And Keep Your Powder Dry

And Keep Your Powder Dry: An Anthropologist Looks at America

Margaret Mead
with an introduction by Hervé Varenne
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qcrg5
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    And Keep Your Powder Dry
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-474-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  3. America According to Margaret Mead
    (pp. x-xxx)
    Hervé Varenne

    I bought my copy ofAnd Keep Your Powder Dryin February 1970. I was planning a proposal that would take me to a small town in Michigan where, altogether naively I now realize, I was sure I would find “America.” Margaret Mead might have given me heart in my search: who else was surer that anthropologists, and particularly “foreign” anthropologists, would find America anywhere in the United States? I quoted the book but I dismissed it: things couldn’t be so easy. I don’t remember my advisers at the University of Chicago chiding me for this dismissal. Margaret Mead, it...

  4. Preface—1965
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiii)
    Margaret Mead
  5. Preface from England—1943
    (pp. xxxiv-xxxviii)
    Margaret Mead
  6. Introduction—1965
    (pp. xxxix-xlii)

    And Keep Your Powder Drygrew out of the experiences of the period between the outbreak of war in Europe in the summer of 1939 and the entrance of the United States into the war after Pearl Harbor in December 1941. From the first we felt it was only a matter of time before this country would be drawn into the conflict, and we hoped to put our growing knowledge of the human sciences at the services of the Allied fight against Nazism. Today, living in a world in which the dangers are so much greater and the only means...

  7. CHAPTER I Introduction—1942
    (pp. 1-8)

    Six times¹ in the last seventeen years I have entered another culture, left behind me the speech, the food, the familiar postures of my own way of life, and sought to understand the pattern of life of another people. In 1939, I came home to a world on the brink of war, convinced that the next task was to apply what we knew, as best we could, to the problems of our own society. There was no more time to go far afield for the answers which lay crystallized in the way of life of distant, half-forgotten peoples who, for...

  8. CHAPTER II Clearing the Air
    (pp. 9-16)

    There are many ways in which a country may reckon its assets and its liabilities, for war, for peace after wars, for building an order in which war and peace shall become as outmoded as alternations of famine and plenty, plague and health were on their way to being outmoded in the western world. We may count over our natural resources—and a great many experts are busy doing just that. We may make an inventory of our idle stock—in warehouses, in the rusting rails of abandoned trolley tracks or the pedestals of our less-loved public statuary. We may...

  9. CHAPTER III We Are All Third Generation
    (pp. 17-33)

    What then is this American character, this expression of American institutions and of American attitudes which is embodied in every American, in everyone born in this country and sometimes even in those who have come later to these shores? What is it that makes it possible to say of a group of people glimpsed from a hotel step in Soerabaja or strolling down the streets of Marseilles, “There go some Americans,” whether they have come from Arkansas or Maine or Pennsylvania, whether they bear German or Swedish or Italian surnames? Not clothes alone, but the way they wear them, the...

  10. CHAPTER IV The Class Handicap
    (pp. 34-43)

    It has often been said that America is a middle-class country,¹ that our behavior, our ideals, our manners are middle-class. This statement has been made to mean a variety of things. Sometimes it means that if the average American is compared with a group of Englishmen, his voice and vocabulary, his tempo and his style of life will be more like those of the middle-class Englishmen than like the styles in a peasant hut or manorial hall. It has been taken to mean that if one made a statistical survey of the American people, a majority of them would express...

  11. CHAPTER V The European in Our Midst
    (pp. 44-50)

    The european, whose comments, whose bewilderment and whose special interpretations of American culture have cropped up time and again in this attempt to sketch in some of the most characteristic and most puzzling of American attitudes, is not, as he might easily be thought to be, merely a fictional personality, a straw man or a whipping post. All through American history, from the day the first colonist set foot on his section of stern and rock-bound coast, we have seen America through European eyes, first the landscape, the savages and the foodstuffs, later the manners and customs which the earlier...

  12. CHAPTER VI Parents, Children and Achievement
    (pp. 51-62)

    There are several ways of studying a culture. We first look at the behavior of the human beings who are representatives of that culture, and from their behavior we arrive at a systematic description—which we call their “culture.” We then must ask how does that type of behavior become part of those human beings, how in fact do they, once unco-ordinated bits of newborn humanity, acquire this particular set of patterns which we are now able to discern? We can either ask the question: What are Americans? and get for answer a flat or static picture, or we can...

