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Not what I was expecting...
on 30 June 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.