Margaret Mead wrote this comprehensive sketch of the culture of the United States - the first since de Tocqueville - in 1942 at the beginnning of the Second World War, when Americans were confronted by foreign powers from both Europe and Asia in a particularly challenging manner. Mead's work became an instant classic. It was required reading for anthropology students for nearly two decades, and was widely translated. It was revised and expanded in 1965 for a second generation of readers. Among the more controversial conclusions of her analysis are the denial of class as a motivating force in American culture, and her contention that culture is the primary determinant for individual character formation. Her process remains lucid, vivid, and arresting. As a classic study of a complex western society, it remains a monument to anthropological analysis.
A sharp, discerning and quite fascinating study of the character structure of America, what we are ourselves, what made us this way and what we have which will enable us to win the war and form the postwar world. I know of no other book which does quite this, and as she rightly says, an anthropologist has a very different way of looking at people and problems. First, an analysis of our psychological equipment, the role of parents, of class distinction, the dominating success motive, education, youth, our brand of aggressiveness. Secondly, a reconciliation of the American and war; our weaknesses, our too great dependence on authority, the need for control - but a limited one; our assets, our flexibility, our practical skill, all valuable factors in the setting of tomorrow's world, a world which will assimilate the virtues of many cultures. She writes extremely well, making something which sounds abstract, theoretical, limited,of immediacy and interest to all. (Kirkus Reviews)