such things, practices and habits which he has borrowed from other peoples and cultures long back. Diffusion is one of the main sources of cultural and social change.
“The most outstanding contemporary social change – the spread of the modernisation process around the world – represents the diffusion of industrialism from the advanced to the less developed societies”. Each culture accepts elements from other cultures selectively. Material artifacts the culture of the society into which they diffuse. For these reasons, white settlers in America accepted the Red Indian’s tobacco and not their religion.