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November 1, 1967

Social critic, editor and journalist Dwight MacDonald posed the question “How Democratic Can A Culture Get?” Appreciating, in The Miscellany News, that the “longtime political and literary critic proved to be as witty and bombastic with his rhetoric as he can be in his writing,” Ellen Chesler ’69 stated the evident answer to MacDonalds’s question—“Not very.” “What MacDonald wants,” she wrote, “is two cultures, one for the ‘masses’ and another for the ‘cultural classes.’ The burden of culture in history has never been carried by more than 20 percent of the people, he says…. He claims that culture is something that implies discrimination and standards and that only a minority of any society is willing to have these standards. But he points out that since the 19th century, industry has provided means for mass production of culture, and public education has provided a mass market for it.”

A former editor of Partisan Review and staff writer for The New Yorker, MacDonald published Against the American Grain: Essays on the Effect of Mass Culture in 1962 and Our Invisible Poor in 1963.

The Years