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179 of 188 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A merited dystopian view of our declining culture
Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels in real life) has been viewing the bottom of British culture for many years as a psychiatrist and social commentator. As a psychiatrist, Dalrymple practiced in a prison and at a hospital in Birmingham, England. Nearly all his patients are from what can be fairly considered the "lower class" in the late 20th and early 21st...
Published on August 20, 2006 by Jerry Saperstein

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45 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good insights, but a lot of fluff to get to it
This books basic theme is that Western liberalism and the non-judgemental welfare state has created an under-class of people that live an unrestrained life without any moral compass, a life where they are both dependent on the state but hate it at the same time!
The liberal policy makers who preached tolerance, diversity and equality have not yet realised that this...
Published on December 5, 2005 by Michael Y


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179 of 188 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A merited dystopian view of our declining culture, August 20, 2006
This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Hardcover)
Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels in real life) has been viewing the bottom of British culture for many years as a psychiatrist and social commentator. As a psychiatrist, Dalrymple practiced in a prison and at a hospital in Birmingham, England. Nearly all his patients are from what can be fairly considered the "lower class" in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

These are the people who have been destroyed by the well-intentioned, but intellectually empty theories of the socialists and social reformers who believed they were delivering people from want, but in fact created a true dystopia. By making sure everyone could have a roof over their heads, food on their tables and changes in their jeans without lifting a finger, but by taking from the fewer and fewer productive people in English society, an underclass was created. With no reason to exert themselves and a popular culture that literally urges an endless regime of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll (or its equivalent), Dalyrmple has witnessed the destruction of English character.

Rampant alcoholism and drug use; increasing illegitimacy; children raised without any form of parental supervision or guidance; the destruction of traditional mores and respect for law and more; a refusal to see the dangers of failing to insist upon the assimilation of foreign, even hostile, immigrants and more are contributing to the deterioration of English society. By implication, Dalyrmple makes it plain that this same kind of social destruction will soon infect and ultimately destroy all the Western nations.

Dalyrmple offers no nostrums, no cures or panaceas. He is a reporter, not a reformer.

Some of the twenty-six essays here are puzzling as they wander a bit too deeply into Shakespeare and the application of his words to modern times. But other of Dalrymple's essays are simply searing indictments of the foolishness of intellectuals, socialists and those who are blind to their own ignorance.

Dalrymple's critiques of D. H. Lawrence, Virgina Woolf, Kinsey and other empty-headed intellectuals should be required reading. Virgina Woolf, for instance, saw no evil in the Nazis and urged people to do nothing to fight them, an attitude mirrored in today's England in those who see no evil in terrorist bombers who destroy innocent people.

Most people have never heard of Stefan Zweig, one of the most famous writers in pre-war Germany. Dalyrmple uses his 1942 suicide to brilliantly illuminate the death of what was once considered culture.

His commentary on an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art called "Sensation." Sensation was considered by many to be simply a display of bad taste. But "intellectuals" considered it a demonstration of free expression and artistic license. Here Dalyrmple contrasts the lionization of a female killer of children with the poignant pleas of the mother to remove a disgusting "artwork" of the murderess from exhibition. The smug words of the director of the Royal Academy once again drive home Dalyrmple's message: the intellectuals are stupid. He illustrates this with a single utterly fatuous quote from the director: "All art is moral. Anything that is immoral is not art."

Dalrymple examines the phenomena of Princess Diana, noting that at the time she was being killed in a Paris car accident, the presses of the liberal Observer newspaper were rolling with a story stating that if Diana's IQ were five points lower, she would have to be watered daily. Within days, of course, the same Observer and other liberal organs were falling over themselves in praising Diana as the "people's princess" and other adulations. Dalrymple's musings of the exchange of depth for shallowness not only in British media, but in British society are fascinating and all the more disturbing because they are clearly true.

Two of the most stiking essays deal with what happens when Islam breaks down, a perceptive observation of what happens when Islam encounters both the West and modernity, and a forecast of the recent riots in Paris.

Overall, Dalrymple is not happy reading. As noted, he offers no nostrums, no cures; frankly no hope. He is an acutely sensitive observer to what is wrong with the times and how it came to be. Perhaps, suitably depressed after reading Dalrymple, the ordinary citizen will do what he or she can to rip the blinders off people who are comfortably listening to the know-nothing intellectuals who would rather see the world destroyed than admit to their blindness.

Jerry
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368 of 423 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a stunning achievement, June 3, 2005
This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Hardcover)
It is difficult to write a review of this book without appearing ridiculously gushing. It contains some of the most profound literary, cultural and political comment that exists, and is rooted in extensive experience as a prison doctor in the UK and elsewhere which most left liberal pundits would avoid like the plague. Extreme independence of mind, sharp observation and deep humanity all combine to produce a truly indispensable book.

