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Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,207 ratings  ·  121 reviews
This new collection of essays bears the unmistakable stamp of Theodore Dalrymple's bracingly clearsighted view of the human condition. In these twenty-six pieces, Dr. Dalrymple ranges over literature and ideas, from Shakespeare to Marx, from the break-down of Islam to the legalization of drugs. The book includes "When Islam Breaks Down," named by David Brooks of the New Yo ...more
Paperback, 341 pages
Published March 2007 by Ivan R. Dee Publisher (first published 2005)
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Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Namedropping Dalrymple has turned out to be one of the more efficient ways of de-friending for me. It’s like asking people at a charity ball where they have rented their suit. Nobody likes a killjoy.

Our affluent society ,social welfare and especially the multicultural dream are a mess and Dalrymple is the kind of guy who leaves no opportunity unused to burst the bubble of the progressive elite that everything is brilliant. The problem is that he’s not some philosopher (or worst, a sociologist)
Paul Bryant
Sep 25, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: modern-life
Theodore is a difficult case. I like his tough-mindedness and his insistence on describing things as they are, and I enjoy the fact that he's clearly a creature of the right (do these terms right & left still carry any weight anymore?). And I recognise the truth of much of what he says. But there's a but. When he anatomises the deterioration of public and private morality in Britain, he fails consistently to make it clear that he's talking about a specific section of the British people. When he ...more
Will Ansbacher
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: society

“To a hammer, everything is a nail”

Dr Dalrymple is (or was, he’s retired now) a prison psychiatrist and very insightful as to the failings of the dysfunctional crowd he had to contend with. It must be very difficult and disheartening to work with people whose lives are doomed by their inability to change – or rather, as he points out, by refusing to take responsibility for their lives; but I think he mistakes those failed individuals and families for the population at large. The whole of Briti
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, there goes the last bit of desire I had to see England or France.

In all seriousness, Theodore Dalrymple has some very insightful knowledge. Though not a Christian himself, Dalrymple (best last name ever) observes humankind's natural propensity toward evil, aka Original Sin. He also shows the destructive aftermath of communism/fascism/totalitarianism in multiple countries he has visited as a doctor. Dalrymple is a man who has seen the underclasses from around the world and has drawn reasone
Nick Imrie
I disagree with Dalrymple on many things, but he's still my favourite writer to go to when I feel the need to challenge my own assumptions, prejudices and opinions. Is originality really that important in art? Is it always good to be non-judgmental? What is the value of being transgressive? His writing can be lucid and moving, but sometimes suffers from pretentious long-windedness.

His essays on good literature and its benefits are a joy to read. No-one could disagree with 'Sex and the Shakespear
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Bravo Mr. Dalrymple, Bravo! A big shout out goes to my friend Steve for recommending this book and introducing me to this brilliant author. He is intelligent, sagacious and courageous...writing about the culture and society we live in. I fear I will have to add him to my list of "Authors I Have Ceased to be Objective About". I also fear I will have nightmares from a couple of the columns in this book.

His perspective is incredibly interesting in regard to societal ills because of his work in Brit
Holly Work
Sep 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
These essays are so pathetically immature it is frustrating. Rather than providing any form of reference, Dalrymple relies on his own bigoted anecdotes to support his arguments. Prejudice and generalisations infect almost every page of his text. His writing comes across as angry and bitter and quite frankly if his content wasn't too stupid to consider it would be in danger of offending many people. ...more
Peter Jones
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is excellent book on two levels. First, he is a good writer. There are so many great lines and paragraphs. He is not easy to read at places due to his high vocabulary. He is smart man who spent his days in the prison hospital and the hospital for low income people. He is smart, but realistic, which makes his writing excellent.

Second, he pulls back and exposes so many of the lies of modern, liberal, sentimental, culture. He does this by using specific situations, such as art exhibit, Prince
May 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
I never thought I would meet an author who makes me look like a ray of sunshine, but Mr. Dalrymple manages to pull it off. These essays on civilization's decline are elegantly written, incisive, and largely convincing (one needs only see the evening news to realize the world is fracturing badly.) The book, however, has a very narrow scope, and--unsurprisingly for a former prison doctor--focuses largely on the worst elements in our society. It would have benefited from a more encompassing overvie ...more
Corinne Wasilewski
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The older I get, the more I love essays. Dalyrmple is a master of the art form. He’s widely travelled, extremely well read with a solid knowledge of both arts and science, as well as being a doctor with first hand experience of life in prisons, ghettos, third world countries and places of political upheaval which allows him to write with incredible insight and conviction. He’s not afraid to point fingers which I’m OK with so long as his arguments back him up. As a reader, I get the impression th ...more
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
It's always interesting to read something that you disagree with on almost every page, but Mr. Dalrymple tells a compelling - and often witty - story of a present culture without borders and limitations that makes people miserable.
His solutions seems - on the other hand - more like wishful thinking on returning to a past long gone.
Adam Ross
Jan 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture
A profound and literary exploration of our declining modernist culture. Dalrymple has more insights per page than most have per book.
Douglas Wilson
Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture-studies
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A tremendous book. Will be required reading for each of my kids before they leave the house.

(What's that? Of course I don't have kids yet. I'm just planning ahead.)
Gautham Guganesh
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The author takes a jackhammer and brings it down with such tearing force on the mockery of a life engendered by modernist ideas of sex, politics, art and much more. Highly informative and intuitive.
Nathaniel Fletcher
Apr 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dropped
I Went into this book blind, my friend picked it out at a charity shop and I didn't overthink it, in an attempt to not over filter my philosophy purchases and find myself owning a Pidgeon hole of a philosophy shelf.

