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Modern Culture [Paperback]

Roger Scruton
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Feb 2007
What do we mean by 'culture'? This word, purloined by journalists to denote every kind of collective habit, lies at the centre of contemporary debates about the past and future of society. In this thought-provoking book, Roger Scruton argues for the religious origin of culture in all its forms, and mounts a defence of the 'high culture' of our civilization against its radical and 'deconstructionist' critics. He offers a theory of pop culture, a panegyric to Baudelaire, a few reasons why Wagner is just as great as his critics fear him to be, and a raspberry to Cool Britannia. This book is a must for all people who are fed up to their tightly clenched front teeth with Derrida, Foucault, Oasis and Richard Rogers.

Product details

  • Paperback: 173 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.; New Ed edition (10 Feb 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826494447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826494443
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 421,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Roger Scruton is currently Research Professor for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences where he teaches philosophy at their graduate school in both Washington and Oxford. He is a writer, philosopher and public commentator. He has specialised in aesthetics with particular attention to music and architecture. He engages in contemporary political and cultural debates from the standpoint of a conservative thinker and is well known as a powerful polemicist. He has written widely in the press on political and cultural issues.

Product Description

About the Author

Roger Scruton is a philosopher and writer. Formerly Professor of Aesthetics at Birkbeck College, London and Visiting Professor at Boston College, USA. He now lives as a freelance writer in Wiltshire. He has published The West and the Rest, News from Somewhere and Gentle Regrets with Continuum.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting... 30 Jun 2011
I initially bought this book in the belief that, as with other books recommended with this, it would tackle the issues as dealt by Peter Hitchens, Theodore Dalrymple and the like. My impression was that it would disparage the vulgarity of the culture of this age and, in good style, target those who are to blame for it. A good moan and a set of good ideas: that was all I was expecting, and it would have been a fascinating read. However, I got something very different. That it turned out very differently was, for me, a discovery of a much under-appreciated work.

'Modern Culture' was, in fact, an intelligent, philosophical book that not only explored the grime and shadows of culture in the 21st-century, but also highlighted the necessity of beauty, the aesthetics and, of course, high culture. More importantly, it offered a delicate and thoughtful argument about the legacy of the Enlightenment. It is not my place here to give anything away, but it is worth noting the significance of the ambiguous legacy of the Enlightenment has for Scruton's case concerning culture. As a traditionalist conservative, Scruton argued from angles I had not thought of before, which, though I cannot say I agreed absolutely, has made me think quite differently.

Another crucial aspect to 'Modern Culture' was the proposition and belief that religion forms a vital part of human societies and cultures, especially our own. His argument acts as a great reminder to conservatives or indeed to popular commentators about the spiritual aspect to all that goes on. In such an age that we live in now, Scruton's argument is a very important one, a reminder of how significant God and religion has been to us, though we do not notice it ourselves.

The book's blurb is, thus, quite misleading. But I think it is a marvellous decoy to a philosophical and sophisticated book which deserves to be read by all, whether conservative or not.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine book but can't agree with everything 3 May 2009
By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In many respects I should give this book five stars. As ever with Scruton, he makes difficult ideas easily accessible, with a style that is both clear and engaging, and at times almost poetic. He manages to pack a great deal of wisdom and erudition into what is really quite a brief text. If you are looking for a place to get rapidly oriented in cultural history, and in the bitter controversies that have divided academia, more or less back to the days of Nietzsche, then I can't imagine a better or more informative start.

However, the book is not just a neutral description of the territory. It is an impassioned plea from one side of the great divide. Scruton is one of the most articulate proponents of the high culture camp writing at this time. So, I am in broad agreement with his main argument; that high Art has evolved to somewhat fill the vacuum in society left by the demise of Religion. That it is under threat from accommodations made with popular culture by modern powers, and from academic movements that have taken cultural democratisation several steps too far. Such movements as Deconstructionism centered around the questionable ideas of thinkers such as Derrida, who decry high culture as a tool of repression of the power elite. I also agree that Art matters, and that quality and excellence in the Arts matter to quality and excellence in society at large. On these things I am full agreement. In particular I am fully behind his critique of the vacuity and essential inarticulateness of large swathes of popular culture.

Where I am not in agreement with Scruton is that high Art is a bastion of conservative values that were once underwritten by the Church, and that this was representative of a kind of community in which everyone belonged and could find their place.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A defence of the high culture 23 April 2006
The author starts by giving a definition of the concept of culture and states his intention to pursue an "archaeological" method in studying his subject. He then discusses the difference between cult and culture in which he sees religion as the guarantee of social knowledge and asserts that there can be no scientific culture because culture addresses the question of what we feel. Mr Scruton then proceeds by defining the Romantic movement in art and literature and linking it to the decline of Christian faith and the Enlightenment, the aesthetic thus replacing the religious. And so art and literature ceased to be recreation and became studies. Since the aesthetic is the realm of value, the question of taste arises. He underlines the importance of fiction in high culture because it is the product of the imagination. Art being the product of the human spirit, it is higher than nature and apart from it.

Mr Scruton then concentrates on Romanticism which had nature, erotic love and the world before Enlightenment as its dominant themes. Works of art also pose the question of the importance of fantasy and imagination. Modernism is also discussed with the example of Baudelaire, then avant-garde and the concept of kitsch in which advertising is important because it creates a fantasy in which value can be purchased so that price and value are one and the same.

The author then discusses the issue that the relationship between a painting or a novel and its subject is an intentional one, not a material one as opposed to photography.

A further topic is modern music in which it is not the music that is the focus of attention but the singer himself. In the music of youth, the music is at the service of the performer and not the other way round.
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