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By Francis Mulhern

Culture/Metaculture is a stimulating advent to the meanings of 'culture' in modern Western society. This crucial survey examines:

* tradition as an antidote to 'mass' modernity, within the paintings of Thomas Mann, Julien Benda, José Ortega y Gasset, Karl Mannheim and F. R. Leavis
* altering perspectives of the time period within the paintings of Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, T. S. Eliot and Richard Hoggart
* post-war theories of 'popular' tradition and the increase of Cultural reviews, paying specific consciousness to the most important figures of Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall
* theories of 'metaculture', or the ways that tradition, despite the fact that outlined, speaks of itself.

Francis Mulhern's interdisciplinary process permits him to attract out the interesting hyperlinks among key political concerns and the altering definitions of tradition. the result's an unrivalled advent to an idea on the middle of latest severe thought.

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Sample text

Society was essentially aristocratic, that is to say, the continuing achievement of minority effort, and in ceasing to be that, ceased to be anything at all (p. 16). It was in this sense that he defended the ‘old democracy’ against the new. The former had been ‘liberal’ in respecting the rights and, more important, the prerogatives of minorities. Universal suffrage had functioned once as a means whereby the majority chose between ‘minority programmes’ for ‘collective life’ (p. 36). Now it served as the rationale for ‘hyperdemocracy’, the ignorant, lawless appetite of mass-man in the public domain.

The real novelty and danger lay in the sheer presence of ‘the multitude’ in social spaces ‘hitherto reserved’, and the consequent transformation of collective mentality. ‘There are no longer protagonists; there is only the chorus’ (p. 10). By ‘masses’, Ortega insisted, he did not merely mean the labouring classes. The ‘dynamic unity’ of mass and minority defined all social classes. Traditionally, minorities had exercised disproportionate influence in the higher classes, but there too, now, the masses were growing stronger.

From Paul Valéry, the French representative and poet laureate of European intellectuality between the wars, came the proposal for ‘an exchange for literary values’, a means whereby the underlying condition of all politics, an idea of ‘man and man’s duty’, could be elucidated by those who specialized in ‘values’, the intellectuals (Valéry 1963: 69–113). The committee, which was now confirmed as ‘permanent’, began its work in 1931, organizing an international series of conferences (called conversations) and publishing commissioned dialogues on the grave matters of the day (called correspondances).

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