The edifice complex : a study of the causes and effects of conflict between generations of marines, and of cultural changes in the United States Marine Corps

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Klicker, Karl D.
McElhinney, James H.
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Thesis (D. Ed.)
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The title of The Edifice Complex presents two metaphors which combine to form the focus of this study's research. The first of these refers to the Oedipus Complex of Freudian psychology: metaphorically, Marine recruits fall in love with the folklore of the Marine Corps they wish to join, yet unwittingly change that Corps over time, thus figuratively killing the older generations of Marines--their forefathers in uniform. In the second metaphor, the edifice is the structure of informal folklore and recorded history; the complex is the rites of passage or maze traversed in time by Marines. As Marines are indoctrinated in the Marine Corps' culture, they internalize the meanings of the edifice's building blocks: its symbols, rituals and myths. Bit by bit, generations of Marines individually and collectively alter the shape of the metaphorical maze and change the meanings of some elements of folklore. The purpose of the study was to analyze the causes and effects of cultural change affecting Marines and the Marine Corps from the mid-1950s to the mid1980s. Using ethnographic field methods and content analysis, the researcher investigated internal and external planned and unplanned changes in the Marine Corps. Cultural data was collected during 1984 and 1985 from print, motion picture and other media, and through interviews with Marine infantrymen, recruiters, journalists, drill instructors, historians, musicians and others, in several cultural settings. The study focused on the cultural reality of primarily male, enlisted Marines. Findings support the working hypothesis that folklore is a behavior-shaping tool which the Marine Corps effectively uses to control the behavior of Marines. Findings reveal that cultural changes have allowed or caused some Marines to value the Marine Corps materially as a source of valuable competencies and material rewards rather than professionally or patriotically as the calling of the profession of arms. Conclusions of The Edifice Complex parallel conclusions in organizational change theory, in that changes in the symbolic realm of the organization's culture are most difficult to change but have significant impact upon members of the organization. Findings and conclusions are also mutually supported in the educational, social and behavioral psychologies.