Advertisement

An Anthropologist’s View of American Marriage: Limitations of the Tool Kit Theory of Culture

  • Naomi Quinn
Chapter
Part of the Culture, Mind, and Society book series (CMAS)

Abstract

In spite of our temporally concurrent research, striking similarities between what this chapter author’s interviewees said on the subject, and our approaches to interviewing them, Ann Swidler and the author, Quinn, reached opposing explanations for the relation between love and marriage. For Swidler, the institutional structure of our system of marriage explains how Americans think about love; while for Quinn, understandings about love explain the way they think about marriage. Quinn reconstructs a cultural model of marriage from her interviews, arguing that this model derives from a set of shared understandings of love that owe themselves, in turn, to infantile attachment concerns. Swidler overlooks the evidence for this shared model of marriage in her own interviews. Instead, she argues that there are no such internalized complexes of cultural meaning, but, that interviewees’ statements about marriage draw on a cultural “tool kit” of public codes. Quinn points to two reasons for Swidler’s failure to recognize this shared American model of marriage: her method, which is unsystematic and ignores the covert assumptions that pattern her interviewees’ discourse; and her neglect of the motivational force these assumptions have for interviewees—powerful motivation traceable, in Quinn’s account, to earliest experience.

References

  1. Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2003. The Meanings of Social Life: A Cultural Sociology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bellah, Robert N., Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Stephen M. Tipton. 1985. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  3. Boehm, Christopher. 2012. Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  4. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. R. Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Chapin, Bambi. 2014. Childhood in a Sri Lankan Village: Shaping Hierarchy and Desire. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cherlin, Andrew J. 2009. The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  7. Coontz, Stephanie. 2005. Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage. New York: Penguin Viking.Google Scholar
  8. Friedland, Roger, and John Mohr. 2004. The Cultural Turn in American Sociology. In Matters of Culture, ed. R. Friedland and J. Mohr, 1–68. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Gammeltoft, Tine M., and Lotte Buch Segal. 2016. Anthropology and Psychoanalysis: Explorations at the Edges of Culture and Consciousness. Special Issue, Anthropology and Psychoanalysis, ed. T.M. Gammeltoft and L.B. Segal. Ethos 44 (4): 399–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hays, Sharon. 2000. Constructing the Centrality of Culture and Deconstructing Sociology? Contemporary Sociology 29 (4): 594–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hollan, Douglas. 2001. Developments in Person-Centered Ethnography. In The Psychology of Cultural Experience, ed. C.C. Moore and H.F. Mathews, 48–67. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Jacobs, Mark D., and Lynn Spillman. 2005. Cultural Sociology at the Crossroads of the Discipline. Poetics 33 (1): 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lizardo, Omar, and Michael Strand. 2010. Skills, Toolkits, Contexts and Institutions: Clarifying the Relationship Between Different Approaches to Cognition in Cultural Sociology. Poetics 38 (2): 204–227.Google Scholar
  14. Lowe, Edward. 2018. Whatever I Have to Do That’s Right: Culture and the Precariousness of Personhood in a Poor Urban Neighborhood. Special Issue, Cultural and Economic Adversity: Contemporary Psychocultural Engagements, ed. E. Lowe and C. Strauss. Ethos 46 (3).Google Scholar
  15. Luttrell, Wendy. 2005. “Good Enough” Methods for Life Story Analysis. In Finding Culture in Talk: A Collection of Methods, ed. N. Quinn, 243–268. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lystra, Karen. 1989. Searching the Heart: Women, Men and Romantic Love in Nineteenth-Century America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Martin, John Levi. 2010. Life’s a Beach, but You’re an Ant, and Other Unwelcome News for the Sociology of Culture. Poetics 38 (2): 229–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McCollum, Chris. 2002. Relatedness and Self-Definition: Two Dominant Themes in Middle-Class Americans’ Life Stories. Ethos 30 (1/2): 113–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Patterson, Orlando. 2014. Making Sense of Culture. Annual Review of Sociology 40 (1): 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pugh, Allison J. 2013. What Good Are Interviews for Thinking About Culture? Demystifying Interpretive Analysis. American Journal of Cultural Sociology 1 (1): 42–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Quinn, Naomi. 1982. ‘Commitment’ in American Marriage: A Cultural Analysis. American Ethnologist 9 (4): 755–798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Quinn, Naomi. 