Patterns of Culture
PATTERNS OF CULTURE
PATTERNS OF CULTURE, an anthropological work published in 1934 that became one of the most widely read pieces of social science ever written in the United States. Its author, Ruth Benedict, did no fieldwork, but wrote evocatively about cultural diversity. She helped persuade a generation of Americans that members of their own society were generally too quick to judge negatively the values and practices of people different from themselves. Patterns of Culture did more than any other work to popularize "cultural relativism," the notion that the "good" is not absolute and universal, but relative to a particular culture.
Benedict made her arguments by describing the different ways of living found in the Zuni and Kwakiutl peoples of North America and the Dobu people of the East Indies. Benedict presented each case as an integrated cultural unit—a way of life that made sense within its own terms even if foreign to readers whose culture was that of the United States. Benedict wrote idealistically of an "arc of culture," a virtually infinite inventory of possibilities for human life, from which each society had in effect selected a set of specific elements in order to create their own way of life. In her most widely quoted construction, Benedict quoted an elderly Indian to the effect that at the start of the world, the creator had given to each of the world's peoples a "cup" from which to drink "from the river of life." That his tribe was in decline showed that their cup was now "broken."
Yet Benedict was not only evocative and descriptive, but openly didactic as well. She urged her readers to adopt more tolerant, generous attitudes toward peoples whose values and practices were different from their own. Patterns of Culture was later criticized by anthropologists and philosophers for begging difficult questions in evaluation, and for representing cultures as too autonomous and internally harmonious.
"Patterns of Culture." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 9, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/patterns-culture
"Patterns of Culture." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved August 09, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/patterns-culture
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.