I looked through the contents and chose to delay reading Don't Legalise Drugs as I had a feeling it would be a major point of contention for me and as such started with his first society and politics essay:

What We Have to Lose
The broken radio, is perfect example of a lack of empathy
Nathan Albright
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2019
In many ways, I can imagine the way that the author would sound if one were interacting with him.  He sounds like a somewhat elderly and somewhat cranky person who would have a lot of strong opinions and who would greatly bemoan the way things were and point to ways in which life was superior in the past.  Just because I know plenty of people who say such things does not mean that such people are necessarily wrong.  One of the advantages of living a long time is having at least the potential for ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is an astounding book on several levels. I do not have the time to write a complete review right now, however, so will just describe the main points of my reaction to reading this book: First, for someone whose specialty is psychiatry, Dalrymple views the world as black and white (read: past is white, present is ever blackening further). If there is one thing that stands out for most psychotherapists (my training is in this field), it's that the world is comprised of infinite shades of gra ...more
Maximilian Wolf
Jul 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Dalrymple (Dr. Anthony Daniels) is a nuanced and elegant writer and an unforgiving cultural observer. He's a doctor in prisons and psychiatric hospitals in the UK, or he was, before his recent retirement to France. His observations of the growing underclass in the UK are deeply disturbing. Well, that's an understatement. While I don't always agree with his solutions to the problems he sees, I certainly am intrigued and informed by his voice. Read it and weep. Illiteracy, fatherless children and ...more
Emily Sullivan
Oct 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
One star because I don't agree with Dalrymple's ideology. I throughly enjoyed disagreeing with almost all of his conclusions of the causes of our country's social ills and would have given the book 4 stars if I hadn't felt that this might imply that I'm against free education and healthcare and the welfare state. I am against Virginia Woolf (because she wrote boring novels and not because she wanted to make bonfires out of schools) and Lawrence (even though the phrase 'twinkling buttocks' is tru ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Dec 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
I liked it. This doesn't mean that I agreed with eveything stateds, just that I happen to think that most of these issues should be part of the public policy debate. ...more
Miss Lasko-Gross
Jun 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
although I disagreed with nearly every conclusion drawn by Dalrymple, this was well written and enjoyable.
Barbara Joan
Apr 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
Is there anything that's been written, made, or taken place since the beginning of the 21st century that doesn't infuriate Theodore Dalrymple? ...more
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
Don't hold back, Theodore.

I read Dalrymple’s “Life at the bottom” over 10 years ago and enjoyed his grim observations of the British underclass. He really seemed to have a love/hate relationship with the chavs and the destitute in the sense that he both can’t stand anything about them, but also can’t make himself not care about their misery. This book is very similar, but is much broader and shows Dalrymple is pessimistic about much more than Britain’s underclass. I have a personal affinity for
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, politics
A collection of essays dealing with the decline of culture, written by a psychiatrist/philosopher who has been at and worked in a bunch of different countries, especially third-world ones.

Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses is the second book I've read by Theodore Dalrymple.

The book is a collection of short essays united by the underlying theme of social critique. The author takes the lens of conservatism and applies it to such disparate topics as analyzing Shakespeare, drug legalization, a comparative essay on Marx and Turgenev, the death of princess Diana, reports of mass murderers. The underlying message of the book seems to be that setting limits - on
Ryan Young
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
set of essays on topics as diverse as Shakespeare's Macbeth and Islam in small town Britain. Always with a right leaning theme that we have glorified antisocial and dependent behavior.

the world dalrymple sees is a group of individuals adversely affected by what he calls the 'liberal intelligentsia' (although he doesn't ever say exactly who they are). It's a world where "novel" is misinterpreted as 'good,' and 'traditions' are always maligned, no matter who important they were to stabilizing soci
Aug 23, 2011 rated it liked it
The British author, Theodore Dalrymple, is a crank (read: conservative commentator). I picked up this book of essays because he had some interesting pieces in the Wall Street Journal about the recent riots in London. Plus I'll admit, I was intrigued by the cover.

Dalrymple is a retired prison psychiatrist, and this fact alone gives him some first-hand insights that most of us will never experience. He certainly has some stories to tell. And like most commentators, from both sides of the political
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was the third Dalrymple book I read, during my "Dalrymple marathon" and it definitely has the scariest cover of them all. In fact, I really hate the photo on the cover, as a symbol of everything wrong in contemporary society.

It is quite a thick book of over 300 pages, loosely divide in two parts: ARTS AND LETTERS and SOCIETY AND POLITICS. It can be read in whichever order you prefer. Since I studied art, I followed the given order. Among my favorite chapters are the one about DH Lawrence, t
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Dalrymple puts me mind of the grumpy old man with whom I fundamentally agree, but who urges me on toward optimistic vigor. Nice to pick up in one of Wellington's used bookshops, as I'm not sure this is available in the States...but I'm going to have to agree to disagree with some of what he's got going on here.
That said, glad he resuscitates the under-appreciated Stefan Zweig, and the Turgenev/Marx essay is spot-on.
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Anthony Malcolm Daniels, who generally uses the pen name Theodore Dalrymple, is an English writer and retired prison doctor and psychiatrist. He worked in a number of Sub-Saharan African countries as well as in the east end of London. Before his retirement in 2005, he worked in City Hospital, Birmingham and Winson Green Prison in inner-city Birmingham, England.

Daniels is a contributing editor to C

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