Addendum: Mr Bourne in his review grabs the wrong end of many sticks. Perhaps he should play fewer computer games (see his other reviews) and get out more often. He claims that "penury and depredation" existed before the welfare state: so what?

Contrary to what Bourne says, Dalrymple does not blame modern art for the failure of civilization. However, he does link the nihilism of Brit Art with the dominant cultural ethos of modern Britain, which is hardly controversial, an ethos which is apparent throughout popular culture, all the universities and even the dumbed down BBC. Dalrymple understands, on the basis of his experience of the world, and his profound knowledge of the cultural and scientific heritage of the West, now routinely denigrated in...the West, that culture is all important. Once that's gone, we are lost.

Dalrymple is criticised for relying on "personal experience" with little data. This criticism is often made of Dalrymple by people who have no or little experience of anything, and therefore do not value experience. It is also made by people who seem to think that only pseudo-scientific sociologists wearing white coats and armed with meaningless charts and graphs, can offer an "objective" view of society. This is a deeply philosophically illiterate view. Presumably they think that Sebastian Haffner's memoir of the early years of Nazism, in which he described the mass yobbishness and dumbed down idiocy engulfing large sections of German society, is "scientifically" worthless because not backed up by "data" but is only based on "personal experience". Indeed, how did Shakespeare manage without "data"? Well, maybe he was just very intelligent...

Further addendum: Wudhi states that "a strain of sexual disgust or at least extreme discomfort" is to be found in Dalrymple's writings. In "Sex and the Shakespeare Reader" it is clear that Dalrymple doesn't object to human sexuality per se. It is, rather the "All sex, all the time" attitude that he rightly finds disturbing. One need only see very young girls being sexualised, in their dress and attitudes, to agree -- provided one actually cares for their welfare. The phenomenon of premature sexualisation is the result of the kind of psychobabble that Wadhu clearly finds very profound, the view that one must "express oneself" no matter what. As a widely accepted theory of the good life, this leads to a race to the bottom, to the violence and pre-mature sexual activity that is an all-prevasive feature of life in large section of British society. If Wadhu doesn't find this disturbing he is either innocent of the ways of the world, or just stupid. Or possibly both.
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98 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A horrifying view of the future, January 16, 2006
By 
Michael T Kennedy (Mission Viejo, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Hardcover)
Theodore Dalrymple is widely traveled with an incredible exposure to other cultures. One of his essays concerns the problems of Africa and is the best thing I have read on that sad state of affairs.

I am also a physician and have a good acquaintance with city hospitals in America. Things have not got so bad here but some of the trends are not good. My British friends do not believe that it is as bad there as Dalrymple describes but one, a famous surgeon in London, has expressed alarm at the number of young women medical students who are converting to Islam. These are not the children of immigants. What an educated women would see in Islam is a mystery to both of us.

This book of essays has already predicted the subsequent riots in France. His picture of the inner cities of England is worrisome. These children who are living such self-destructive lives are not the great grandchildren of slaves. They are the products of progressive education and the welfare state. Some of the same pathology he sees can be found in "blue state" cities in the US where wealthy progressives live in guarded enclaves while violent slums occupy most of the rest of the city.

Other reviewers have complained that Dalrymple does not offer solutions. We in America have an advantage here. We are still the most religious society in Christendom. Traditional values hold sway in "red states." We have an active conservative movement demanding school vouchers for poor children trapped in hellish schools. Some trends here are reversing the pendulum from license back to sanity. Rudy Giuliani used the "broken window" theory of civic governance, mentioned by Dalrymple in one essay, to get control of New York City. Home schooling and vouchers offer an alternative to progressive education.

His book is a warning to us. This is what can happen if the social customs of millenia are discarded. It may be too late for England, a tragedy, but it is not to late for us to see the future and avoid it.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars UK/DK, September 12, 2005
By 
Caesar M. Warrington (Aldan, PA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Hardcover)
As soon as I finished reading the preface, I knew I was hooked on this book and its controversial author.

