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Through their writing, Karl Marx and Matthew Arnold show their opposing views on the importance of internal and external functions of culture. In the first chapter of Culture and Anarchy, "Sweetness and Light", Arnold describes culture as being responsible for the progress of politics and society, and as "the best knowledge and thought of the time" (19). Matthew Arnold's culture is based on two main aspects, religion and education. Karl Marx, however, strongly contrasts Arnold's ideas. Marx views culture as being derived from the advancement of the sciences. While both mens views differ greatly, one must wonder if there is not a happy medium between the two.
Instead of one or the other, does our culture today in fact implicate aspects Matthew Arnold's definition of culture is based on his views of expanding the mind and body. There is not much need for materialism in his definition. He believed many other cultures are based on the thought of curiosity and on scientific expansion. Arnold believed culture was based on the expansion of the individual's mind; only through education can a perfect culture be reached. In his writings, Arnold stated that for a man to be cultured he has to be versed in both religion and classic literature. Although Arnold's culture sought the advancement of the human mind, he did not want people to get wrapped up in technology.
Arnold believes his culture is "more interesting and more far-reaching than that other, which is founded solely on the scientific passion for knowing" (21). Arnold believed that culture dealt with perfection; as he stated in "Sweetness and Light", "Culture is then properly described not as having its origin in curiosity, but as having its origin in the love of perfection; it is a study of perfection" (21). Arnold also makes a point that culture is the endeavor to make the moral and social characteristics of individuals prevail. He relies on religion and the mind too much in my humble opinion. The thought that a culture that is based on Arnold's views could simply not be comprehended. Our society is too deep in the hole of machinery and technology now to even begin to become the culture that Matthew Arnold proposes.
I would call his views the Ideal World Culture, because only in an ideal world could these characteristics be implicated. Our society today uses aspects of Mr. Arnold's essay, such as the religious aspect and the aristocracy, but not enough to make the door swing one way. He tries to look beyond machinery, which simply Matthew Arnold felt that religion was an important aspect of culture.
Arnold felt that when the reason of God prevailed all society would be cultured. As Arnold states, "Now, then, is the moment for culture to be of service, culture which believes in making reason and the will of God prevail, believes in perfection, is the study of perfection" (21). Marx states that the ruling class of culture would be the intellectual and material force, he makes no mention of the religious aspects. In Karl Marx's culture, on the other hand, there would not be enough time to devote to the enrichment of the individual's religious mind. This is caused by his strong devotion to technological advancement.
So beings the extreme contrast between the two authors, I chose them because they differ very much in their views of what culture is and should be. Arnold leans towards the mind and religion, whereas Marx is strictly materialism and technology. They do share certain aspects though, such as Matthew Arnold stating that materialism and technology were unavoidable. The view Marx has toward religion and culture as a whole vividly portrays his feelings toward the internal aspect of culture. He thought the culture of a nation derived from the economic situation of the nation.
His writings show he is more inclined toward the external aspect of culture. This external view of culture includes the thoughts of production, industry, and scientific breakthroughs. Another aspect of Marx's focus on external culture is his lack of focus on the development of religion and education. The focus on Marx's culture was the advancement of technology and power. In Marx's mind there was too little time for things as trivial as religion and expanding the mind.
Basically materialism spoke for who you were. The writings of Marx and Arnold strongly oppose each other. The vast differences between their opinions on culture are well noted in their writings. Marx's view of religion and education being non- important in his perfect culture contradicts the view of Matthew Arnold.
Arnold believed that culture was a study of perfection in the mind of the individual. These contradicting views are an example of culture's various definitions in the world. Marx's or Arnold's ideas on their own are both unfeasible as they are. We are not robots, and cannot conform to something so rigid either way. Individualism has made our society what it is today in terms of advancement and technology. If we could take the best aspects of both, such as Arnold's idea of developing the mind and Marx's materialism, after it has been toned down, one would have an idea of culture that most accurately reflects todays society.
That seems to be the be the road most traveled Bibliography:
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