1991. The Cultural Basis of Metaphor. In Beyond Metaphor: The Theory of Tropes in Anthropology, ed. J.W. Fernandez, 56–93. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Quinn, Naomi. 1996. Culture and Contradiction: The Case of Americans Reasoning About Marriage. Ethos 24 (3): 391–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Quinn, Naomi. 1997a. Research on Shared Task Solutions. In A Cognitive Theory of Cultural Meaning, C. Strauss and N. Quinn, 135–188. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Quinn, Naomi. 1997b. Research on the Psychodynamics of Shared Understandings. In A Cognitive Theory of Cultural Meaning, C. Strauss and N. Quinn, 189–209. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Quinn, Naomi. 2005a. How to Reconstruct Schemas People Share, from What They Say. In Finding Culture in Talk: A Collection of Methods, ed. N. Quinn, 35–81. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Quinn, Naomi. 2005b. Introduction. In Finding Culture in Talk: A Collection of Methods, ed. N. Quinn, 1–34. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Quinn, Naomi. 2006. The Self. Special issue, The Missing Psychology in Cultural Anthropology’s Key Words, ed. N. Quinn and C. Strauss. Anthropological Theory 6 (3): 362–384. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Quinn, Naomi. 2011. Event Sequencing as an Organizing Cultural Principle. Ethos 39 (3): 249–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Quinn, Naomi. 2013. Adult Attachment Cross-Culturally: A Reanalysis of the Ifaluk Emotion Fago. In Attachment Reconsidered: Cultural Perspectives on a Western Theory, ed. N. Quinn and J.M. Mageo, 215–239. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Quinn, Naomi, and Holly Mathews. 2016. Emotional Arousal and the Making of Cultural Selves. Anthropological Theory 16 (4): 359–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Reed, Isaac. 2002. Review of Talk of Love: How Culture Matters. Ann Swidler. Theory and Society 31 (6): 785–794.Google Scholar
  33. Romney, A. Kimball, Carmella C. Moore, and Craig D. Rusch. 1997. Cultural Universals: Measuring the Semantic Structure of Emotion Words in English and Japanese. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences 94 (10): 5489–5494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rumsey, Alan. 1990. Wording, Meaning, and Linguistic Ideology. American Anthropologist 92 (2): 346–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stacey, Judith. 1990. Brave New Families: Stories of Domestic Upheaval in Late Twentieth Century America. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  36. Strauss, Claudia. 2004. Cultural Standing in Expression of Opinion. Language in Society 33 (2): 161–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Strauss, Claudia. 2012. Making Sense of Public Opinion: American Discourses About Immigration and Social Programs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Strauss, Claudia. 2015. Language and Culture in Cognitive Anthropology. In The Routledge Handbook of Language and Culture, ed. F. Sharafian, 386–400. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Strauss, Claudia. 2018. ‘It Feels so Alien’ or the Same Old S—: Attachment to Divergent Cultural Models in Insecure Times. Special Issue, Cultural and Economic Adversity: Contemporary Psychological Engagements, ed. E. Lowe and C. Strauss. Ethos 46 (3).Google Scholar
  40. Strauss, Claudia, and Naomi Quinn. 1997. A Cognitive Theory of Cultural Meaning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Swidler, Ann. 1986. Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies. American Sociological Review 51 (2): 273–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Swidler, Ann. 2000. Out of Our Minds: Where Cognition and Culture Intersect. Paper Prepared for Sociology of Culture Mini-Conference, August 11, George Mason University.Google Scholar
  43. Swidler, Ann. 2001. Talk of Love: How Culture Matters. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  44. Swidler, Ann. 2008. Comment on Stephen Vaisey’s Socrates, Skinner, and Aristotle: Three Ways of Thinking About Culture in Action. Sociological Forum 23 (1): 614–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Swidler, Ann. 2013. Cultural Sources of Institutional Resilience: Lessons from Chieftancy in Rural Malawi. In Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era, ed. P.A. Hall and M. Lamont, 318–345. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Vaisey, Stephen. 2009. Motivation and Justification: A Dual-Process Model of Culture in Action. American Journal of Sociology 114 (6): 1675–1715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Vaisey, Stephen. 2010. What People Want: Rethinking Poverty, Culture, and Educational Attainment. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 629 (1): 75–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Vaisey, Stephen. 2014. Is Interviewing Compatible with the Dual-Process Model of Culture? American Journal of Cultural Sociology 2 (1): 150–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Naomi Quinn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cultural AnthropologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations