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The history of civilization is the history of a long warfare between the dangerous and powerful forces of the id, and the various systems of taboos and inhibitions which man has erected to control them. --Sex In History (1964) -- Gordon Rattray Taylor

Culture as civilization

Many people today use a conception of "culture" that developed in Europe during the 18th and early 19th centuries. This idea of culture then reflected inequalities within European societies, and between European powers and their colonies around the world. It identifies "culture" with "civilization" and contrasts the combined concept with "nature". According to this thinking, one can classify some countries as more civilized than others, and some people as more cultured than others. Thus some cultural theorists have actually tried to eliminate popular or mass culture from the definition of culture. Theorists like Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) or the Leavises regard culture as simply the result of "the best that has been thought and said in the world” (Arnold, 1960: 6), thus labeling anything that doesn't fit into this category as chaos or anarchy. On this account, culture links closely with social cultivation: the progressive refinement of human behavior. Arnold consistently uses the word this way: "... culture being a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world". [Arnold, 1882]

In practice, culture referred to élite goods and activities such as haute cuisine, high fashion or haute couture, museum-caliber art and classical music, and the word cultured described people who knew about, and took part in, these activities. For example, someone who used 'culture' in the sense of 'cultivation' might argue that classical music "is" more refined than music produced by working-class people such as punk rock or than the indigenous music traditions of aboriginal peoples of Australia.

People who use "culture" in this way tend not to use it in the plural as "cultures". They do not believe that distinct cultures exist, each with their own internal logic and values; but rather that only a single standard of refinement suffices, against which one can measure all groups. Thus, according to this worldview, people with different customs from those who regard themselves as cultured do not usually count as "having a different culture"; but class as "uncultured". People lacking "culture" often seemed more "natural," and observers often defended (or criticized) elements of high culture for repressing "human nature".

From the 18th century onwards, some social critics have accepted this contrast between cultured and uncultured, but have stressed the interpretation of refinement and of sophistication as corrupting and unnatural developments which obscure and distort people's essential nature. On this account, folk music (as produced by working-class people) honestly expresses a natural way of life, and classical music seems superficial and decadent. Equally, this view often portrays non-Western people as 'noble savages' living authentic unblemished lives, uncomplicated and uncorrupted by the highly-stratified capitalist systems of the West.

Today most social scientists reject the monadic conception of culture, and the opposition of culture to nature. They recognize non-élites as just as cultured as élites (and non-Westerners as just as civilized) - simply regarding them as just cultured in a different way. Thus social observers contrast the "high" culture of élites to "popular" or pop culture, meaning goods and activities produced for, and consumed by, non-élite people or the masses. (Note that some classifications relegate both high and low cultures to the status of subcultures.) --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture#Culture_as_civilization [Oct 2005]

Civilisation (1969) - Kenneth Clark

Civilisation (1969) - Kenneth Clark [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Product Description
The eminent art historian Sir Kenneth Clark was commissioned to write and present an epic examination of Western European culture, defining what he considered to be the crucial phases of its development. Civilisation: A Personal View by Lord Clark would be more than two years in the making, with filming in over 100 locations across 13 countries. The lavish series was hailed as a masterpiece when it was first transmitted in 1969.

Civilisation (full title, Civilisation: A Personal View) was a popular TV series outlining the history of Western society produced by the BBC and aired in 1969 on BBC Two. Kenneth Clark wrote and presented the series and also wrote the book Civilisation: A Personal View published in 1970. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilisation_%28television_series%29 [Jun 2006]

The series was accompanied by a book with the same name.

From the foreword:

"Writing for television is fundamentally different from writing a book.

[In writing for television] "generalisations are inevitable and, in order not to be boring, must be slightly risky. There is nothing new in this. It is how we talk about things sitting round the room after dinner; and television should retain the character of the spoken word, with the rhythms of ordinary speech, and even some of the off-hand imprecise language that prevents conversation from becoming pompous."

"I believe in television as a medium, and was prepared to give up two years of writing to see what could be done with it."

See also: television - documentary film - civilisation - 1969

Eros and Civilization : A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (1955) - Herbert Marcuse

Eros and Civilization : A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (1955) - Herbert Marcuse [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Herbert Marcuse's critiques of capitalist society (especially his 1955 synthesis of Marx and Freud, Eros and Civilization, and his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man) resonated with the concerns of the leftist student movement in the 1960s. Because of his willingness to speak at student protests, Marcuse soon became known as "the father of the New Left" (a term he disliked and rejected). His work heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture studies. He had many speaking engagements in the US and Europe in the late 1960s and in the 1970s. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Marcuse [Apr 2005]

see also: eros - civilization - Sigmund Freud - Herbert Marcuse

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