Brave New World 3: What is "culture"?

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People live in an environment that dictates what behaviour and language is acceptable. There are norms that dictate our lives, for the most part. Currently, we understand these norms by living in a culture and absorbing what's understood to be correct behaviour. In Brave New World, much of the culture is communicated by conditioning. We are supposed to feel repelled by this deliberate fixing of culture. But is it worse than what parents and teachers do to children, or what advertisers and journalists do to adults? Are outlets such as Fox News and Tribune similar vehicles for the imposition of culture?

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    Perhaps, but culture is a grass roots phenomenon - it begins with the people, and changes as the people change. The pressures on culture come from many directions (schools, parents, news and entertainment media - but also technology, peers, and demagogues like Greta Thunberg). This is very different from a culture imposed by the state, which would be inorganic and, I think, sinister. I mean, what possible good motive could a state have for imposing culture, other than the need to control the populace. But the state should exist to serve the people, not the other way around.

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    Something that struck me about this was that Britain has (so far) avoided the trend in Brave New World towards a kind of monoculture. In lots of ways we have become far more diverse than the Britain that Aldous Huxley knew: it is not always smooth, but it is certainly not static. Still less do we see a monocultural world emerging in the way Huxley presumes.

    But, alongside that multicultural side, Britain (like many other places, I suspect) has recently developed a tendency which I regard as deeply unfortunate, to become very binary. Issues such as Brexit have resulted in heavily entrenched views which tend to absorb middle-ground opinions towards one or other extreme. Attempts to offer compromises or partial solutions are often derided by both sides.

    So in short, it's hard just now to see the monoculture of Brave New World emerging anytime soon! At least in the UK and Western Europe (and most likely elsewhere too) we are either too plural or too binary to settle there. But I wonder if there are countries that in one or other way resemble a monoculture much more closely?
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    @RichardAbbott said:
    Something that struck me about this was that Britain has (so far) avoided the trend in Brave New World towards a kind of monoculture. In lots of ways we have become far more diverse than the Britain that Aldous Huxley knew: it is not always smooth, but it is certainly not static. Still less do we see a monocultural world emerging in the way Huxley presumes.

    I'm not so sure. I think there's some truth to the idea of the "metropolitan elite". I think there's a fairly consistent world view of people who embrace diversity and multiculturalism. But at the same time, and as you say, that masks a lot of division in the world.

    @Apocryphal said:
    Perhaps, but culture is a grass roots phenomenon - it begins with the people, and changes as the people change. The pressures on culture come from many directions (schools, parents, news and entertainment media - but also technology, peers, and demagogues like Greta Thunberg). This is very different from a culture imposed by the state, which would be inorganic and, I think, sinister. I mean, what possible good motive could a state have for imposing culture, other than the need to control the populace. But the state should exist to serve the people, not the other way around.

    Do you think there's any role for the state in dictating culture? For example, I remember UK governement campaigns about road safety ("Don't Drink and Drive", "Clunk-Click Every Trip" for seatbelt use) and the recent change in attitude towards smoking in public places. Are these state-directed culture changes evil?

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    Well, I think these are cases of the state reflecting the will of the people, not of the state 'dictating culture'. In some cases those may be the same thing. A more contentious example might be the adoption of a state religion - that might reflect the will of the majority, or it might not, but I'm not sure in either case that it's a good thing.

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