Culture/Metaculture (The New Critical Idiom) by Francis Mulhern

By Francis Mulhern

Culture/Metaculture is a stimulating creation to the meanings of 'culture' in modern Western society. This crucial survey examines:

* tradition as an antidote to 'mass' modernity, within the paintings of Thomas Mann, Julien Benda, José Ortega y Gasset, Karl Mannheim and F. R. Leavis
* altering perspectives of the time period within the paintings of Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, T. S. Eliot and Richard Hoggart
* post-war theories of 'popular' tradition and the increase of Cultural stories, paying specific realization to the main figures of Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall
* theories of 'metaculture', or the ways that tradition, besides the fact that outlined, speaks of itself.

Francis Mulhern's interdisciplinary technique permits him to attract out the interesting hyperlinks among key political matters and the altering definitions of tradition. the result's an unrivalled advent to an idea on the middle of latest serious thought.

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Example text

On the other hand, they insist upon the duties of the self-consistent ‘intellectual’, or le clerc, or ‘the man of culture’, or the inward German artist, or ‘the critical minority’. These professions of faith were in all cases minoritarian. The course of history seemed irresistible. Pessimism was the characteristic feeling of the texts – not excluding the relatively sanguine Mannheim’s – as they surveyed the repellent evidences of mass society. Yet only Benda counselled withdrawal as a normal response to contemporary disorder, and, even in arguing so, he appealed to assumptions that united him with his most activist counterparts.

Culture, on the other hand, must now subsist in conditions where it could not take root and flourish; it was, by virtue of its commitment to a ‘human norm’, an exposed survivor, the memory of a common life that had gone forever. Industrialization, with its new forms of work, consumption and recreation, severed one after another line of cultural continuity, in a process that Leavis summarized as ‘standardization’ and ‘levelling-down’ (1933a: 18). Religious sanctions had weakened. Increased mobility and expanding communications had disrupted traditional affiliations.

Indeed he went further, rejecting humanitarian and internationalist programmes as mock-universal particularisms of the same kind. His formative public experience had been the controversy over the trial and imprisonment of a Jewish army officer on false charges of espionage, the Dreyfus Affair of the 1890s, which pitted universal against nationalist values in a mythic civil war of France’s intelligentsia. Kultur was the epitome of everything he fought against. ‘Irony’ is not a word that will occur to any reader in connection with his writing, which on the contrary was ‘radical’ and ‘dogmatic’ in its assertion of objective, perennial values.

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