The Psychological Frontiers of Society

The Psychological Frontiers of Society

The Psychological Frontiers of Society

The Psychological Frontiers of Society

Excerpt

This book undertakes to describe a technique for studying the reciprocal relations between culture and personality, and to furnish a reliable critique of cultural forms.

The oldest working hypothesis used for this problem was the "race" concept, which implied that acquired cultural traits were biologically transmitted. The damage wrought by this concept when it is used to describe anything but minor differences in anatomical structure is too well known to need special treatment. It only supplied value judgments, such as "superior" and "inferior," on which no intelligent plan of social action could be based. The culture concept was a great improvement over the race concept, because it had some usefulness in permitting the analysis of cultural entities into constituent elements, such as mores, practices, and institutions. Moreover, the culture concept opened the door to the psychological explanation of the differences in the practices of different societies.

But the application of psychology to the culture concept was not an unmixed blessing; it led to partial answers and blind alleys. There were three main results of the early attempts along this line. The first was the definition of the culture pattern, which was descriptively correct but left the question of the source of the culture pattern unanswered. From the use of the culture pattern two systems were devised which provided a descriptive relationship between culture and personality. The first held that personality was a mirror image of the culture. The second considered that there were certain inherent and persistent tendencies common to all mankind which were modified by culture. It cannot be said of any one of these views that it is incorrect; but they are all partial answers which cannot be reduced to a technique capable of growth and of yielding continuous information.

This book is not just another endeavor of this kind. It espouses none of the culture-personality formulae and aims at no doctrine or theory. It describes and perfects a technique and claims some degree of precision in tracking down the reciprocal relations between culture and personality.

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