"Rose proposes an approach that simultaneously takes both a scholarly and a poetic formulation. . . . Such well-crafted writing is rarely found. . . . Its truly unique presentation, and focus that goes beyond ethnography to incorporate important theoretical issues, is bound to make this a much discussed book."—Journal of Anthropological ResearchDan Rose has explored the American status system for decades. His ethnographic research into black South Philadelphia, the business community of Hazleton Pennsylvania, and the large horse farms of Chester County Pennsylvania is drawn together here to examine the cultural forms that shape American life at every level.
In Patterns of American Culture, Rose draws on the fact and metaphor of colonization to demonstrate that the central motive in the contemporary United States has been and continues to be the corporate form. He begins by considering our origins as a collection of colonies, each of which was constructed as a private corporation whose purpose was to make money for its investors by providing new goods and different markets for England. Rose contends that the structure underlying American life are still corporate and that their purpose is to create new resources, new products, new landscapes, new ideas, and new markets. Today, most Americans have multiple corporate memberships—in city and state governments, in the businesses that employ them, in professional organizations or unions, and in various civic and political associations. Further, through written rules and unwritten customs, these corporations determine who we are and what we can do.
Patterns of American Culture is a scholarly and poetic pursuit of the concealed energies within this vast incorporation and an analysis of how it shapes society and the lives of individuals. Rose draws from poems by Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams and brings ideas from such sources as performance art and cultural theory to critique this pervasive institutional order. The book closes with a fable of life in a fictitious capitalist society that both comments on ethnographic practice and reveals the disturbing estrangement inherent in any study of this type of culture.
This narrative ethnography will interest scholars and students of American studies, anthropology, English, folklore, and sociology, and members of the design professions, such as architecture, landscape, and urban design.
Dan Rose is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Ethnographic Writing, Energy Transition and the Local Community and Black American Street Life.