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The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of…
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The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture (1946)

by Ruth Benedict

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It's supremely dodgy as anthropology--researched from across the Pacific, the main informant a disgruntled nisei, and ultimately even when it has real insights mistaking a profoundly dislocated, damaged point in Japanese social history for business as usual--but so much of this has been so influential on my life: a myth of Japan that became a myth of another way to be, a way of stepping away from the things my own culture and upbringing took as so obvious as to be invisible. Looking into a mirror to see your soul; self-respect being not holding to a set of personal morals, but behaving appropriately, cleaving to the circumstances--the ultimate in/flexibility--and never letting the strain show; "thank you" as "It cannot be borne, the burden you place on me by putting me in your debt." This all remained latent as long as life was selfish and easy, but as I've tried to be a dad in difficult circumstances and work with my son's mum so carefully and cause no harm, it's come up again and again. I mean this book may only say an indeterminate amount about Japan, but it's the closest thing I've found to a manual for being stronger than you are. ( )
2 vote MeditationesMartini | Jan 11, 2017 |
This is an analysis of Japanese culture written during World War II and published just after the war during the occupation of Japan by American forces. Ruth Benedict never traveled to Japan, so her analysis is based on secondary sources, as well as interviews with Japanese and Japanese-Americans. Because of the indirect nature of the research, one should probably take the findings with a grain of salt. However, I still found the book enlightening and believe it will be useful in my travels to Japan and interactions with Japanese people. The main focus is the system of obligations that a typical person in Japan lives under. "On" is an obligation passively incurred; that is, when someone does something for you. Doing someone a nice turn can create an obligation from them to you that the recipient feels burdened to meet. That's something a Westerner should remember before offering a helping hand in Japan. Another form of obligation is "gimu," an obligation to the emperor, your parents, or to your profession. Since the war, the government has emphasized this form of obligation over "giri", which is an obligation to to honor one's name and to clear any insult or failure. Giri was apparently responsible for a lot of bloodshed in samurai times. Also, inability to clear one's name can lead quickly to suicide, and Japan certainly has a reputation for a high suicide rate. Benedict also includes an interesting description of how personal freedom in Japan traditionally decreases with age. A child has almost complete freedom, whereas an adult is extremely confined by the network of obligations he must operate within, and then in old age the network of obligations dissipates to again allow a great deal of freedom.

Benedict's analysis of Japan's behavior following the war is based on these concepts. She also makes predictions about Japanese economic success based on Japanese culture that proved to be true, at least until the real estate bust and deflation that occurred in the 80s and 90s. ( )
3 vote ninefivepeak | Oct 31, 2010 |
This work has ceased to be particularly accurate or helpful, but Benedict's language still frames a lot of the debates about Japan . Learn about "guilt cultures" vs. "shame cultures" plus bonus chapters on on and giri ( )
2 vote neomarxisme | Feb 21, 2007 |
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The Japanese were the most alien enemy the United States had ever fought in an all-out struggle.
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O Japão, cuja cultura e história sempre atraiu o Ocidente, desvenda-se com todo o vigor na obra de Ruth Benedict: O Crisântemo e a Espada, volume 61 da coleção Debates, que a Perspectiva reedita agora, dada a reiterada procura de que tem sido objeto em nosso meio. Na verdade, nenhum estudo sobre esse tema conseguiu penetrar tão profundamente e aclarar tantos aspectos da peculiaridade ideológica e cultural do universo nipônico, tal como ele se revela nas maneiras e nos costumes da vida diária. Clássico reconhecido da antropologia cultural, O Crisântemo e a Espada é uma contribuição duradoura à história cultural da humanidade sendo também texto da maior importância para a compreensão das causas e do comportamento do povo japonês na Segunda Guerra Mundial.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0395500753, Paperback)

A recognized classic of cultural anthropology, this book explores the political, religious, and economic life of Japan from the seventh century through the mid-twentieth, as well as personal family life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:10 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

This World War II-era study paints an illuminating contrast between the culture of Japan and that of the United States.

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