British physician/writer, Dr. Theodore Dalrymple is an unapolegetic critic of our post-modern times, offering insight and accusation to the guilt ridden political Left and its allies in the Arts and Academia for their trashing the ethics of restraint and responsibility.
Dalrymple has worked many the manmade hells of Africa and Asia, many of the people he encountered in the most destitute of these places still struggled to maintain some sense of stability and order in their homes. They refused, in spite of war and disease and oppression, to surrender their human dignity. Ironically, back in the technological and constitutional UK, Dalrymple finds the opposite.
What was once the land of civility and propriety, England has increasingly become a nihilistic mess of criminal perversity and selfish hedonism. People of the West are abandoning family bonds, forsaking traditional roles and modes of identity. Sadly it's those most in need of familial love and duty, those at the social and economic bottom of society, who are being encouraged down this path by a welfare state no longer so much a neccessary safety net but moreso a useless security blanket.
Working the hospitals and clinics for those on the lowest rungs of the working class, Dalrymple encounters the daily freaks and victims of our self-destructive society. Men without an inkling of self worth, drug addicted, surviving as criminal parasites on chocolate bars, fathering child after child literally without a thought of concern. Women suffering the abuse of these men, allowing them into their homes. Children physically and sexually abused, then tossed out onto the streets as soon as possible. Even the ultra-conservative British Muslim community is collapsing. The grandchildren of immigrants remain in a cultural limbo between the secular West and the Muslim East, seething with spite and rage for a society which not only tolerates but often encourages them in its self-hating dreamquest for "diversity."
In addition to writing a column for the London Spectator for the last thirteen years, Dalrymple has also contributed many essays for the City Journal (published by the Manhattan Institute). OUR CULTURE, WHAT'S LEFT OF IT... is a collection of 26 of these essays from the years 1996-2004 (including "When Islam Beaks Down" named by David Brooks of the New York Times as the best journal essay of 2004) and is divided into two themed sections: Art and Letters, Society and Politics.
Dalrymple peoples this book with almost every facet from the fringe: combat photographers, mass murderers, addicts, fashionistas, iconoclast-chic intellectuals and artists, communists, gangsters, [...], even criminals who use the British penal system as a poor man's health spa and retreat. He writes on and references some of the giants of politics, art and literature and society: Shakespeare as psychological as well as literary genius, Orwell's and Huxley's dystopian prophecies, Castro and his desecration of Cuba, the nitwitted neurotic Virginia Woolf, an emotionally stunted D.H. Lawrence, Turgenev vs. Marx, the media's creation and perpetuation of the cult of Princess Diana whom Dalrymple has the rare courage to rightly call out as one of the most overrated pop cultural personalities.

The only drawback to OUR CULTURE, WHAT'S LEFT OF IT... is that there is plenty of criticism yet not a hint of an idea of resolution. Dalrymple suggests nothing, unfortunately hopes for nothing. On talk radio's The Dennis Prager Show, where I heard him being interviewed, he mentioned his giving up on England. He feels the situation there is hopeless. However, in my opinion, all is not hopeless. Otherwise, this book is a must read for anyone who is concerned for the well being and future of our civilization, whether Left or Right.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important cultural critique, August 17, 2006
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This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Hardcover)
Theodore Dalrymple is a top-notch English commentator and a gifted essayist. The articles featured here represent some of his best and most recent writings. The volume is divided into two major sections: arts and letters, and society and politics.

He introduces this collection of essays with this line: "The fragility of civilization is one of the great lessons of the twentieth century." The line between civilization and barbarism is very thin, and needs to be zealously protected. Yet many of our intellectuals, argues Dalrymple, are either ignorant of the dividing line, or are doing their best to abolish that line altogether.

Generally these intellectual and political elites are of the left. But the right is not immune from such characters. "There has been an unholy alliance between those on the left, who believe that man is endowed with rights but no duties," he argues,and "libertarians on the right, who believe that consumer choice is the answer to all social questions."

While civilisation must have its critics, it must also have its defenders and preservers as well. Dalrymple takes on the many critics of civilization, especially those of the utopian variety, who believe that an untried ideal is always better than a flawed but tried reality.

The cultural despisers and civilization corrupters are many within the field of literature and the arts. From Virginia Woolf to Versace, Dalrymple examines a number of leading figures who have left a legacy of destruction and despair. Much of what passes for art, fashion or literature today is simply an exercise in bashing the West and the championing of hedonism, nihilism and barbarism.

His chapters on society and politics are especially of interest. He covers topics as diverse as the problems of Islam, the sexualisation of society, the death of childhood and mass murderers. Most of these chapters are minor classics in their own right. His chapter on the folly of legalising drugs is a small masterpiece of social commentary, logical thought and fluid prose.

Part of the reason for Dalrymple's accurate and acute observations of the decrepit condition of much of modern life is the fact that he also a doctor. He has worked for many years in hospitals, prisons, and other social hot spots. He has witnessed first hand the tragic results of our social engineers and their distorted vision of reality. Both in the UK and overseas, he has encountered first hand the bitter fruit of dying civilizations.

