Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy

I have always had a soft spot for Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)  because Post-Modernists loathe him. See some more about him at:

I recently found this piece in his Culture and Anarchy, that captures quite nicely my dislike of the talking down so loved by elites, conservative and liberal (and I don’t exclude myself from this error either):

Plenty of people will try to give the masses, as they call them, an intellectual food prepared and adapted in the way they think proper of the actual condition of the mass. The ordinary popular literature is an example of this way of working on the masses. Plenty of people will try to indoctrinate the masses with the set of ideas and judgements constituting the creed of their own profession or party. Our religious and political organizations give an example of this way of working on the masses. I condemn neither way; but culture works differently. It does not try to teach down to the level of the inferior classes; it does not try to win them for this or that sect of its own, with ready made judgements and watch words. It seeks to do away with classes; to make the best that has been known and thought in the world current everywhere; to make all men live in an atmosphere of sweetness and light, where they may use ideas, as it uses them itself; freely – nourished, and not bound by them.

This is the social idea; and the men of culture are the true apostles of equality. The great men of culture are those who have had the passion for diffusing, for making prevail, for carrying from one end of society to the other, the best knowledge, the best ideas of their time; who have laboured to divest knowledge of all that was harsh, uncouth, difficult, abstract, professional, exclusive; to humanize it, to make it efficient outside the clique of the cultivated and learned, yet remaining the best knowledge and thought of the time, and a source, therefore of sweetness and light.


About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Academic Conflict, Conflict History, Conflict Processes, Creativity and Conflict, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy

  1. Pingback: Selling culture as a disposable commodity “Part 1″ « Waterside Studios

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