Joel Aronoff

Psychological Needs and Cultural Systems – A Case Study


This work introduces a new approach to the investigation and explanation of social phenomena, tested through an empirical field study of different sub-cultures in a West Indian village. The author proposes that the organization of both culture and personality systems is the final product of three independent factors: environment, institutional determinants, and organismically-based psychological needs. Starting from the premise that psychological and sociological systems are separate and distinct levels of the social field, this study demonstrates that they have a strong reciprocal influence on one another, and that to understand properly the dynamics of either system one must discover the means and degree of their interaction.

To test this hypothesis, the author studied the economic work group and family organizations of fishermen and sugar cane cutters in a rural village on the island of St. Kitts. Using various techniques to isolate the separate factors, the extremely important differences found in the structure of these organizations were analyzed and traced back to the different sets of determinants proposed in the theoretical model.


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