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An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture [Hardcover]

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Item Number 287277  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   173
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   1 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   May 25, 2000
Publisher   St. Augustine's Press
ISBN  1890318477  
EAN  9781890318475  

Availability  11 units.
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Item Description...
Received by the British press with equal acclaim and indignation, this book sets out to define and defend high culture against the world of pop, corn, and popcorn. It shows just why culture matters in an age without faith, and gives an extended argument, drawing on philosophy, criticism, and anthropology, against the "post-modernist" world-view. Scruton offers a penetrating attack on deconstruction, on Foucault, on Nietzschean self-indulgence, and on the "culture of repudiation" which has infected the modern academy. But his book is not only negative. It is a celebration of the true heroes of modern culture and a call to the higher life.

The American edition of this famous and notorious work has been revised to take account of the controversy which it has inspired, and contains new material specially directed to Americans.

Buy An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture by Roger Scruton from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781890318475 & 1890318477

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More About Roger Scruton

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Roger Scruton is the author of a number of books, including Modern Philosophy and A Short History of Philosophy. Formerly Professor of Aesthetics at Birkbeck College, London University, and a visiting professor at Boston University, he lives in Wiltshire, England.

Roger Scruton currently resides in Wiltshire. Roger Scruton has an academic affiliation as follows - Birkbeck College, University of London (Emeritus) American Enterprise.

Roger Scruton has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Gifford Lectures
  2. Very Short Introductions

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Art > General   [12493  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Criticism & Theory > General   [8246  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Modern   [1492  similar products]
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology > General   [17199  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
The Apparatchiks of Subversion  Oct 1, 2008
It is unusual in our day to find a philosophical work that is profound, erudite, and oblivious to current intellectual fashion. I have just finished reading such a work: "An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture," by Roger Scruton. First published in 1998, it is a thoughtful attempt to explain the demise of Western culture.

Scruton takes on all the familiar antagonists: deconstructionism, contemporary art, the youth culture, and much more. They scatter in disarray before his mighty pen. For example, discussing the role of artists in contemporary society: "Art is no longer a reflection on human life but a mechanism for excluding it." As for the more vulgar varieties of pop music:

"We witness a reversal of the old order of performance. Instead of the performer being the means to present the music, which exists independently in the tradition of song, the music has become the means to present the has a tendency to lose all musical character. For music, properly constructed, has a life of its own, and is always more interesting than the person who performs it."

I particularly enjoyed his debunking of deconstructionism, the best such effort I have seen. Scruton traces the development of this exaltation of nothingness, showing how it is intimately connected with the culture of repudiation, that phony pose of our self-styled intellectuals who claim to be in a permanent state of rebellion against the authorities. He shows how deconstruction became a quasi-theological underpinning of the culture of repudiation, enabling people to believe that they are in the opposition, even as they are being swept up by the dominant wave:

"The subversive intention in no way forbids deconstruction from becoming an orthodoxy, the pillar of a new establishment, and the badge of conformity that the literary apparatchik must now wear. But in this it is no different from other subversive doctrines: Marxism, for example, Leninism, and Maoism. Just as pop is rapidly becoming the official culture of the post-modern State, so is the culture of repudiation becoming the official culture of the post-modern university."

Scruton delves into a thorough analysis of the Enlightenment and its aftermath, tracing the main lines of thought through the 19th century to Modernism, Post-Modernism, and finally the morbid state of collapse in which we now find ourselves. He presents several interesting hypotheses, including the notion that art, in its post-Enlightenment sense, stepped in to fill the void left by the collapse of religion as a guiding force in the West.

Explore these fascinating insights when you read the book in its entirety.
Anyone out there interested in the basic issues?   Feb 4, 2007
I'd hoped to enjoy the the knowledge and insight of the reviewers as well as the author of the book in question - letting me know whether I should buy it or borrow it through my local library. But I'm frustrated at what I regard as agonizingly intellectual reviews of what appears to be an agonizingly intellectualized analysis of modern culture.

Isn't it possible to address a simpler question: why isn't there a 20th Century continuation of music that provides entertainment, solace, feelings of reverence, joy, and relaxation to larger segments of the public - that much 19th Century and earlier music was designed to do?Think about the ecstatic reception of Dvorak's New World Symphony in Philadelphia in 1895.

