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This article is taken from PN Review 21, Volume 8 Number 1, September - October 1981.

A Conservative View of Culture Roger Scruton

THERE are certain human activities in which an ideal of excellence is pursued regardless of popularity, and which survive and endure not because universally enjoyed but because distantly and dimly respected. There are other activities in which ideas of excellence and popularity go together, which enact the shared values of the participants, and which survive only because those values remain indissolubly linked to them. To the first class of activities belong art, music, and literature-what I shall call 'high' culture. To the second class belong habits of speech, association, play and entertainment-what I shall call 'common' culture.

A citizen of the United Kingdom participates in a common culture, but he may or may not be interested in the high culture that has grown from it. What does his common culture amount to? It is of course very hard to say. But one can point to the vestiges of Christian religion and morality, to a delight in specific forms of association, such as club, team and union, to habits of speech and leisure that constitute the inwardness of social class. One could also point to patriotic feelings and a sense of allegiance which are occasionally permitted their embarassed expression. These are all cultural phenomena, in that they are neither economic nor political in the ordinary meaning of those terms. But they may (if the Marxists are right) have economic causes; they may also have political effects. The traditional 'labour voter' regards his vote (his only overt political act) ...


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