"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Personal Style and Personal Substance in the Omniculture

I'm grateful to Hunter Baker for pointing us to Mark Judge's article on the American Spectator site.

Actually, I think that Mark makes some excellent points, although I agree that he pushes the relationship between style and Christianity too far. Other than that, however, I think Mark is quite right. Most prominent conservatives today have little appreciation of the fine arts, and they show little respect for style, just as Mark says. Among the causes for this, I would suggest the fact that conservatism used to be a more elite position than it has been since Reagan, who made real the populism that Goldwater's candidacy had begun. In addition, the paucity of widely agreed-upon, central standards, the lack of which is a major element of the Omniculture, ensures that elevation and excellence will become minority pursuits.

Another aspect of the Ominiculture that is relevant here is the overall cultural (and political and social) egalitarianism of American society during the past century. It is why, for example, both clothing styles and personal manners have become less formal: to allow those who have not been raised with elevated tastes, to feel that they too have social standing. The outcome of this honorable intention, however, is that instead of raising the manners and appreciation for beauty among what used to be called the lower orders, the standards have been brought down to enable all to reach them. It is the social equivalent of social promotion in schools.

That is rather a pity, I think, but this is a condition that will not necessarily be permanent. There are forces already arising to create a thirst for diversity and originality, and although at this point the manifestations of this phenomenon have not included a strong component of respect for elevation and beauty (indeed, rather the opposite), it is possible that such a thing could happen. However, unless and until most of society agrees on a common set of standards, that remains highly unlikely.

4 comments:

Hunter Baker said...

At this point, I would invoke the Calvinistic notion of the adiaphora. Things indifferent. While I would argue that whether one wears twill or polyester is irrelevant to one's Christian excellence or maturity, I would likewise agree that it is a wonderful thing to cultivate good taste and an attractive mode of dressing. I just don't think it deserves to be elevated to a point of spirituality.

I like the idea of the Omniculture and think it offers lots of analytical possibilities. At some point, you should bundle what you've written about it and link.

S. T. Karnick said...

I will do that, Hunter, as I am working on a book proposal on the subject. Thanks for suggesting it.

Matt Huisman said...

It is why, for example, both clothing styles and personal manners have become less formal: to allow those who have not been raised with elevated tastes, to feel that they too have social standing.

It also has the added benefit of forcing those people who do have elevated tastes to decide whether they truly value the people underneath those unusual clothes.

Style, culture, aesthetics are all substantial elements of our being - but they are secondary, and cannot be fully appreciated without keeping them in their place.

connie deady said...

There has to be a happy medium between reduction to common uniformity and the unbridled classism of Victorian England and the kind of elitism that leads to extreme poverty with no hope of improvement that leads to social revolution.

As long as education is available to all I have hope.