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Te Ao Po – Te Ao Marama: New Zealand Character: The Light Side and the Dark

Ritchie, James
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Presentation to the VUW Institute of Policy Studies Symposium: Towards a Restorative Society, October 10-11 2005.

As an applied social psychologist, with ethnological interests, my whole career has
been concerned with questions of values, character and culture in a bicultural setting.
I could be presenting you with simple descriptions of such matters as I did in the early
chapters of Becoming Bicultural (1992). Rather, to set my frame here, I have chosen
to examine two questions that have been parallel pursuits through my long career:
How can the knowledge in my field be used to effect changes in social policy and
public practice? Secondarily what is the role of cultural character in social change; or,
rather, what should that role be?
In this paper, it is my contention, that there are two matters of considerable relevance
to future perspectives in building a restorative society, namely, national character and
culture lag. Putting these two together in this way may seem challenging or just plain
odd, depending on one’s attitude. Furthermore, neither concept is particularly new
nor under much current research focus or popularity. National character studies
flourished 50 years ago but then just dropped out of fashion. The notion seemed too
close to, and sometimes ran foul of, accusations of merely reinforcing stereotypes,
which some thought just plain naughty. (excerpt)


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