Ideal culture encompasses the values and norms a culture demands while real culture includes the values and norms being practiced. There is a huge gap between values being practiced and those that ought to be practiced.
With ideal culture, a society has an idealized and uncompromised standard of values that defines perfect conduct. It’s a system of values that differentiates the right from the wrong in precise terms. Real culture, on the other hand, defines values that are adaptable. While right and wrong are separated, there are practical exceptions to almost every rule.
The gap between ideal and real culture is evident in the way the value of equality is observed. In the modern society, equality is emphasized as an important value. Yet, real-life situations, such as women earning less than men and minorities being marginalized, demonstrate that equality is part of ideal culture. In ideal culture, there would be no auto accidents, murders or racial discrimination, all of which are day-to-day realities.
Idealization of culture also implies ethnocentrism, the tendency to observe and judge foreign culture from one’s own point of view. Ethnocentrism has a negative connotation and is the basis on which a society may judge another as primitive or superstitious.