Where Does Culture Come From?

Terry Eagleton at LRB: “You can’t have culture in the sense of galleries and museums and publishing houses unless society has evolved to the point where it can produce an economic surplus. Only then can some people be released from the business of keeping the tribe alive in order to constitute a caste of priests, bards, DJs, hermeneuticists, bassoon players, LRB interns, gaffers on film sets and the like. In fact, you might define culture as a surplus over strict need. We need to eat, but we don’t need to eat at the Ivy. We need clothes in cold climates, but they don’t have to be designed by Stella McCartney. The problem with this definition is that a capacity for surplus is built into the human animal. For both good and ill, we’re continually in excess of ourselves. Culture is reckoned into our nature. King Lear is much concerned with this ambiguity.” More here.

In this video: Terry Eagleton, the renowned English literary theorist, critic, and public intellectual delivers a lecture as part of the LRB’s Winter Lecture series in London–it was held on 27 March 2024. The topic was: Culture and power, culture and ethics, culture and critique, culture and ideology –his lecture was an attempt to broaden the argument and understand where we are now: