The Quotable Morse Peckham
On Literature, Life, and Beyond

Topic

"Culture and association, or society, are not two different modes of behavior, but merely two different ways of looking at it, every performance being a set of directions and every set of directions being a performance."
["The Arts and the Centers of Power" (1971), in Romanticism and Behavior: Collected Essays II (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1976), 335.]

"When a society is working with relative smoothness, the task of social management is the reinforcement of such techniques and of those validational and explanatory activities which are the particular assignment of high culture. At such times the task of high culture is to rationalize away cultural and social incoherences or to incorporate them with the appearance of logic into the current system of explanation and validation. However, when a society and a culture are in a condition of crisis—particularly when the crisis has developed to stagnation, so great are the incoherences—then the task of high culture is to expose the incoherences and to generate novel systems of validation and explanation."
["Arts for the Cultivation of Radical Sensitivity" (1971), in Romanticism and Behavior: Collected Essays II (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1976), 287.]

"The Russian government is doing everything it can to increase the proliferation of automobiles. Yet the American experience with the automobile has been such that one would think that an intelligent government with the almost total power of the Russian government over its society and its economy would do everything it possibly could to discourage the use of automobiles, and to use its tremendous propaganda machinery to persuade the Russian people that the last thing they ought to want was a lot of automobiles—a chicken in every pot, perhaps, but certainly not a car in every garage. When one considers what has happened to the quality of our food and to the quality of our automobiles, what we seem to have gotten is a chicken in every garage and a car in every pot."
["Man's Use of Nature" (1974), in Romanticism and Ideology (Greenwood, FL: The Penkevill Publishing Company, 1985), 205-6.]

"Part of the economic effect and involvement of the automobile has been the spread of the population into the suburbs and the use of the suburbs to absorb the growing population. Now not only are the suburbs deserts in which the only cultural resources besides television are alcohol and adultery: they have also completely changed the pattern of urban movement. A metropolitan area is no longer a hub along the spokes of which people move back and forth from homes to jobs. Rather, it is a vast network in which people move daily long distances in all possible directions and in such complicated patterns that the result is in effect a random movement. No one has yet come up with a system of mass transportation which can meet the demands of this entirely novel metropolitan movement pattern."
["Man's Use of Nature" (1974), in Romanticism and Ideology (Greenwood, FL: The Penkevill Publishing Company, 1985), 206.]

"It can be said with considerable accuracy that culture, whether in the anthropological sense or in the Arnoldian sense, does not instruct people to observe the world around them, but, on the contrary, normatively directs and limits that observation. The adaptive purpose of culture, in any sense, is to limit the range of human behavior in the interest of smooth social interaction. The great law of human behavior is that it is the obvious that eludes us, and it does so because our culture demands that we not see it. For most of successful human behavior, problem avoidance is the necessary strategy."
["A Doctor of Philosophy in the Humanities?" South Atlantic Bulletin 40/1 (1975): 45]

"The only way, as the Romantics discovered, to undermine an ideology is by the randomization of behavior."
["A Doctor of Philosophy in the Humanities?" South Atlantic Bulletin 40/1 (1975): 45]

"If, then, it is recognized that the ideology of a culture is always failing—and certainly human history seems to support such a notion—then to recognize that failure, to question the ideological platitudes which affirm the value of life, to question of the value of life itself, is the first step towards health."
["Cultural Transcendence: The Task of the Romantics" (1981), in Romanticism and Ideology (Greenwood, FL: The Penkevill Publishing Company, 1985), 23.]

"Culture is instructions that turn behavior into action and performance."
["Documents," in Literature and History: Theoretical Problems and Russian Case Studies, ed. Gary Saul Morson (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986), 187.]

"[Cultural] redundancy is the primary means that human beings have for reducing uncertainty of response."
["Documents," in Literature and History: Theoretical Problems and Russian Case Studies, ed. Gary Saul Morson (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986), 189.]