'The People' Are the Guardians of Humanity

After reading Baldesar Castiglione's Book of the Courtier I am left with conflicted feelings regarding the question of the role of class in the preservation and development of culture and society. The Marxist view is that such writings are to be scorned by the 'new man', while deconstructionists seek to undermine the premises of what has become known as "Western Culture." My argument, made for the sake of argument rather than as a definite conclusion, is that the various aspects of culture which inform society and historical development, such as philosophy and art and science, have been preserved and developed by the actions of human beings over time, actions which upon examination in their totality reveal a dynamic which transcends the received delimitations of nation and class which form the basis for traditional history. The conclusion follows that this received notion of history, history as the product of the elite, the few which has always ruled over the many, is a self-serving fabrication of those who have sequestered the boon of civilization by controlling access to its institutions of learning. We may conclude that the tragedy of Marxism, one which I do not believe Marx foresaw although I am no scholar at all much less in regard to Marx, is the development of material dialectics as an opposition to the Hegelian notion of the development of culture, predictably leading to such developments as Pol Pot's execution of 'intellectuals' and the Cultural Revolution of China. The fascist version of anti-intellectualism must be evaluated in the context of understanding the "revanchism" characteristic of fascism.

Certainly a legitimate criticism of the attitudes expressed in the conversations depicted in Castiglione's work is directed toward the justifications presented for cultural imperialism. Alexander the Great is cited as an example of the kind of conqueror which the colonial era was to develop in self-referential mythologization even as it reveled in the ironic challenge posed by Don Quixote. Alexander the Great is said to have essentialy done the peoples that he conquered a favor by thereby openening them to a higher form of civilization and culture. A justification is also given for warring against Islam. All this is notable in that is occurs in a distinctly non-Machiavellan context of political philosophy; an idealistic and democratic (in a certain manner) form of government and society is described during these discussions. As for today, I believe it can be said that the intervening centuries between now and the time of the Italian Rennaissance have made us more wary but not critical enough of the rationalizations put forth for military adventurism.


on my mind
on my mind


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