Glossary Item

high culture

When Matthew Arnold wrote that to have culture is to "know the best that has been said and thought in the world," he captured the conceptual essence of high culture. As the term "culture" has come to have a broader meaning, more inclusive of everything within a given culture rather than simply the most elite cultural manifestations, the term "high culture" has begun to serve for referring to those aspects of culture which are most highly valued and esteemed by a given society's political, social, economic, and intellectual elite. Opera, yachting, and Tom Stoppard are associated with high culture in the U.S. Note: What constitutes high power is a site of conflict. Generally, the most powerful members of a society are the ones who have the most influence over cultural meaning systems, and therefore the more powerful classes tend to enjoy the privilege of defining "high culture." See also: "popular culture."


Use your browser's "back" function to return to the text

Browse glossary index