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Culture and Anarchy

Matthew Arnold

Book Overview: 

Culture and Anarchy is a series of periodical essays by Matthew Arnold. Arnold's famous piece of writing on culture established his High Victorian cultural agenda which remained dominant in debate from the 1860s until the 1950s. (Summary by Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .een said, for the follower of perfection, anything necessary or eternal. If the New Testament and the practice of the primitive Christians sanctioned the popular form of church government a thousand times more expressly than they do, if the Church since Constantine were a thousand times more of a departure from the scheme of primitive Christianity than it can be shown to be, that does not at all make, as is supposed by men in bondage to the letter, the popular form of church government alone and always sacred and binding, or the work of Constantine a thing to be regretted. What is alone and always sacred and binding for man is the climbing towards his total perfection, and the machinery by which he does this varies in value according as it helps him to do it. The planters of Christianity had their roots in deep and rich grounds of human life and achievement, both Jewish and also Greek; and had thus a comparatively firm and wide basis amidst all the vehement inspiration . . . Read More

Community Reviews

When it comes to pure malicious wit, nobody beats Matthew Arnold, not even Jonathan Swift. The six short essays in Culture and Anarchy would have long passed out of print if they were not such fun. The first three essays take aim at all segments of society: the working, middle and aristocratic cl...more

I don't know where to even begin with this book. It is glorious and meaningful, useful, worthy and important - and it is also horrifying in its use of elitist rhetoric (we're here to perfect ourselves, didn't you know? and that's possible through cultural education! Perfection!), its colonial pro...more

Indeed, yes. Though this is somewhat different from what you think it is going to be, based on your limited knowledge for what Arnold is arguing, and thus one could find it somewhat disappointing, but it should not be disappointing. What was somewhat surprising was Arnold's great phrase "the best...more

Unbelievably boring.

Reason -- "Sweetness and Light" -- Culture -- Perfection -- for Arnold these terms are nearly synonymous, and all underlie the same central claim: the cause of disorder is both identifiable and curable. Arnold's goal here is not to propose a specific program of reform but, as he says in Democracy...more

Arnold's idea of culture could not be less in vogue these days. As it is always salutary to read the out-of-vogue, I strongly recommend this book to everyone. Today, culture is used to mean what used to be called society or even traditional society. This entire book is Arnold's bid for culture to...more

I had heard others speak of this book as if it were a cult classic. Any wonder. There are so many things going on in this work. I am still trying to see where Matthew Arnold fits in with the likes of Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, and Herbert Spencer. He was a prof...more

But what is greatness?— culture makes us ask. Greatness is a spiritual condition worthy to excite love, interest, and admiration; and the outward proof of possessing greatness is that we excite love, interest, and admiration.

Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy was an odd book to come back to in...more

Abbreviations
Introduction
Note on the Text
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of Matthew Arnold

--Culture and Anarchy

Appendix: Henry Sidgwick, 'The Prophet of Culture'
Explanatory Notes

Too much culture, not enough anarchy.

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