The Culture We Deserve

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The essence of culture is interpenetration. From any part of it the searching eye will discover connections with another part seemingly remote. If from my descriptions the reader finds this wide-angled view sharpened or expanded, my purpose in publishing these pages will have been served.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Mr. Barzun] is in favor of intuition, spontaneity. He is against mindless support for and glorification of artists [and] the thoughtless corruption of language.”—New York Times Book Review

“It is very hard for a reviewer to do justice to a book so fertile in ideas, so challenging, so crowded with unexpected yet relevant details. … The Culture We Deserve is a self-interview responding to all your queries, even the ones you were not clever enough to ask. … And all this in a style that is conversational but not chatty, lucid but not dry, civilized but not highfalutin.”—John Simon, The American Spectator

“In 12 wise, stimulating essays and lectures, a noted Columbia University scholar … examines aspects of literary and art criticism, retrospective sociology, the abandonment of intelligibility [and] the effects of relativism on moral behavior.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Barzun’s] well-crafted essays … exalt Pascal’s esprit de finesse, or ‘intuitive understanding.’”—Washington Post Book World

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 12 wise, stimulating essays and lectures, a noted Columbia University scholar examines today's declining culture. Ours, he observes with disgust and discernment, is a period of specialization in which the ``torrent of information'' compiled is unnecessary, in which college students are diverted to the ``minutiae of analytic methodism,'' in which the over-production of art has made us into ``gluttons who gorge and do not digest.'' Barzun examines aspects of literary and art criticism, retrospective sociology, the abandonment of intelligibility, the ``rhetoric of numbers,'' the effects of relativism on moral behavior and the differences between Art with a capital A , ``high art,'' public art and domestic art. He avers that the oversupply of fine art increases the need for subsidies; yet, although we pay farmers not to grow crops, we do not pay artists to stop making art. Still, Barzun is consoled by the realization that as long as humans exist, there is hope for ``new'' civilization and all its works. June
Library Journal
Most of these dozen essays offer cultural history and polemic directed against the intellectual Establishment. Barzun laments the degree to which the humanities have lost their humanity, their moral coherence, at the hands of the professional academics. He makes a familiar case when he charges experts and systematizers with reducing history to patterns of data, literature to language, and language to a behavioral science. And he questions our patronage of the arts as he does our penchant for ``studying'' them. Many a reader, persuaded already, could feel numbed by Barzun's more sweeping indictments of modern culture. But his reputation and his powerful grasp of history will recommend this title to a variety of libraries.-- Donald Ray, Mercy Coll. Lib., Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819562371
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1989
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 1,005,501
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

JACQUES BARZUN is a scholar, teacher, editor, and critic who lives in New York City. Among his best-known works are Darwin, Marx, Wagner, Berlioz and the Romantic Century, Teacher in America, The House of Intellect, and A Word or Two Before You Go

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Table of Contents

Authors Note
Culture High and Dry
The Insoluble Problem: Supporting Art
Look it Up! Check it Out!
Where is History Now?
What Critics Are Good For
Reckoning With Time and Place
The Bugbear of Relativism
Exeunt the Humanities
A Surfeit of Fine Art
The Fallacy of the Single Cause
License to Corrupt
Toward the Twenty-First Century
Bibliographical Note

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