Who wrote “Patterns of Culture”? | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru

Patterns of Culture

Question: Who wrote “Patterns of Culture”?

  1. Margaret Mead
  2. Ruth Benedict
  3. Kroeber
  4. DuBois

Answer: (2)

The MA CUET exam question queries the author of the anthropological work “Patterns of Culture,” with the options being (a) Margaret Mead, (b) Ruth Benedict, (c) Kroeber, and (d) DuBois. The correct response is (b) Ruth Benedict. To elucidate the significance of this answer, it is imperative to delve into the context of “Patterns of Culture” and the contributions of Ruth Benedict to the field of anthropology.

“Patterns of Culture”:

Published in 1934, “Patterns of Culture” stands as a seminal anthropological work that has left an enduring impact on the understanding of cultural diversity. The author, Ruth Benedict, was a prominent cultural anthropologist whose work played a pivotal role in shaping anthropological thought in the early to mid-20th century.

The distinctive aspect of “Patterns of Culture” is that Ruth Benedict did not conduct fieldwork for this particular study. Instead, she synthesized existing ethnographic data and drew on her extensive knowledge of various cultures to present a compelling argument about cultural relativity. The book became widely influential and contributed significantly to popularizing the concept of “cultural relativism.”

Cultural Relativism and “Patterns of Culture”:

Cultural relativism is the notion that values, beliefs, and practices should be understood within the cultural context in which they occur, without imposing external judgments based on one’s own cultural norms. Ruth Benedict, in “Patterns of Culture,” effectively conveyed the idea that no single culture holds a monopoly on defining what is “good” or “right.” Instead, these judgments are relative to specific cultural frameworks.

The book aimed to challenge ethnocentrism, the tendency to evaluate other cultures according to the standards and values of one’s own culture. Benedict argued that members of a society often rush to negatively judge the values and practices of people from different cultural backgrounds. “Patterns of Culture” aimed to broaden perspectives and foster a more nuanced understanding of diverse ways of life.

Case Studies and Comparative Analysis:

In “Patterns of Culture,” Ruth Benedict presented her arguments through in-depth examinations of three distinct cultures: the Zuni and Kwakiutl peoples of North America and the Dobu people of the East Indies. Rather than presenting these cultures as isolated entities, Benedict treated each case as an integrated cultural unit—an entire way of life that made sense within its own terms.

By exploring these diverse cultures, Benedict illustrated the variety of human experiences and the different choices societies make in shaping their ways of life. Her comparative analysis highlighted that what might be considered normal or desirable in one culture could be fundamentally different in another. This approach encouraged readers to appreciate the richness of human cultural expression and recognize that cultural practices are often rational within their own context.

The “Arc of Culture”:

One of the central concepts in “Patterns of Culture” is Benedict’s idea of the “arc of culture.” This metaphorical construct envisions a vast inventory of possibilities for human life—a metaphorical spectrum from which each society selects specific elements to create its distinctive way of life. The notion of the “arc of culture” emphasizes the diversity of potential cultural expressions and the adaptability of human societies in configuring their unique patterns.

In a particularly quoted passage, Benedict conveyed this concept through the perspective of an elderly Indian, stating that at the beginning of the world, the creator provided each people with a “cup” from which to drink “from the river of life.” The decline of a tribe, according to this perspective, signaled that their cup was now “broken.” This imagery reinforced the idea that each society has its unique path, and the trajectory of that path is shaped by its choices and adaptations.

Legacy and Impact:

“Patterns of Culture” had a profound impact on anthropological thought and beyond. It significantly contributed to the dissemination of cultural relativism, challenging prevailing ethnocentric attitudes and fostering a more open-minded approach to understanding diverse cultures.

Ruth Benedict’s work, alongside that of her contemporary and student Margaret Mead, exemplified the potential for anthropology to engage with broader societal conversations. Their emphasis on cultural relativity influenced not only academic disciplines but also public discourse, encouraging a more tolerant and informed perspective on cultural differences.

In conclusion, the correct answer to the MA CUET exam question, (b) Ruth Benedict, aligns with the recognition of Ruth Benedict’s pivotal role in shaping anthropological discourse through her influential work “Patterns of Culture.” Benedict’s contributions, particularly in popularizing cultural relativism and fostering a nuanced understanding of diverse ways of life, have left an indelible mark on the field of anthropology and continue to resonate in discussions about cultural diversity and human society.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Question: Define the term “ethnic movement” and provide an example from India.

Answer: An ethnic movement refers to a collective effort by a group sharing common cultural, linguistic, or religious traits, seeking to assert their identity and rights; an example from India is the Khalistan Movement in Punjab.

2. Question: Identify the main objectives behind the Gorkhaland ethnic movement.

Answer: The Gorkhaland ethnic movement primarily seeks to establish a separate state for India’s Nepali-speaking population in the Darjeeling region, advocating for linguistic and cultural recognition and political autonomy.

3. Question: What was the Operation Blue Star, and which ethnic movement was it related to?
Answer: Operation Blue Star was a military action in 1984, aiming to remove Sikh militants hiding in the Golden Temple in Amritsar; it is related to the Khalistan movement, which sought a separate Sikh country.

4. Question: Mention a critical factor that triggered the emergence of ethnic movements in India, as discussed by Dipankar Gupta.
Answer: Dipankar Gupta emphasized that ethnicity is fundamentally a political process, wherein caste and religion, the key components of identity formation, are politicized by leaders for vested interests.

5. Question: What were the primary reasons for the Assam Ethnicity conflicts involving Bodo tribals and Bengali Muslim settlers?
Answer: The Assam Ethnicity conflicts primarily stemmed from issues related to immigration, land rights, and resource allocation, leading to clashes, riots, and evolving relationships among indigenous communities to address challenges.

6. Question: Briefly describe the role of the Dravidian Movement in terms of caste and societal structure.
Answer: The Dravidian Movement, led notably by E.V. Ramasamy, aimed to establish an egalitarian society, focusing on anti-Brahmanism and advocating for equal rights for backward castes, while also introducing reforms like self-respect marriages.

7. Question: Name the prominent ethnic movements in North-East India and specify one common objective.
Answer: Prominent ethnic movements in North-East India include the Nagas’ and Mizos’ struggles; a common objective was to gain autonomy and recognition for their distinct tribal identities and cultural uniqueness.

8. Question: What is the key argument of Gail Omveldt regarding traditional Indian society and multiculturalism?
Answer: Gail Omveldt opposed romanticizing traditional Indian society, arguing that hierarchy has always dominated it and dismissing the notion that multiculturalism is an intrinsic feature of Indian society as a myth.

9. Question: Briefly explain the social hierarchy factor as a contributing element to ethnic movements as suggested by Olzak.
Answer: Olzak suggests that the construction of hierarchies among ethnic communities, which often leads to the suppression of one group by another, is a key factor that can instigate social and ethnic movements.

10. Question: Identify one consequence of the unequal economic development factor within the context of ethnic movements in India.
Answer: One consequence of unequal economic development is the marginalization and underdevelopment of certain groups, leading to feelings of alienation and sometimes initiating ethnic movements as these groups strive for equality and recognition.

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