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Let us not be little Arnolds in these times : Sudha K F

This is a guest post by SUDHA K F

“His right to march where he likes, meet where he likes, enter where he likes, hoot where he likes, threaten who he likes, smash as he likes. All this I think tends to anarchy. (Mathew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, 1866)

….It certainly does. Nothing is stranger, in Arnold’s often scrupulous, often self-consciously charming and delicate prose, than the escalation, the coarseness of these Hyde Park verbs…It is a point of view. Certainly it contrives to forget the start of the disorder: the defeat of the reform legislation, the locking of the gates against the reform meeting (for which, as it happens, there were no legal grounds). As so often, it picks up the story at a convenient point: at the point of response, sometimes violent, to repression; not at the repression itself. Even so, it is a point of view and a familiar one.”



The above excerpt is from an essay by the British Marxist thinker Raymond Williams “One Hundred Years of Culture and Anarchy”, which is part of his path-breaking collection of essays Culture and Materialism. The first paragraph is a quotation that Williams makes from Mathew Arnold’s essay Culture and Anarchy written in the 1860s in response to the workers’ demonstration at Hyde Park asking for voting rights for workers. Arnold’s argument and language is all too familiar to us now, as that is the language available to us through mainstream media and in general the middle class public sphere, while talking about the brutal deployment of force and violence on the students at the University of Hyderabad. Many seem to be in the business of picking up stories at convenient points. Continue reading Let us not be little Arnolds in these times : Sudha K F