Cuture and Everyday Life: Matthew Arnold and Frank Leavis and Culture

Cuture and Everyday Life: Matthew Arnold and Frank Leavis and Culture

Culture and Everyday Life
Word Count: 474

Matthew Arnold, in his philosophical essay Culture and Anarchy, wrote it at a time where the Industrial Revolution had had the greatest impact on society.

Arnold tries to stand back and redefines basic words in order to give his own definition of culture, as an entity that, applied to everyone; could save the world from the danger of ‘machinery’ it is sinking in. For Arnold, culture was associated with the idea of perfectibility, and its products were the highest achievements of civilization.

However, Frank Leavis, in his philosophical extract Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture there is no real emphasis on the actual definition of culture but more emphasis on how Leavis pronounces that culture can only be appreciated and judged by a small minority “In any period it is upon a very small minority that the discerning appreciation of art and literature depends…The minority capable not only of appreciating Dante…at a given time…”[1] Furthermore, the phrase ‘discerning appreciation’ signals the crisis of value that was a focal point for much of the anxiety among Leavis in this text, and other theorists at the time, respectively.

Throughout his text Arnold talks about the concept of anarchy, to which he construes it as popular culture. Arnold puts forward a Dukheimian approach towards the concept of anarchy “The modern spirit has almost entirely dissolved those habits, and the anarchical tendency of our worship of freedom…in machinery, is becoming a very manifest.”[2] Arnold reinforces social values by saying that “of our superstitious…blind faith in machinery…tends to anarchy.”[3]

However, Arnold’s concept on anarchy plays it role in what Arnold considers of what could be key threat to civilisation in his essay “if culture, which simply means trying to perfect oneself…to counteract the tendency to anarchy which seems to be threatening us.” [4] Arnold accentuates that for a person to benefit from culture,...

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