Culture Counts – Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton is a respected philosopher. When I found myself well overwhelmed in a Master’s program that needed more knowledge on philosophy than I at hand had, Scruton’s A Short History of Modern Philosophy helped, and was a better and faster read than Russell’s similar work (also recommended to me). So when I find myself wanting to test the strength of my beliefs with something from the other side of the aisle, he seems like a good person to go to. He doesn’t seem to suffer from a certain denialism that sometimes afflicts the right (Scurton wrote a book about Environmentalism), but he certainly brings about his own (conservative) view on those issues (the book blames the left and offers free-market solutions to the current Environmental problem). It seemed like a good choice.

It wasn’t.

Culture Counts is yet another writing from a Cassandra-like prophet of doom who claims that Western civilization is falling apart. Scruton nominates all the ways in which our society is doing things wrong, and how going back to the way things were would be better for everyone involved. To give you an extent of how completely this belief is held, Scruton even thinks that pedagogical rote memorization is preferable to having children actually understand the material in front of them.

I wish I were making that up.

I found just about every argument in this book to be pretty silly. It felt like a particularly selfish person trying to justify why his tastes are better. Early in the book Scruton makes an argument for the existence of an elite who set the standard for the way society should be, because the rest of us are too cow-like to makes that choice. But what he doesn’t understand is that a world like that already exists.  Those people are called influencers nowadays, and they are largely responsible for all the things in society that Scruton hates. Thankfully, we live in a pluralistic society that allows for snobs like Scruton to have opinions as well. Scuton wants elites only so long as they agree with him.

Modern culture isn’t bad. Modern culture is an experiment where a lot of things are going on. Will all of it remain? No. Much of it will one day be forgotten. What little hangs on will be the objectively good.

Scruton doesn’t realize how anti-democratic and anti-capitalistic his argument in this book is.

If you have an cantankerous elderly people in your life, then you know what it is going to feel like to read this book. Everything sucks and it was better when I was a lad. Ok, I understand where that sentiment comes from, but I also recognize that it factually isn’t true. For me, I recognize that my lack of interest in a lot of modern video games stems from them not resembling the ones I grew up with. But I understand that those new games are objectively better in every imaginable way.


Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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