Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Margaret Mead

American Cultural Anthropologist and Psychologist

"It may be necessary temporarily to accept a lesser evil, but one must never label a necessary evil as good."

"Leisure and the cultivation of human capacities are inextricably interdependent."

"Chief among our gains must be reckoned this possibility of choice, the recognition of many possible ways of life, where other civilizations have recognized only one. Where other civilizations give a satisfactory outlet to only one temperamental type, be he mystic or soldier, businessman or artist, a civilization in which there are many standards offers a possibility of satisfactory adjustment to individuals of many different temperamental types, of diverse gifts and varying interests."

"Love is the invention of a few high cultures, independent, in a sense, of marriage - although society can make it a requisite for marriage, as we periodically attempt to do... But in terms of a personal, highly intense choice, it is a cultural artifact."

"The city as a center where, any day in any year, there may be a fresh encounter with a new talent, a keen mind or a gifted specialist - this is essential to the life of a country. To play this role in our lives a city must have a soul - a university, a great art or music school, a cathedral or a great mosque or temple, a great laboratory or scientific center, as well as the libraries and museums and galleries that bring past and present together. A city must be a place where groups of women and men are seeking and developing the highest things they know."

"Thanks to television, for the first time the young are seeing history made before it is censored by their leaders."

"Even very recently, the elders could say: “You know I have been young, and you can never have been old.” But today’s young people can reply: “You have never been young in the world I am young in, and you never can be...” This break between generations is wholly new: it is planetary and universal."

"The male form of a female liberationist is a male liberationist - a man who realizes the unfairness of having to work all his life to support a wife and children so that someday his widow may live in comfort, a man who points out that commuting to a job he doesn’t like is just as oppressive as his wife’s imprisonment in a suburb, a man who rejects his exclusion, by society and most women, from participation in childbirth and the engrossing, delightful care of young children - a man, in fact, who wants to relate himself to people and the world around him."

"Man’s role is uncertain, undefined, and perhaps unnecessary."

"We are now at the point where we must educate people in what nobody knew yesterday, and prepare in our schools for what no one knows yet but what some people must know tomorrow."

"We will be a better country when each religious group can trust its members to obey the dictates of their own religious faith without assistance from the legal structure of the country."

"We must recognize that beneath the superficial classifications of sex and race the same potentialities exist, recurring generation after generation, only to perish because society has no place for them."

"If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place."

"What the world needs is not romantic lovers who are sufficient unto themselves, but husbands and wives who live in communities, relate to other people, carry on useful work and willingly give time and attention to their children."

"I believe that the real issue about premarital sex is the risk of producing illegitimate children who from the start are denied the protection every human society has found it necessary to give."

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

"Love is the invention of a few high cultures… it is cultural artifact. To make love the requirement of a lifelong marriage is exceedingly difficult, and only a few people can achieve it. I don’t believe in setting universal standards that a large portion of people can’t reach."

"[Mead’s Maxim] Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else."

"The capacity for friendship usually goes with highly developed civilizations. The ability to cultivate people differs by culture and class; but on the whole, educated people have more ways to make friends."

"I must admit that I personally measure success in terms of the contributions an individual makes to her or his fellow human beings."

"If one cannot state a matter clearly enough so that even an intelligent twelve-year-old can understand it, one should remain within the cloistered walls of the university and laboratory until one gets a better grasp of one's subject matter."

"Man's most human characteristic is not his ability to learn, which he shares with many other species, but his ability to teach and store what others have developed and taught him."

"Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else."

"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

"It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly."

"Our humanity rests upon a series of learned behaviors, woven together into patterns that are infinitely fragile and never directly inherited."

"The solution to adult problems tomorrow depends on large measure upon how our children grow up today."

"What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things."

"Children must be taught how to think, not what to think."

"There is no greater insight into the future than recognizing...when we save our children, we save ourselves."

"Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals."

"We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems."

"The contempt for law and the contempt for the human consequences of lawbreaking go from the bottom to the top of American society."

"Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we've put it in an impossible situation."

"It is easier to change a man's religion than to change his diet."

"We are living beyond our means. As a people we have developed a life-style that is draining the earth of its priceless and irreplaceable resources without regard for the future of our children and people all around the world."

"If the future is to remain open and free, we need people who can tolerate the unknown, who will not need the support of completely worked out systems or traditional blueprints from the past."

"A city is a place where there is no need to wait for next week to get the answer to a question, to taste the food of any country, to find new voices to listen to and familiar ones to listen to again."

"All of us who grew up before the war are immigrants in time, immigrants from an earlier world, living in an age essentially different from anything we knew before. The young are at home here. Their eyes have always seen satellites in the sky. They have never known a world in which war did not mean annihilation."

"A city must be a place where groups of women and men are seeking and developing the highest things they know."

"An ideal culture is one that makes a place for every human gift."

"A society which is clamoring for choice, which is filled with many articulate groups, each urging its own brand of salvation, its own variety of economic philosophy, will give each new generation no peace until all have chosen or gone under, unable t"

"Anthropology demands the open-mindedness with which one must look and listen, record in astonishment and wonder that which one would not have been able to guess."

"As long as any adult thinks that he, like the parents and teachers of old, can become introspective, invoking his own youth to understand the youth before him, he is lost."

"As an anthropologist, I have been interested in the effects that the theories of Cybernetics have within our society. I am not referring to computers or to the electronic revolution as a whole, or to the end of dependence on script for knowledge, or to the way that dress has succeeded the mimeographing machine as a form of communication among the dissenting young. Let me repeat that, I am not referring to the way that dress has succeeded the mimeographing machine as a form of communication among the dissenting young. I speci?cally want to consider the signi?cance of the set of cross-disciplinary ideas which we ?rst called feed-back and then called teleological mechanisms and then called it cybernetics, a form of cross-disciplinary thought which made it possible for members of many disciplines to communicate with each other easily in a language which all could understand."

"And when our baby stirs and struggles to be born it compels humility: what we began is now its own."

"Any woman can find a husband unless she is deaf, dumb or blind... She cannot always marry the ideal man of her choice."

"As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own."

"At times it may be necessary temporarily to accept a lesser evil, but one must never label a necessary evil as good."

"Be lazy, go crazy."