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Old Sunday, May 21, 2006
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Default Arnold As Social Critic

Arnold was the most impressive and influential critic of age. Arnold’s criticism is wide and varied and can be divided into social and political; religious and theological writings and literary criticism. He started his career first as poet then as a literary critic. Gradually, Arnold became famous in his country for his social criticism, his commentary on life and society. He applied his critical method in exposing the ideals and follies of his countrymen, their ways of thinking and acting, their intellectual eccentricity or arbitrariness, prejudices, conventions and limitations. His social criticism was the natural outcome of his earlier literary criticism. He became conscious by degrees to his opportunities as a social critic. His social criticism was closely associated with the educational criticism with which he was engaged for a large part of his career.

Arnold concentrated his attack particularly on the middle class. The great need of the hour, Arnold observed was culture or the knowledge of the best that has been thought and said in the world. Unless this principle was followed by the anarchy which awaited the English society could not be checked. Arnold says;” But I must remark that the culture of which I talked was an endeavor to come at reason and the will of God”. The Philistines given to middle class means uncultured people. The term was derogatively applied by the medieval university students to the town folks who, unlike university students were not the children of light.
Culture and Anarchy ca be regarded as Arnold’s manifesto of social criticism in which he has propagated those principles which are necessary for the eradication of social evils and prevention of the onslaught of anarchy in England. The root cause of anarchy , Arnold concludes was the prevalent English notion” that it us a most happy thing for a man merely to be able to do so he likes”,” to march where he likes, meet where he likes ,enter where he likes, hoot where he likes , smash where he likes, threaten where he likes”. Our individualism, Arnold asserts, should not be allowed to sweep us into anarchy. One other reason for the persistence of anarchy was that the masses of Englishmen came to believe that the greatness and welfare of England are proved by her citizens being so very rich and having abundance of liberty.
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