Guided Reading Sheet





Guided Reading Sheet

American Culture

The chapter elaborates on the limitations inherent in a people’s culture. Mark Nathan Cohen attempts to clarify the assumptions that one culture is superior to the rest. The chapter highlights an underlying deficiency in the US’s system of prioritizing rights. He implies that looking at life from one perspective cannot give a person a holistic view. It follows that education of other cultures and a critical analysis of one’s culture are the only ways of achieving the above.   Ellen Rhoads Holmes posits that people rarely deliberately analyze their values and principles unless they are brought into the limelight. Scrutinizing the American culture reveals multiple paradoxes.            
Presumed Background Knowledge Notes
Cohen: Ethnocentrism Social contract       Holmes: Individualism   Conformity   the tendency to exalt one’s culture exaggerating its strengths while looking down on the traditions and customs of other groups as inferior is the consent by individuals to yield some of their freedoms in hope that the authority they submit to will protect their more fundamental rights within a facility     It is the concept of giving significance to independence and their corresponding personal values. is the compliance of a person’s actions with the prevailing social standards      
Key Ideas: Notes:
Cohen:   Freedom                   Private property                 Holmes: The American culture       technology       future oriented                                   The parameters of the said autonomy are not written in stone rather they are flexible relative to the times and corresponding change in culture. Similarly, when one operates across different social contracts there is an interchange of liberties as some increase and others reduce. Freedom to do something is accompanied by ownership of the consequences (Cohen 6). Within a social contract freedom demands mutual compromise, one’s actions are always at the expense of another. Selective application of the said freedom undermines the spirit and efficiency of the concept.   As a principle, its application innately limits or totally executes the rights of others. While one individual accumulate wealth an individual in the opposite spectrum is condemned to poverty (Cohen 12). Social infrastructure is the key factor to an individual’s success. Maintenance of the said facilities should be a priority to enable other people to utilize them to excel. Individual ownership negates the sustenance of social systems hence should be limited.       It is defined by an intrinsic conflict of interest where they exalt individuality yet are forced to conform to enter their preferred social grouping (Holmes & Holmes 14). For instance, for a Black man to be accepted into the predominantly White middle class they must adopt their values.   The US gives precedence to machines and their accompanying characteristic like efficiency and uniformity while hailing creativity, which promotes difference.   The American culture is future oriented with an attachment to youth. Old age is despised as it implies loss of independence as a person relies on social welfare (Holmes & Holmes 17).
Reaction and Response
Cohen: People often do not take into consideration the nurturing role of social infrastructure on their success attributing it to individual brilliance. The pursuit of profit should not take precedence over the welfare of the entire society. If economic growth improves the quality of life of some individuals rather than society, it is pointless. Holmes: The countries preoccupation with self-reliance relegates the importance of others and propagates the fallacy of self-made man. The rising rate of broken families coincides with the emergence of the independence movement. The woman pursues emancipation while man’s ego cannot allow him to appear dependent. The exaltation of self makes relationships challenging, as the stakeholders do not trust each other enough to reveal their vulnerability. The competitive nature of individualism makes them fear that their weaknesses will be used to their partner’s advantage. A breakdown in the family institution has a ripple effect to the entire society.

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