Context: The collection of essays on political and social conditions which comprises Culture and Anarchy includes many of Arnold's most famous utterances on his evaluation of the Victorian scene. Dislocated spiritually on the one hand as a result of the scientific discoveries which undermined religion and exploited economically on the other hand as a result of the laissez faire policies of the money lords who controlled the industrial revolution, England–as Arnold saw it–desperately needed a new direction and new values. He saw this need not merely as a call for a new religion or extensive economic legislation; both religion and business, in the form of their human institutions, could be and had been previously perverted to serve the purposes of individual ambition. What was vitally needed was a basic alteration of the human personality–and, if human nature is basically unchangeable, the complete fulfillment of the human personality through sound education was a factor over which man exercised some control. Thus, Arnold's goal, the achievement through proper education of a cultured middle class, emerged as his dominant thesis for the rest of his life. Fully realized, such culture would eliminate classes by eliminating man's desire for exploitation of his fellow man:
. . . It seeks to do away with classes; to make the best that has been thought and known in the world current everywhere; to make all men live in an atmosphere of sweetness and light, where they may use ideas, as it uses them itself, freely,–nourished, and not bound by them.This is the social idea; and the men of culture are the true apostles of equality. The great men of culture are those who have had a passion for diffusing, for making prevail, for carrying from one end of society to another, the best knowledge, the best ideas of their time; . . .