Matthew Arnold, a British poet and critic, wrote on the importance of culture in this work. He defined culture, famously, as "sweetness and light" - implying that culture represented everything good, everything not barbaric. 'Culture and Anarchy' is most important for the way it forwards the notion of an "organic" society - that is, a society that evolves slowly, that grows into maturity, that does not strive for sudden "advances" led by experts working all at once to implement great change. For anyone wondering about the relationship between modern conservatism and classical Liberalism, this is a decent place to start. "I am a Liberal," Arnold writes in the introduction, "yet I am a Liberal tempered by experience, reflection, and renouncement, and I am, above all, a believer in culture." If you wish to take an intellectual journey from Burke to Bork, Arnold must make up one leg of your trip.
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Without the challenging precedent of 'Culture and Anarchy, ' literary criticism and sociology in England and the United States would want both purpose and direction. Manifesting the special intelligence of a literary critic of original gifts, 'Culture and Anarchy' is still a living classic.Review:
Major work of criticism by Matthew Arnold, published in 1869. In it Arnold contrasts culture, which he defines as "the study of perfection," with anarchy, the prevalent mood of England's then new democracy, which lacks standards and a sense of direction. Arnold classified English society into the Barbarians (with their lofty spirit, serenity, and distinguished manners and their inaccessibility to ideas), the Philistines (the stronghold of religious nonconformity, with plenty of energy and morality but insufficient "sweetness and light"), and the Populace (still raw and blind). He saw in the Philistines the key to culture; they were the most influential segment of society; their strength was the nation's strength, their crudeness its crudeness; it therefore was necessary to educate and humanize the Philistines. Arnold saw in the idea of "the State," and not in any one class of society, the true organ and repository of the nation's collective "best self." No summary can do justice to Culture and Anarchy, however; it is written with an inward poise, a serene detachment, and an infusion of subtle humor that make it a masterpiece of ridicule as well as a searching analysis of Victorian society. The same is true of its sequel, Friendship's Garland (1871). -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
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