“Modern art is one long howl against the beautiful, the true, and the good, with shock tactics replacing virtuosity, and obscenity replacing insight.”
——JOHN CARROLL, from the foreword
America is experiencing a cultural malaise. As art historians Arthur Pontynen and Rod Miller show in this penetrating new book, our current cultural struggles result from repeated attempts to deny the qualitative foundation for culture that distinguishes civilization from barbarism.
Tracing American art, science, and philosophy from the colonial era to the present, Western Culture at the American Crossroads reveals how a distinctively American culture emerged and where it went wrong. Culture cannot be merely a matter of personal or group preferences; it must be dedicated to the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty. But as Pontynen and Miller skillfully chronicle, modernism and postmodernism have developed dangerously limited understandings of science and reason that do not simply limit art but actually lead to bitter conflict and violence.
The authors discuss dozens of works of art and architecture—many of them featured in this beautifully illustrated work. But Western Culture at the American Crossroads in no mere art history treatise; it connects many dots in American intellectual history, demonstrating how what a culture believes relates to how it acts and what art it produces.
Standing athwart trends that reduce culture to a matter of lifestyle and “taste,” Western Culture at the American Crossroads makes a powerful case that the free and responsible pursuit of wisdom desperately needs to be renewed.
Pontynen and Miller ultimately reveal the emerging threats not only to American and Western culture but to the very possibility of culture itself.