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5.0 out of 5 stars The Importance of Discrimination, 27 April 2014
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This review is from: Being Cultured: In Defence of Discrimination (Societas) (Paperback)
Today it seems as if it is nigh on impossible to criticise without inviting condemnation. The domination of relativism that accompanies the multicultural doctrine ensures that there is little tolerance of making distinctions between pop music and classical, doggerel and poetry, even childish paintings and masterpieces. We no longer see the finished work but are exhorted to consider the effort that went into creating a work. The demarcation between entertainment and art, between the amateur and the professional, that has served mankind well for centuries are, today, routinely ignored.

So Angus Kennedy's 'Being Cultured: In Defence of Discrimination' is not just timely but is also a very importantant book that questions the stultifying atmosphere that surrounds much of our understanding of culture today, and shows us the importance of discriminating:

"Without discrimination we would be plunged into a Protean chaos where no sooner something is the it was not: a world without boundaries; of fantastic and unlimited imagination, a world of unreason." [p.51]

In discriminating we create our morality and build an understanding of the world about us and how we live in that world.

By enforcing the view that one culture is no less inferior to any other - the insistence on referring to African culture, women's literature, gay poetry, etc. - is not liberating in any sense, but only re-enforces identity that further sets us apart from each other.

This relativistic approach also denies reality. So, for instance, by equating entertainment with art is to deny our relationship with those forms; entertainment allows for us to passively accept it; we see ourselves in it it affirms us. Art, on the other hand, demands our engagement, it challenges us, daring us to re-evaluate our world. Entertainment will bring enjoyment, because it is secure that it can only flatter us, art can have the ability to destroy our preconceptions.

'Being Cultured: In Defence of Discrimination' touches on these issues examining classic and contemporary thought on culture, clearly and intelligently. It calls on us to reinstate that most vital aspect of humanity: to say what is good and what is not. For without that we can not go forward, either as individuals or as humanity as a whole.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "The past is past and the future neuter.", 17 April 2015
Bluecashmere. (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Being Cultured: In Defence of Discrimination (Societas) (Paperback)
There is already an excellent review of this book. I am wholly in agreement with it both in spirit and detail and shall not try to compete with it or replicate its content.

“Being Cultured” seems to me an ambitious book, learned and thoroughly documented. Angus Kennedy takes on culture in all its panoplies of meaning and deftly draws them into a coherent account of the retreat from standards and what was once referred to as “high culture.” It is first and foremost an account of the “retreat from idealism to crude pragmatism”. Mr Kennedy identifies the key figures in this process, Susan Sontag, John Berger, Pierre Bourdieu et al, and might well have included other post-modernist European and American intellectuals, who collectively have deconstructed the old order and reduced art to “what you can get away with” in Warhol’s words.

I have to confess that my expectations from this book were both more limited and more specific. What I had anticipated was a narrower focus on the “defence of aesthetic standards” a more explicit statement of the criteria by which we judge that this is beautiful…. that is ugly” .In short an enquiry into the basis for not only aesthetic judgements but moral ones, ones that enshrine the heritage of the enlightenment, a respect for reason and freedoms that have been largely surrendered, sacrificed on the altar of cultural (multi-cultural, politically correct) egalitarianism. We are now in a society in which if we commit a crime, the identity of the victim is likely to be the determining factor in the sentence; and where to express views in opposition to currently received wisdom may well be treated as criminal in itself. Culture has indeed become the handmaiden of politics.
As Angus Kennedy says, it is very much a question of our relationship with our past. “When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.” This seems to me to be profoundly true. My area is literature and I suppose I am sorry that Mr Kennedy did not become more involved here. He alludes to Pound, Eliot and briefly to Allan Bloom and Harold Bloom. There is an important tradition from the enlightenment, through Arnold and Coleridge to I A Richards, F R Leavis and such important American figures as Lionel Trilling. Central to their concerns is the idea of a canon, an acknowledged reservoir of great work through which the human spirit is nourished and sustained. This was no smug, hermetically sealed treasure trove but an ever shifting and expanding source of spiritual liberation and aesthetic, moral delight. It is this spirit that is enshrined in Allan Bloom’s words: “Culture is the unity of man’s brutish nature and all the arts and sciences he acquired in his movement from the state of nature to civil society.” Sadly, we seem to be in a violent headlong regression comparable to the hunters of “Lord of the Flies.”
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Being Cultured: In Defence of Discrimination (Societas)
Being Cultured: In Defence of Discrimination (Societas) by Angus Kennedy (Paperback - 1 April 2014)
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