Today’s quote, an observation on the birth of the Multicultural movement, comes from a 2012 obituary of Australian Roger Sandall, the author of book The Culture Cult.
Roger [Sandall] … was the first scholar to realise the implications of the fundamental difference between American and English notions of culture that had by [merged by the late seventies].
The English version derived from the poet and essayist Matthew Arnold’s account in Culture and Anarchy(1875), which defined culture as “the best which has been thought and said in the world” and which hoped that by educating people to know what these thoughts and words were, they would lift humanity to a higher, more civilised status. The American version came from the anthropologist Franz Boas, the founder of Columbia University’s school of anthropology, who defined culture as the totality of human behaviour within a social system.
In place of Arnold’s concept of a cultural hierarchy, Boas substituted a value-neutral, radical egalitarianism: all cultures were prized by the people who inhabited them, no cultural values could be judged better than any other, hence all cultures were different but equal.
By the 1980s, the triumph of the American anthropological conception of culture over the Arnoldian conception was all but complete…
- Keith Windschuttle, “Vale Roger Sandall”