The politicization of culture

The modern state is daily extending its control over a wider area of social life and is taking over functions that were formerly regarded as the province of independent social units such as the family and the church, or as a sphere for the voluntary activities of private individuals. It is not merely that the state is becoming more centralized, but that society and culture are becoming politicized. In the old days the statesman was responsible for the preservation of internal order and the defense of the state against its enemies. Today he is called on to deal more and more with questions of a purely sociological character, and he may even be expected to transform the whole structure of society and refashion the cultural traditions of the people. The abolition of war, the destruction of poverty, the control of the birth-rate, the elimination of the unfit — these are questions which the statesmen of the past would no more have dared to meddle with than the course of the seasons or the movements of the stars; yet they are all vital issues today, and some of them figure on the agenda of our political parties. It is obvious that the solution of these problems calls for all the resources of sociological science — even supposing that science was in a much more advanced state than it actually is; yet the unfortunate politician is expected to provide a solution by his common sense enlightened by a cloudy mixture of economic materialism and moral idealism. We can hardly wonder at the popularity of Marxian Socialism, for that at least has a sociology of a kind, though it is elementary and one-sided.

Christopher Dawson, “Sociology as a Science”

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