His incisive and clearly penned assessments of the decline of Western culture are a much-needed antidote to the utopianism and elitism of so many of our social spin doctors. His writings are as important and prophetic as they are skilfully crafted.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A close look at the dark side of humanity, July 26, 2006
By 
L O'connor (richmond, surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Hardcover)
Theodore Dalrympe has spent much of his working life as a prison doctor,seeing the very worst of human nature, and this collection of essays discusses various aspects of British society, and society in other countries. The conclusions that he reaches are mostly depressing, he sees British people as hoplelessly debased and vicious, coarsened by the permissive society, ignorant and un-educated, with neither manners nor morals.

Some of the essays in this collection are quite fascinating, there are two enthralling essays on Shakespeare which clearly show his 'relevence' to the times we live in, and a savage critique of Virginia Woolf. 'The Distopian Imagination' which discusses 'Brave New World' and '1984' is fascinating, and contains one of the most touching passages in the book. Visiting North Korea, Dr Dalrymple is surreptitiously approached by a young Korean:

An electric moment: for in North Korea, unsupervised contact between a Korean and a foreigner is utterly unthinkable, as unthinkable as shouting "Down with Big Brother!"

"Do you speak English?" he asked me. "Yes" I replied.

"I am a student at the Foreign Languages Institute. Reading Dickens and Shakespeare is the greatest, the only pleasure of my life."

It was the most searing communication I have ever received in my life. For him, Dickens and Shakespeare (which the regime permitted him to read with quite other ends in view) guaranteed the possibility not just of freedom but of truly human life itself.

Inevitably, there is an essay on the death of Princess Diana, the public hysteria following her death is invariably pointed out as a sign of the deterioration of the British character. However, the mourning at the death of Diana pales into complete insignificance when compared to the outbreak of public grief and hysteria on the death of Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), in 1817. Compared to the lavish displays of public grief and mourning on that occasion, the mourning for Diana is quite a minor incident. Mourning over the death of popular public characters is not a twentieth-century invention.

One of the most ineresting essays in the book deals with the legalisation of drugs, something Dr Dalrymple is implacably opposed to. Previously agnositc on the subject, I have to say that his arguments convinced me entirely that drugs should remain illegal. That people will continue to take drugs even when they are illegal is not an argument for legalising them, any more than it is as he points out, a reason for legalising any other kind of criminal behaviour:

"If the war against drugs is lost, then so are the wars against theft, speeding, incest, fraud, rape, murder, arson and illegal parking. Few, if any, such wars are winnable. so let us all do anything we choose."

'The Uses of Corruption' contrast Italian society with British, and comes out firmly favourable on the side of the Italians. The reason why Italian society is flourishing while British society is collapsing, is, Dr Dalrymple concludes, because of the corrupt nature of Italian beuraucracy. Because the Italians know that their beuaracracy is corrupt, they do not rely on it to help them, and so remain self-sufficient and enterprsing, whereas the British, beleiveing their beauracracy to be benign, depend on it passively for everything.

All of the essays in this collection are interesting, and most of them gave me a different perspective on whatever subject they discussed. However, I have no first-hand experience of the worst of human nature, having lived all my life in mostly pleasant suburban areas rather than amid the bleak squalor of the inner cities, I have not seen as Dr Dalrymple has, the very worst that human beings are capable of. Most of the people I know, including the much-demonised single mothers, are decent people leading decent lives, and trying to raise their children to be decent people too. I retain a hope that society is not quite as squalid and irredeemably vile as Dr Dalrymple believes.

The best line in the book is in the essay 'How-and How Not- to Love Manking' which is this:

"The victory over cruelty is never final, but, like the maintenance of freedom, requires eternal vigilance."

Reading this book induces depression, but also sharpens your vigilance.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible! An essay collection that's fun to read, October 30, 2005
This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Hardcover)
Let's face it: most essay collections suck. Especially those loved by the New York Times.

Dalrymple's "Our Culture, What's Left of It" is the exception. Dalyrmple worked as a British physician in prisons and hospitals in the poorest parts of England. He knows the underclass well, and has not one politically correct word to say about their problems.

A perfect example would be the 25 year old man Dalyrmple treated for swallowing packets of cocaine. This man had just abandoned his latest girlfriend, who had recently given birth to his chilld. This was only the man's most recent child. He had produced a grand total of five, none of whom he saw or took care of financially. "I know. Don't tell me" (p 12) was his response to Dalyrmple's disapproval.

