Eliot's point of departure is clear enough. He names it ''the suspicion that the current terms in which we discuss international affairs and political theory may only tend to conceal from us the real issues of contemporary civilisation.'' As poet, Eliot practices his craft in accord with that question -- analyzing the meaning of the words we and others use to define and discuss our society. In the first of the two essays (originally published separately), Eliot examines the direct influence spiritual, political and economic institutions have on one another Below the surface of terminology which tends ''to deceive and stupefy us.'' He is not so much concerned ''with the means by which a Christian society could be brought about'' as he is with simply helping us understand the society we actually inhabit. In ''Notes towards the Definition of Culture,'' Eliot contends entirely with the definition of the word culture. He notes that it is only when a term is consistently misused that it warrants such intense reexamination and discusses several conditions that must exist for ''high civilisation'' to thrive. Though Eliot completed these papers shortly before the onset of World War II, they continue to prove themselves transcendent of circumstance. We'd even go as far to say that Christianity and Culture would make a fine reading group selection for anyone interested in (quoting here the Partisan Review
) ''what cultural responsibility in a democracy really means.''
An Eighth Day View:
Two long essays: "The Idea of a Christian Society" on the direction of religious thought toward criticism of political and economic systems; and "Notes towards the Definition of Culture" on culture, its meaning, and the dangers threatening the legacy of the Western world.