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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Pandora's Box of Culture unpacked, 3 Jan. 2002
This review is from: The Idea of Culture (Wiley-Blackwell Manifestos) (Paperback)
Eagleton's 'The Idea of Culture'can't be read over the cornflakes, but is worth perseverance and will make those who indulge in easy talk about 'culture' think again. Eagleton makes us realise that when we speak about Capital-C Culture we are talking about something different to commercially-organised 'mass culture' which is widely believed to be a threat to 'civilized values'. There is a difference between the culture of the National Gallery and that of football supporters. There are some limpid sayings: 'We are not so much splendid syntheses of nature and culture, materiality and meaning, as amphibious animals caught on the hop between angel and beast.' (p.98). We inhabit many different cultural worlds, and simplistic condemnation of contemporary life is no substitute for patient discernment of those commonplaces where, wehether we are believers or not, we encounter angels unawares. As Eagleton says, 'There was always something mildly risible about the idea that humanity might be saved by studying Shakespeare. To become a truly popular force, such elitist culture really needs to take the religious road. What the West ideally requires is some version of culture which would win the life-and-death allegiance of the people, and the traditional name for this allegiance is, precisely, religion.... Religion is not effective because it is otherworldly, but because it incarnates this otherworldliness in a practical form of life.' (p.69). This raises the interesting question of the relation of religious thought to 'culture'. Although for many this path is a necessary one, it also poses dangers; in the background are falling skyscrapers resulting from its fanatical limits.
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