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Training minds for the war of ideasAshridge College, the Conservative Party and the cultural politics of Britain, 1929-54$
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Clarisse Berthezène

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719086496

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719086496.001.0001

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Fighting the ‘battle of the brows’

Fighting the ‘battle of the brows’

(p.154) 8 Fighting the ‘battle of the brows’
Training minds for the war of ideas

Clarisse Berthezène

Manchester University Press

Conservative criticism of Left-wing thought, whether Socialist or Liberal, has always taken as a starting point its abstract reasoning. As a consequence, the attempt to construct a model of a Conservative intellectual set out to avoid ‘highbrow’ intellectualism and to pursue what was termed a ‘practical ideal’, in which ‘a modicum of theory’ was blended and balanced with ‘common sense’. At one level, this appealed to a simple Conservative suspicion and fear of the ‘cleverness’ that was associated with Bloomsbury and its ‘highbrow’ irreverence for tradition and established norms. But at another level, it advanced a preference for inductive over deductive reasoning, and constructed a case for using historical knowledge and the related wisdom of experience as the best guides for social, economic and political action. This section examines how Conservatives self-consciously shaped a ‘middlebrow’ thought that sought a juste milieu between ‘high theory’ and ‘folk wisdom’.

Keywords:   Middlebrow, highbrow, common sense, intellectuals, mediocritas

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