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Modern Culture Paperback – November 24, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...Scruton offers both a trenchant critique of pop culture and a defense of the opposing "high culture".... Many readers may find themselves asking whether moral aestheticism, without any explicit religious element, can deal with the more destructive aspects of modern culture."- Robert Grano, Touchstone, October 2006

(Touchstone: A Journal Of Mere Christianity)

"…Scruton offers both a trenchant critique of pop culture and a defense of the opposing "high culture"…. Many readers may find themselves asking whether moral aestheticism, without any explicit religious element, can deal with the more destructive aspects of modern culture."- Robert Grano, Touchstone, October 2006

(Touchstone: A Journal Of Mere Christianity)

About the Author

Professor Roger Scruton is visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Senior Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall Oxford and visiting Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. His other books include Sexual Desire, The West and the Rest, England: An Elegy, News from Somewhere, Gentle Regrets and I Drink Therefore I Am (all published by Continuum).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (November 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826494447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826494443
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #631,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Roger Scruton has written a very good book. He divides culture into three 'forms': common, high, and popular. He is unashamed in his belief in the primacy of high culture, which is linked to common culture, and considers what popular culture offers far less significant than what higher culture gives us. But that does not mean that Scruton merely dismisses popular culture; rather, it takes up at least three chapters, in which Foucault, Derrida and youth culture (including music) are carefully examined and the bankruptcy of their appeal easily exposed. In that sense the book lives up to the title of the series ('An Intelligent Person's Guide to... '), and Scruton is quite clear on this in the preface. Its audience is thus university students and academics, and possibly the interested, educated common reader. I consider the chapter on youth culture ('Yoofanasia') particularly good and it is just unfortunate that those who may well have their eyes opened by it are the least likely to read it - or to be able to read it. This is, and will continue to be, an unpopular book in fashionable circles; after all, it is by an unfashionable man. On these grounds alone, the book demands to be read, and those with strong ideas on culture will not fail to engage with it.
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By A Customer on July 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For those familar with Roger Scruton's brillant essays for City Journal, this book offers more of the same. And, while Scruton vigorously argues against the virulent form of nihilism that characterises our age, his own philosophical timidity leaves little by way of solution to many of the problems he lays at the door of modernity and its proponents. In the first chapter, Scruton provides a kind of reductivist anthropological-psychological analysis of religion that would seem to completely demystify Christianity. Scruton notes the important social and psychological functions "ritual" plays in affirming moral identity and transitional phases in an individual's life with respect to the collective an individual helps comprise. Scruton then develops this line of thought by way of introducing his working thesis: when a civilization no longer believes in God, it can either affirm those values that speak to the human Good religion held in place, or it can attempt to find some sense of authenticity and meaning in rejecting the Old Order altogether. Scruton claims his book will argue for the first option, given the destructive, evil nature of the latter. However, herein lies the problem: by adhering to a form of what seems to be little more than a variation on Enlightenment pragmatic liberalism, Scruton himself falls victim to nihilism. His language implies that he himself rejects the idea that there is a transcendent, mind-independent Truth that ontologically grounds man's being. But if this is the case, whatever moral or aesthetic view of the world one adopts will be as arbitrary as any other: reason will not be able to determine a 'fact of the matter' with regard to the Good.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a rewarding book with a somewhat misleading title that makes it sound like less than it actually is. Scruton says that the book is written for the reader with a minimal amount of cultural literacy. He assumes, e.g., that the reader will have read Baudelaire. Fair enough, but the book is much more of a series of philosophic essays than a ‘guide’.

Scruton’s inspiration is Eliot, an influence which he makes explicit. He is also, obviously, influenced by Arnold. I find that his conclusions are very close, in some respects, to George Steiner’s. The argument is not unfamiliar. Traditional culture was fractured by the Enlightenment, whose principal targets were sacerdotal and aristocratic power, its substitute authorities reason and science. This led to the ‘death of God’. However, the loss of religion had unintended consequences. Traditional thought, including our views of time and eternity, of justice and equity, and of the act of aesthetic creation itself (which Steiner emphasizes) were underwritten by the belief in a deity. Absent a deity our attempts to navigate what Scruton elsewhere calls the ‘lebenswelt’, the world of interpersonal human discourse, is significantly compromised. The current affection in some circles for ‘anti-foundationalism’ is reinforced and extended.

Without traditional religion the post-Enlightenment cognoscenti turn to art, but absent that religion, art (particularly art as a part of tradition itself) is altered. We now live in a world of commodification where price trumps value and salesmanship trumps inspiration and creation. Tradition itself, i.e.
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