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This article is taken from PN Review 199, Volume 37 Number 5, May - June 2011.

Culture Counts: Roger Scruton on Art, Religion, and Philosphy R.J. Caldwell
Roger Scruton has presented himself in many different guises: as self-described Conservative thinker, as aesthetician, composer, novelist, moralist, ruralist, memoirist, elegist of a lost England, celebrator of fox-hunting and of wine, and polemicist - against postmodernism, the European Union, women's studies, gay marriage, pop music, in general anything that offends his notion of tradition. However, central to all his writing is the defence of culture - especially of what he calls 'high culture' - against its detractors. Indeed, one of his many books bears the title Culture Counts. Its subtitle is Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged. But whose faith? And whose feelings? And by what are they besieged? The full answer to these questions can only come from a consideration of Scruton's work as a whole, but this slender book, addressed primarily to an American audience - and which, for all its George-Steinerish jeremiads, finds time to praise some contemporary British art and, en passant, P.N. Review - offers a convenient entrée into the Scrutonian world-view.

Bearing his audience in mind, Scruton here dutifully praises America's 'viable democracy and masterful technology' but denies that it can offer a sustainable outlook on human life to stand up 'either to the sarcastic nihilism of the West's internal critics or to the humorless bigotry of Islam'. He sees in art, like Arnold and Leavis before him, 'the repository of a threatened store of moral knowledge'. For Scruton culture takes over from religion by 'symbolizing the spiritual realities that elude the ...


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