What is culture? How does Arnold state that culture can be established in England in "Culture and Anarchy"?

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Matthew Arnold 's definition of culture is not the general one that would be put forth by an anthropologist, but rather a sense of culture as a set of traditions, ideas, and orderly behaviors that he opposes to anarchy. He identifies culture with "the best that has been thought and...

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Matthew Arnold's definition of culture is not the general one that would be put forth by an anthropologist, but rather a sense of culture as a set of traditions, ideas, and orderly behaviors that he opposes to anarchy. He identifies culture with "the best that has been thought and said" and anarchy with "doing what one likes."

His essay "Culture and Anarchy" was a response to the Hyde Park Riots of 1866. He saw those riots as an emblem of anarchy and attempted to diagnose the issue, not simply in terms of social or political factors, but in terms of ideology or how people thought and what they believed and how those ideas affected behavior. He saw the failures of institutions as grounded in a failure of imagination and belief.

It should be noted that Arnold worked for many years as a school inspector, and his understanding of the importance of culture was part of a belief in the importance of education in shaping society. A society avoids anarchy through an educated populace who engage in social criticism, synthesizing art with morality and religion (what he elsewhere terms Hellenic and Hebraic impulses) and pursuing a "passion for “sweetness” (beauty) and “light” (intelligence). By people pursuing their best selves in this way, society could avoid anarchy. In a sense, social problems could be resolved best by improvements of the individual as such. He argued that many liberal reforms were leading to anarchy and that only by cultivating the arts and social criticism could society be improved.

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