Ruth Benedict

Patterns of culture

Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1934.

I discuss this work most thoroughly in my "Collective Representation in American Anthropological Conversations: Individual and Culture" (1984)

Boas' introduction (1934)

The Zuni are a ceremonious people, a people who value sobriety and inoffensiveness above all other virtues. Their interest is centered upon their rich and complex ceremonial life. Their cults of the masked gods . . . are formal and established bodies of ritual with priestly of- ficials.... No field of activity competes with ritual for foremost place in their attention. (pp. 59-60)

The exigencies of the situation [an account of a civilization condensed into a few dozen pages] are misleading only when the necessity [of describing individual behavior as it exemplifies the motivation of that culture] is read off as implying that [the individual] is submerged in an overpowering ocean.  There is no proper antagonism between the role of society and that of the individual.  One of the most misleading misconceptions of this nineteenth-century dualism was the idea that what was subtracted from the individual was added to society.... The man in the street still thinks in terms of a necessary antagonism between society and the individual. (pp, 251-252)

His culture provides the raw material of which the individual makes his  life. (pp. 253-54)

The preceding statement must be taken literally as written: "culture" is "material" [for] life--it is not the cause of life or the details of its eventual shape.

created on Thu Jun 14 09:47:27 2012