Monday, September 11, 2017


Bourgeois Culture

David Stove (1927-1994), "Did Babeuf Deserve the Guillotine?" On Enlightenment (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2003), pp. 3-25 (at 9):
The extinction of "bourgeois culture" which Marx looked forward to with relish, and which his followers have carried out to the best of their ability, is a more serious matter than the phrase suggests. The reason is that the extinction of bourgeois culture is the extinction of culture, for there is no other kind.

Take any branch of culture you like: literature, science, philosophy, history, music, or whatever. It comes neither from the most privileged part of society, nor from the least; neither from the blue-bloods, nor from the "people of the abyss" (as Jack London called them). It comes from the great broad band in between.
Id., p. 12:
But whatever may be the reason for it, the fact is that if you write down the names of a hundred people who have done something that matters in science or literature or any other branch of culture, you will find that two at most of the hundred come from the most privileged part of the social scale, and one at most from the least privileged. In other words at least ninety-seven of them came from backgrounds which are bounded, on one side, by the gentry and minor nobility and, on the other side, by shoemakers and weavers. Their fathers and their grandfathers were teachers or scholars or clerks or clergymen or farmers or doctors or lawyers or soldiers or sailors or bankers or merchants or tradesmen or craftsmen or shopkeepers. At any rate, they were people who possessed some social advantages but were very far from possessing all.

This is an extremely simple statistic, and one which is very easily verified: anyone who is prepared to take a small amount of trouble can satisfy themselves as to the fact. Yet it is of the greatest importance. If it were attended to, it would be enough on its own to silence forever revolutionary or bohemian ranting about "bourgeois culture"; for it proves that culture is everywhere, and always has been, a middle-class monopoly.

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