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Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture Paperback – 1 Nov 1988

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (Trade); Reprinted edition edition (1 Nov. 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395500753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395500750
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 284,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

RUTH BENEDICT (1887-1948) was one of the twentieth century's foremost anthropologists and helped to shape the discipline in the United States and around the world. Benedict was a student and later a colleague of Franz Boas at Columbia, where she taught from 1924. Margaret Mead was one of her students. Benedict's contributions to the field of cultural anthropology are often cited today.

Customer Reviews

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This is, perhaps, the best and most concise overview of the development of Japanese culture from the late nineteenth century to the end of the Second World War. Indeed the author, Ruth Benedict, was drafted by the US army to interrogate Japanese POWs and Japanese Americans and, indeed, it may have been her insights which helped guide American post-war policy in Japan.
She begins by discussing the aims of her assignment and follows with something on the Japanese behaviour in the Second World War. She asks the fundamental question "What drove the Japanese?". This question essentially guides the rest of her work. The third chapter talks of "One's Proper Station"; one of the guiding principles of Japanese society - everyone has their own places. This deals with some Japanese history: the nature of social structure and popular consent vs strife in the Nobility (the Shogun and the Daimyo).
She moves on to discuss the Meiji Reforms and their impact on Japanese history in the early 20th century and the run-up to the war. Chapters 5,6,7 and 8 are perhaps the most important chapters in the book and deal with Japanese concepts of "honour". She discusses the term "honour" within all Japanese contexts and situations and how different the Japanese concept of honour (and its development) is from the Western World and, indeed, the rest of the world. Her discussion of "On" and "Giri" is vital to the understanding of Japanese culture and the is the locomotive of most of their history.
Most of the rest of the book deals with the other elements of Japanese culture within the context of "honour". She deals with child-rearing and matters of love. This part of the book dishes out some of the most interesting aspects of Chinese society and often parts which we do not think of with Japan.
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I loved the book because it offered little-known insights into Japanese culture. For instance, it explained why the Japanese surrendered graciously after World War Two. Surprised American occupational soldiers found the Japanese to be friendly. The book explains the culture of obligation and the different types of obligation. I welcome email from anyone who like to share their feelings on this book or Japanese culture.
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Ruth Benedict has beautifully laid out concepts and social constructs which make Japanese culture so tremendously different from Occidental modes of thought. Her study has rightly been called the a classic of the Anthro Canon. Ms. Benedict (to respond to an earlier reviewer) had no intention of writing history, which carries with it a completely different pedagogical/philosophical set of baggage. Instead, as she discusses in the introduction, she examined the most basic functions of Japanese life and modes of thought which are crucial to understanding a major world power--ways of comprehending life which are often entirely separate from Western perception. Most Japanese who have read this book truly appreciate the messages it carries, as they often find Japanese culture too impenetrable to describe to foreign friends. I should add that the book is very 'readable,' a rare and wonderful quality for any non-fiction book. The book was comisisoned by the U.S. Government during the second world war to attempt to understand their opponents. At the time, in the middle of the war, Benedict could not possibly have lived in Japan, and so interviewed Japanese citizens living in the U.S., many living in relocation camps. Between their cooperation and a great body of work (anthropological and otherwise) which came before her project, Benedict had a wealth of cultural nuggets from which she derived her fascinating and crucial work. This book is a must-read for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of Japanese culture--honestly, as we are so closely tied economically and politically with Japan, and restrained Japan so thoroughly after World War II--restrictions which strongly influence Japanese involvement in world politics today, we all could easily benefit from the Crysanthemum and the Sword. P.S.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This book was written in 1946 as a study of Japanese behavioral patterns by American anthropologist Ruth Benedict. It was written at the invitation of the U.S. Office of War Information, in order to understand the Japanese during World War II. Because the two countries had strained relations to say the least, this was a study from a distance and Ruth Benedict never visited Japan. This is a study through Japanese media, films, interviews and newspaper clippings etc.

It was one of the first thorough studies of the Japanese people and despite being dated and in many cases misleading it covers some very important aspects of Japanese culture such as guilt culture. This book contributed to the over the top viewing of things such as honour and Emperor loyalty has possibly led to the misinterpretation of much wartime action. Such as the kamikaze pilots as mindless Emperor fanatics dying for their honour, as opposed to men sent out to sea in planes with only enough fuel for a one way journey, killed if they returned. Writing poems about how they don't want to die. This all adds up to an easy misleading picture.

However, despite this, this study was one of the first major studies carried out and provides a huge insight. More than two million copies of the book have been sold in Japan and the Japanese find it a fascinating insight into their own culture from a completely outside perspective.

Despite it being somewhat dated it contributes a lot to understanding the American view of the Japanese during the war, and why the view of all Japanese as completely fanatical during the war persists. I studied Japanese history and culture (and language) at university and literally no Japanese course is complete without this book.
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