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Patterns of Culture (1934)

by Ruth Benedict

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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947416,513 (3.61)10
For more than a generation, this pioneering book has been an indispensable introduction to the field of anthropology. Here, in her study of three sharply contrasting cultures, Benedict puts forward her famous thesis that a people's culture is an integrated whole, a "personality writ large." Includes a preface from Margaret Mead.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
Benedict is “one of the country’s most highly respected anthropologists,” if you want to believe the back of the book. In this book she describes and compares three different indigenous cultures. The Zuni are a Pueblo culture in New Mexico who reflect the Apollonian values of sobriety, moderation, and a lack of individuality to the extreme. The Kwakiutls of Vancouver Island are complete opposites as they reflect Dionysian values like individual rivalry, ecstasies, and intoxication from a variety of sources. The third culture is the Dobu tribe in Melanesia who are violent, suspicious of everyone outside their biological families, and view life as a personal conflict with nature and other people.

I really wanted to love this book, but I couldn’t. The three chapters about the different cultures were decent, although I would have like them to have been split up into multiple sections by subject to make it easier to digest the information. I also would have liked a bit more information about some of the really different and unusual practices of the cultures. In several cases, I was left with more questions than answers. The three chapters of introduction and two chapters of conclusion, however, were mind-numbingly boring and only seemed to be marginally related to the three cultures that made up the rest of the book. Overall, it was an interesting subject and an interesting approach, but the book could have been written and organized better. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
A contributing work in the history of anthropological thought. Ruth Benedict, as was Margaret Mead, was a proponent of the "culture and personality" school of anthropological thinking. Here, she compared the Dobus of New Guinea, the Pueblos of New Mexico, Kwakiutls of the Northwest Coast and the Great Plains nations and argued that the values of each are intelligible in terms of its own coherent cultural system and that the individual should be seen within the context of his or her own culture. Basically, it is a treatise advocating cultural relativism.

The book is well written and worth a read if you are interested in the subject and even if you do not find her arguments persuasive 70 years of anthropological research later. ( )
1 vote LJT | Jul 30, 2010 |
psychology ( )
  kidskills | Aug 11, 2007 |
"An analysis of our social structure as related to primitive civilizations"
  transylvania | Apr 26, 2007 |
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Ruth Benedictprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mead, MargaretForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the beginning God gave to every people a cup of clay, and from this cup they drank their life - Proverb of Digger Indians.
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Anthropology is the study of human beings as creatures of society.
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For more than a generation, this pioneering book has been an indispensable introduction to the field of anthropology. Here, in her study of three sharply contrasting cultures, Benedict puts forward her famous thesis that a people's culture is an integrated whole, a "personality writ large." Includes a preface from Margaret Mead.

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