Culture counts. The surrounding atmosphere affects our daily lives, and many of our interests find their answers and expressions in the realm of culture. Art, music, literature, and even how we relate to alcohol is found in this realm. But individual culture is also defined by societal culture, shared by citizens.
The Right, referring primarily to conservatives but also libertarians, cannot give up the fight for culture. For this to be possible, we must first realise that culture is important. Since Gramsci’s days it has been presented as common knowledge that the Left have won the battle for culture, while the Right have won the debate over the economy, in the mould of Hayek, von Mises, and through the Thatcher era. As conservatives, we should certainly strive to secure a sound economic future, constantly reminding ourselves that decisions made today affect coming generations.
But the story doesn’t end there. Conservatives are also aware of the fact that the economy is only one part of life, and the economy must be placed in a context of social existence. This context is the shared culture. The relativisation of culture has left us with a feeling that anything goes, and that there can be no universally adhered to national culture. The only dogmatism is the objectivity of the liberal outlook.
Lacking in that analysis is the acknowledgement that although life may be enriched by a variety of cultural expressions, some may be more conducive to keeping a society together than others. If there is no shared culture, interpersonal relations become difficult, as the vacuum left from no shared values limits us to understanding the world only as we choose to see it. If we don’t have a shared culture, conflicting interests may develop in unmanageable proportions.
One part of the cultural debate is presenting the aesthetic as something not apart from ordinary life, but rather a part of it. This entails holding to an ideal of culture as intimately related to the beautiful, which elevates the perception and experience of daily existence. Related to this is the fight for humane city planning, cautioning about the negative effects of the ‘uglyfication’ of our cities. Another, perhaps more fundamental point, is to defend the existence of shared culture. Norms, habits and customs can be culturally specific. Some may have no other raison d’être than the fact that they bind us together with our forefathers.
Modern man will flinch at such a statement and ask ‘why?’ as if to suggest that such a reason and explanation is purposeless. And that’s when we touch on a very elementary point; not everything that has meaning must have a purpose. A prime example is beauty.