"The words were a complete confession of guilt." (P 12) Dalyrmple says he's treated hundreds of "men who have abandonded their children in this fashion, and they all know perfectly well what the consequences are for the women, and, more important, for the children" (P 12).

Yet somehow the establishment doesn't seem to make the connection. Dalyrmple knows he's the sole voice of sanity in a society gone mad. As recently as fifty years ago the country had little crime and one of the best educational systems in the world. Today, the elderly fear leaving their home after dark. Marriage is fast disappearing. And the school system is so awful a vast chunk of the population can't read--in Shakespeare's green land.

You need to buy this book for the essay on Virginia Woolf alone. He nails her perfectly with his comment that, "No interpretation of events, trends,, or feelings is too silly...if it helps to fan her resentment" (p 69). No kidding. The woman whined more than any human being in history. And then there's this: "Her lack of recognition that anything had ever been achieved or created before her advent that was worthy of protection and preservation is all but absolute, along with her egotism" (P 70). Students trapped in feminist courses all over the world must be weeping at hearing the truth for once.

Go buy this book.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical Essays for Our Times, November 30, 2005
This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Hardcover)
This book of essays is crucial, brilliant, relevant, and thought-provoking. The author is a British medical doctor who has been everywhere and seen the worst that humanity has to offer in his travels and work in prisons and slum hospitals. He does not mince his words, which are cutting and merciless but highly intelligent and perceptive.

The book is divided into two broad sections; Arts & Letters, and Society & Politics. While some pieces serve as insightful analyses on such topics as Shakespeare, Stefan Zweig, Havana's decay and the 'cités' in Paris, a broad theme undergirds the totality of the essays: the recognition that civilization is slipping away, including all the cultural and ethical standards that go with it.

Dalrymple attacks both the increasingly amoral society in which he lives, and the deconstructionist post-modern intellectuals who not only stand non-judgmentally in the face of evil, but seem to bask in it, exploiting all that is depraved and destructive. He writes what he feels, and calls it as he sees it, unafraid of being assaulted like some of the people he describes.

Parts of this book are really upsetting and at times, emotionally difficult to read, but that is exactly what Dalrymple wants to elicit in his audience. If we find the rape, abuse, neglect and murder of children abhorent, perhaps there is hope for us after all.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The veneer of civilization, February 8, 2008
This book is a collection of 26 essays published by Dr Dalrymple since 1996. While the essays cover a range of different topics, the unifying theme is culture or, more broadly, civilization.

One of my favourite essays, `When Islam breaks down', was named by David Brooks of the New York Times as the best journal article of 2004, and is still well worth reading 4 years later.
Some of my other favourites include:
What's wrong with Twinkling Buttocks?;
Why Havana Had to Die;
The Goddess of Domestic Tribulations;
The Starving Criminal; and
The Man Who Predicted the Race Riots.
These essays are easy to read because they are so well written. Whether the reader agrees with the views expressed, the issues raised and points made are all worth careful consideration. I read this book slowly: one essay every couple of days. While the quality of the writing would have enabled me to read the essays more quickly, my own thought processes could not have integrated the information fast enough to have done justice to the messages they contained.

The essays may have a predominantly British grounding and focus but the underlying points and associated learning apply far more broadly. The issues raised by Dr Dalrymple should, in many cases, feature in public policy debates around the world.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cultural Gap Widens, September 23, 2005
By 
Erik Eisel (Huntington Beach, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Hardcover)
Every year, statistics show how the gap between rich and poor is widening, with the attendant bromide that more wealth should be redistributed. Theodore Dalrymple is not indifferent to the economic underpinnings of our cultural divide, but he concentrates on the cultural gap dividing people, many of whom come from the same economic class or ethnic group.

This book shares the premise of his previous on the underclass, namely that the hedonism of the cultural elite has trickled down to the underclass with horrific consequences. These consequences are illustrated not with statistics so much as personal anecdotes or famous headlines in the British newspapers (famous at least in Britain, since I hadn't heard of them before.)

While the book does not present any normative arguments, nor suggests a return to religion, it does suggest a return to something that Dalrymple only vaguely alludes to and hints at. This something may be characterized in a number of ways, such as, an appreciation of Shakespeare, emotional restraint vs. self-expression, preservation of the old-fashioned idea of a mother and father, married, raising their children.

Dalrymple's Burkean conservatism charts how a nation's sustaining ideals are transmitted from a generation to generation. He is less interested in transforming individuals into conservative superheroes.

Extremely well-written and gripping, especially if you are not familiar with the social decay gripping Britain.
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Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses
Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses by Theodore Dalrymple (Hardcover - May 12, 2005)
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