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Tip: To review the bibliography…

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It is always useful to review an article’s bibliography and references to get a deeper understanding of the psychoanalytic concepts and theoretical framework in it.

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Muensterberger, W. (1954). Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions: By A. L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, with the assistance of Wayne Untereiner and with appendices by Alfred G. Meyer. Cambridge: Peabody Museum of American Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1952. 223 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 23:604-604.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:604-604

Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions: By A. L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, with the assistance of Wayne Untereiner and with appendices by Alfred G. Meyer. Cambridge: Peabody Museum of American Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1952. 223 pp.

Review by:
Warner Muensterberger

This survey is intended to clarify the vast structure of ideas built up by philosophers, historians, psychologists, and social scientists. It contains several hundred excerpts from more than three hundred sources on the theory, causality, definition, and function of culture. The two outstanding anthropologists who, with their staff, compiled it have divided their material into its descriptive, historical, normative, psychological, structural, and genetic aspects. The numerous quotations are necessarily taken out of context.

The book has great merit. Although the method of presentation makes reading difficult, the editors' comments and especially their review of the conceptual problem are of particular interest and real value to the theoretician. The reader might at times fail to see the wood for the trees were it not for the illuminating concluding section by Kroeber and Kluckhohn in which they recapitulate the preceding mass of quotations.

The several hundred definitions of 'what culture is' remind one of a remark by the psychoanalyst David Eder, 'We are born mad, acquire morality, and become stupid and unhappy. Then we die. This [is] the natural history of man under domestication.' Freud, writing to Einstein, defined culture as a system of defenses consisting of 'a progressive displacement of instinctual aims and a restriction of instinctual impulses', and leading to 'a strengthening of the intellect, which is beginning to govern instinctual life, and an internalization of the aggressive impulses, with all its consequent advantages and perils'. While this statement is not all-inclusive, it can be considered the basic psychoanalytic thesis concerning culture as a psychogenic phenomenon.

No one interested in systematic theory and the dynamics of personality should overlook this book.

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