Why must such values be relegated to the popular music world? Why do contemporary composers ignore the needs of general audiences, amateur performers, church congregations, and children in favor of following their personal muse, deriving pleasure in techno- or structral musical experimentation in directions that have no possible or even intended links to those outsider professional or cultural elites?

And why aren't the reviewers asking these questions?
A "conservative" view pining  Nov 18, 2006
Roger Scruton, like many so-called "conservatives" has made a noble swing (hence the two stars) at assessing the spiritual and philosophical problems of our day that have produced what Eliot called the "hollow men", but his "conservative" view is not mine.

While he doesn't give a cultural solution, he makes the keen observation that all conservatives can agree upon, by and large, in the first paragraph of p. 82 regarding culture and religion, how the two intersect, and how one derives meaning. Well done there.

He observes how artists have become the new priests, but have turned art into kitsch, (p. 90) and religion followed (p. 92). In this chapter (8), he correctly discusses how the first effects of modernism was to make high-culture difficult, rather than broadly affirming, which was true - hyper elitist, which you can read from works in T.S. Eliot's day and before. Furthermore, culture became kitschy and ultimately banal, via pop culture, ultimately imbuing fake aesthetic values, which I concur with the author's observation. In Anglo culture, pop culture has become, by and large, fake heritage - a commercial phony disguising what has been lost.

In Chapter 10, he makes some apt observations about the totemic iconic status of pop stars. While pop stars have saint-like status, particularly with youth, I think Scruton gives them too much validity, though they are the modern bards, I wish he would have seasoned his thoughts with an analysis on how corporate ownership uses this enculturation to manipulate the public into the reductionistic location of commodity - everything for sale.

Although, I agree with much of Michael Gunther's assessment regarding Scruton's book of meditations, or rather, observations, that is taking a critical observation of the time line from the Reformation, which Scruton calls the Enlightenment (an historical error).

The error that he makes is to pin, like many conservative Roman Catholic thinkers, the problems of Western society onto the Protestant Reformers, particularly Martin Luther, which is the tone on pages 19, 81 and elsewhere, but explicitly on page 23. He attempts to infuse the Reformation with the caustic thoughts of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Nietzsche and others. This is an inaccurate analysis of Western religion and thought. While he introduces some continental thought that is less known today, like earlier German and French literature and art, he tends to merge it all eclectically to seek a salve for his tortured cultural mind. His solution, like many of his ilk, is to decry the breaking up of the Roman Catholic hegemony in the Middle Ages and the retreat of its sacred vision and authority.

But, the fact of history is that the building and erosion of Western culture is a multi-faceted one that is not so convenient to his position. For instance, did you know that Charles V, who was at odds with the Reformation, also sacked Rome and the pope?

While conservative myself, an Anglo "Whig" conservative, I read this book and saw more broadly how the contemporary "liberal" / "conservative" divide is really a loosely held confederation of worldviews, with many overlaps. Scruton is really trying to speak from an English cultural view (we'll say Anglo, because that cultural worldview reaches beyond England). The conservative Anglo worldview changed in the time of the Tudors to a Reformed Protestant one (even that morphed between a traditional Anglican, Puritan Anglican / Non-Conformist, Laudian, Latitudinarian, Evangelical and others). Like ancient Israel, even this has its muddling. In religious history, the rise of the Anglo-Catholic movement undermined and co-opted this history, which made it vulnerable, as Newman would observe of its romantic medievalism. In history, Britain and the Anglo world started to lose its history and memory as it grew out, losing its religion, and getting caught up in colonial concerns that gained the world, but lost its soul; which got it entangled with multi-culturalism, which has become its political warder. The story is too long and interwoven to call it all out, but there are milestones and I think Scruton gets it wrong from the Anglo position. To make it universal is more difficult, which is what many are trying to do today without ties to religious mooring, but through political revisionisms, such as the post-modern views that Scruton aptly scrutinizes.

Much of the post-War angst you can read in such works as the writings of Philip Larkin and the critiques of Peter Hitchens, and I must add, George Orwell; and, in film and TV (e.g. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", "Inspector Morse", etc.). This undertow was revealed much earlier in Matthew Arnold's era, like his poem, "Dover Beach". WWI, positivism, socialism, among other elements, helped push it along (the 60s wasn't the origin, it was a cumulative effect). The result has been a tragic ride down a nihilistic path. For those in Britain, the punk movement makes cultural sense as an outcome, but even it too has been submerged into the sale and dance of commodity culture, which is what we have with the loss of tradition. You can now see why human life is devalued and cruelty is the face of pop culture today - but you won't see that in the papers or in advertisements without looking.

