This chapter explores three broad ideas of culture that recur in Western thinking in the twentieth century: French, German and English; or alternatively, the Enlightenment, the Romantic, and the Classical conceptions. The French tradition represented civilisation as a progressive, cumulative human achievement; the German tradition contrasted culture to civilisation and associated I with spiritual rather than material values; the English tradition argued that the technology and materialism of modern civilisation resulted in a spiritual crisis. The chapter looks at how ideas about the nature of culture sparked political debates that became particularly intense at times of great political upheaval. It also cites the ‘culture wars’ in America during the 1990s and how ‘cultural politics’ have dominated American public discourse. Finally, it discusses a radically different approach to culture by focusing on immigrants, along with its implications for the future of anthropology.
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