  13. CHAPTER VII Brothers and Sisters and Success
    (pp. 63-72)

    American parents looking at their children—theirs to feed and clothe and educate for an unknown future, theirs for such a little while before they pass beyond their ken, not into a heaven where they could be envisaged as remaining ever the same, but into a living world that knows their parents not—are faced with a strange task. In other societies, where parents were bringing up children for their own way of life—a way of life seen as static or changing so slowly and each change so heavily grudged by the living that it was hardly perceptible—the...

  14. CHAPTER VIII Are Today’s Youth Different?
    (pp. 73-87)

    If we ask the question, Under what conditions can an American display a full determination to fight and win? there are a series of answers. The other fellows must start the fight. Well, they did. The other fellows must have more breaks than we have at the start. Well, they have. They have so many of them that this circumstance comes in conflict with another requirement for an all out effort—some victories, some proof that our side is pretty good after all. But there is one further absolute necessity if Americans are not only to start fighting well but...

  15. CHAPTER IX The Chip on the Shoulder
    (pp. 88-100)

    At any time in their history, in expanding days or days of retrenchment, in war or in peace—or in that state towards which we hope to work now, where there will be neither war, nor the absence of war, but a world that is not war-oriented at all—the way in which a people handle the problem of aggression is important. We can find a clue to the way in which aggressive behavior is patterned in America in the recent history of interest in the idea. When I left America for the field, in 1931, although the Depression had...

  16. CHAPTER X Fighting the War American Style
    (pp. 101-111)

    There are two ways of looking at the American Character and the year 1942. We can regard the course of the war, the shape of the world, as a sort of rigid and fixed scheme into which we, also rigid and fixed, fit. All the soldiers lined up on the other side are of a given strength, with a given caliber of arms; all the ships in the sea have a known tonnage; all our bombers a known cruising range. There will therefore be a given number of defeats and a given number of victories. The Office of War Information...

  17. CHAPTER XI Are Democracy and Social Science Compatible Each with Each?
    (pp. 112-122)

    Winning the war is a job of social engineering, we have said. We must understand and use American character in the process. We must develop the insights of social science to a point where we can say how this is to be done. And at this point in the argument objectors raise their heads. How, they ask, does such a course differ from fascism and its ruthless control of human beings? Dr. Goebbels’ methods of manipulating humanity are based upon what he believes to be an accurate analysis of what human beings are like; how they will behave in crowds;...

  18. CHAPTER XII If We Are to Go On
    (pp. 123-137)

    We have a certain kind of character, the American character, which has developed in the New World and taken a shape all its own; a character that is geared to success and to movement, invigorated by obstacles and difficulties, but plunged into guilt and despair by catastrophic failure or a wholesale alteration in the upward and onward pace; a character in which aggressiveness is uncertain and undefined, to which readiness to fight anyone who starts a fight and unreadiness to engage in violence have both been held up as virtues; a character which measures its successes and failures only against...

  19. CHAPTER XIII Building the World New
    (pp. 138-158)

    If we are to draw upon the dynamics of American culture to fight the war on an all-out basis because we believe in the possibilities of a post-war world which is worth fighting for, what must we do? If that post-war world is to be built in accordance with the dictates of democracy, then we cannot make a finished blueprint into which we will force other people to fit. We must work in terms of a sense of direction, not a finished plan. If we are to trust to future generations the details of how it will develop, we must...

  20. CHAPTER XIV These Things We Can Do
    (pp. 159-166)

    We can, if we will, lay the foundations for this new world, a world that is different and far better than any that has come before, a world which is not American or English or Russian or Chinese, that is not German or Italian or Japanese, that does not represent the triumph of the white race over the black race, or the triumph of the yellow over either. Is this something for which Americans will fight? Will they fight better for the chance to build something that has never been than they will to defend something which happens to exist...

  21. CHAPTER XV The Years Between: 1943–1965
    (pp. 167-197)

    The United States was on the verge of becoming a great power. Yet the country remained uncertain of its strength. Throughout the last years of the war Americans struggled with the problem of how to revise the traditional picture of the country as young, weak, and always in the right, standing up to an old, wicked, and decadent Europe in the face of whose authority we boasted about our accomplishments and virtues. By the end of the war responsible American newspaper editors, speaking from a position of great national strength, began to discuss the necessity of learning the art of...

  22. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE—1942
    (pp. 198-198)
  23. BIBLIOGRAPHY—1942 REVISED
    (pp. 199-205)
  24. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE—1965
    (pp. 206-209)
  25. BIBLIOGRAPHY—1965
    (pp. 210-214)