Notes Towards a Definition of International Culture

  • Malcolm Bradbury


Over the last thirty years or so, in the period of reconstruction, social reorganisation, and the post-imperial realignment of nations that followed the Second World War, we have seen a great deal of interest, on a global scale, and in a very wide variety of quarters, with the idea, or the issue, of ‘culture’. Now the term ‘culture’ has long been a repository for many anxieties. It is a term that warms the spirit, with the sense that it speaks to some central humane desire for mental and emotional refinement and enrichment, the desire that makes the arts and ideas a fundamental resource of the human mind; it is a term that also chills the spirit with the sense that culture is a privatised and limited preserve, the possession of certain nations, classes or elites, and so requires membership either of specialist cadres or else a certain level of social and educational achievement for its enjoyment. We may be talking about one of the richest resources of the human mind, resources that break the barriers of nationality and link the community of man; we may be talking about those tighter linkages that cohere a village, bond together a linguistic group, or cement a nation. The word means one thing to an artist or a critic of the arts, and quite another to an anthropol­ogist or a sociologist; while to a politician or a head of state it may mean something else again. The debate is rich, but it is also threatening. And among those who might feel most entitled to be threatened by it are those who are responsible for cultural production, and so become the focus of these pressures and contentions: I mean, of course, contemporary artists themselves.


Human Mind Literary Critic Cultural Role International Culture Cultural Power 
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Copyright information

© Guy Amirthanayagam 1982

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  • Malcolm Bradbury

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