Volltext: Patterns of culture

rise in a pronounced local form and not in some original 
least common denominator of all observed traits. 
For this reason the use of primitive customs to establish 
origins is speculative. It is possible to build up an argu- 
ment for any origin that can be desired, origins that are 
mutually exclusive as well as those that are complemen- 
tary. Of all the uses of anthropological material, this is the 
one in which speculation has followed speculation most 
rapidly, and where in the nature of the case no proof can 
be given. ; ; 
Nor does the reason for using primitive societies for the 
discussion of social forms have necessary connection with 
a romantic return to the primitive. It is put forward in no 
spirit of poeticizing the simpler peoples. There are many 
ways in which the culture of one or another people appeals 
to us strongly in this era of heterogeneous standards and 
confused mechanical bustle. But it is not in a return to 
ideals preserved for us by primitive peoples that our society 
will heal itself of its maladies. The romantic Utopianism 
that reaches out toward the simpler primitive, attractive 
as it sometimes may be, is as often, in ethnological study, 
a hindrance as a help. : 
The careful study of primitive societies is important 
today rather, as we have said, because they provide case 
material for the study of cultural forms and processes. 
They help us to differentiate between those responses that 
are specific to local cultural types and those that are gen- 
eral to mankind. Beyond this, they help us to gauge and 
understand the immensely important róle of culturally 
conditioned behaviour. Culture, with its processes and 
functions, is a subject upon which we need all the enlight- 
enment we can achieve, and there is no direction in which 
we can seek with greater reward than in the facts of pre- 
literate societies. 


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