Culture and Anarchy, Matthew Arnold's series of essays comment on the status of culture throughout the late nineteenth century. Arnold saw culture as the pursuit of total perfection. It was then, he believed, the practice of all to accept that perfection and further achieve it throughout all of life. Culture, he believed was the essence of our beings, culture brings together all the issues that concern people in society, all the knowledge which we possess and all the freedom and thought to come. This essay should be read as a critique on culture more than it is a criticism of the author's time.
[...] People are now actively engaged in their own society, choosing to forge a culture out of their interests, no longer excluded from what had been considered an elite privilege. “Culture and Anarchy” is detailed and comprehensive; it fails, however, to put forth a coherent thesis and convince the reader of the author's stance. It is Arnold's unclear definition of culture that causes this work to fail, on a grand scale. With a lack of definition, Arnold sets up his essay to be clouded in confusion as he, initially, attempts to discredit societies previous understanding of culture. [...]
[...] If action were the key to understanding ourselves, “believers in action would, no doubt, have surpassed us in this sphere of vital influence by all the superiority of their genius and energy over ours.” Through this essay Arnold tries to redefine the classical interpretation of ‘culture.' What is ‘culture,' why do people strive to be ‘cultural?' His answer appears, time and again, throughout the essay. Everything in cultural life, that is all of life, can be combated with sweetness and light. Life will have the capacity to become difficult and challenging. People must do their best to live actively; complacency will lead to disenchantment with culture. Culture, in Arnold's view, has created methods and patterns, now understood as accepted forms of thought and interaction. Through these accepted patterns of behavior people have become creatures of habit, following these norms almost mechanically. [...]
[...] Culture exists within anarchy and it is because of culture that we have anarchy. Theorists of every generation will attempt to answer questions of social conformity. Through “Culture and Anarchy,” Arnold showcases that culture can be a harmony between beauty and conflict. Arnold's postulate is less easy to understand, modernly. Perhaps in a time dominated by Victorian principles it was simpler to think in terms of sweetness and light, but there are too many cultural differences, too vast a knowledge of the evils existing within our own culture. [...]
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