Lastly, Scruton makes some keen observations about the Zeitgeist influenced by the usual suspects, like Herbert Marcuse, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michael Foucalt and others who exported much of their nihilistic poison, which he correctly ties in with the 18th century Jacobins and moving forward (p. 124f). None the less, the soixante-huitards have had their day. But for Scruton, he odes cultural hope without faith and strangely Confucius and not Christ? A truly orthodox Protestant critique, which would have also resonated in the ancient Jewish / Catholic / Orthodox heart - is to trust God and not institutions, which man tends to deify in substitution, which happened at Trent and elsewhere.

Our times are much like the days in the book of Judges. If one looks at Christian and Western history through the glass of the ancient history of the Old Testament Jews, one will get a better look at a truly conservative vision of the history of man (Anglo and otherwise) and God and some light toward a clearer interpretation of man's history - a story of man, with feet of clay, troding back and forth like Bunyan's allegory trying to find himself and his way.
A defence of the high culture  Apr 23, 2006
The author starts by giving a definition of the concept of culture and states his intention to pursue an "archaeological" method in studying his subject. He then discusses the difference between cult and culture in which he sees religion as the guarantee of social knowledge and asserts that there can be no scientific culture because culture addresses the question of what we feel. Mr Scruton then proceeds by defining the Romantic movement in art and literature and linking it to the decline of Christian faith and the Enlightenment, the aesthetic thus replacing the religious. And so art and literature ceased to be recreation and became studies. Since the aesthetic is the realm of value, the question of taste arises. He underlines the importance of fiction in high culture because it is the product of the imagination. Art being the product of the human spirit, it is higher than nature and apart from it.
Mr Scruton then concentrates on Romanticism which had nature, erotic love and the world before Enlightenment as its dominant themes. Works of art also pose the question of the importance of fantasy and imagination. Modernism is also discussed with the example of Baudelaire, then avant-garde and the concept of kitsch in which advertising is important because it creates a fantasy in which value can be purchased so that price and value are one and the same.
The author then discusses the issue that the relationship between a painting or a novel and its subject is an intentional one, not a material one as opposed to photography.
A further topic is modern music in which it is not the music that is the focus of attention but the singer himself. In the music of youth, the music is at the service of the performer and not the other way round.
Finally the author concludes that culture is rooted in religion and that the role of modern high culture is to perpetrate the common culture not as a religion but as art.
An interesting study of modern values and of the importance of aesthetic principles which shows that "culture" does not merely denote every kind of collective habit.
"May I Know the Whole ...  Jul 30, 2004
of which you are so beautiful a part," was a favourite prayer of the man about whom I wrote my doctoral dissertation, the philosopher of religion, William Earnest Hocking. Scruton's conclusion to his work on modern culture reminded me of that prayer. Initially, like many other reviewers on this site, I was annoyed with what I thought were too few answers. And yet the more I pondered Scruton's reference to to the natural piety of Wordsworth, and the ethos of Confucianism, I found myself agreeing with the suggestions he offers.

Again, as with at least one other reviewer, I felt that "Yoofanasia" is worth the price of the book. The tragedy is, indeed, that many of those who might benefit most from these insights are probably unlikely to read the book or this chapter and possibily unable to do so. As one who second career involved thirty years of trying to get adolescents to learn to think, and who refused to buy into the cult of self-esteem and child-centred education, Scruton is right on in this analysis. When I pondered my own experience of how ungrateful were most of these charges of mine, it seemed eminently clear that natural piety could provide some corrective to that and the civility, courtesy, and deference to wisdom of traditional Confucianism could do that as well.

I recommend the book particularly to educators concerned about schools which are warehouses for adolescents and for those who want to make of them anything but. I recommend it for those concerned with media ecology. I recommend it for those whose own hearts leap up when they behold rainbows in the sky, or the warmth of furry, purring kittens, or the smiling, silent face of their beloved.

Catherine Berry Stidsen, Cayuga, Ontario, Canada


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