The Corner

Culture

Yes, Win Elections, but Don’t Forget the Culture

Are we focusing so much on politics that we’re forgetting the role of culture in shaping society? The Martin Center’s Jesse Saffron think so and makes his case in “Beyond Ideology: Poetry and the Conservative Mind.”

“Since roughly the midway point of last century,” he writes, “conservatives have abandoned their progenitors’ insights into the importance of culture, literature, and aesthetics. The elevation of transcendent beauty and truth, the intellectual and cross-generational preservation of great artistic and philosophical achievements — these tasks, once central to the conservative project, have been subordinated.”

Saffron looks in particular at poetry, inspired by Russell Kirk’s line, “If men of affairs can rise to the summons of the poets, the norms of culture and politics may endure despite the follies of the time.”

Sadly, most of our poets these days have been schooled in left-dominated Master of Fine Arts programs and the academic world is largely hostile to the work of poets who aren’t part of their circle. Antioch College even boasts that its MFA program is geared toward “the pursuit of social justice.” Saffron points us to a few poets who are swimming against this tide.

I think Saffron is right — we must endeavor to save our society from the “progressives” and their statism not only through politics and think tanks and magazines, but also through poetry, film, music, and all other aspects of culture.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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