Through their writing, Karl Marx and Matthew Arnold show their opposing views on the importance of internal and external functions of culture. In the first chapter of Culture and Anarchy, "Sweetness and Light", Arnold describes culture as being responsible for the progress of politics and society and as "the best knowledge and thought of the time" (19). Matthew Arnold's culture is based on two main aspects, religion and education. Karl Marx, however, strongly contrasts Arnold's ideas. Marx views culture as being derived from the advancement of the sciences.
Matthew Arnold's definition of culture comes from "a mid-nineteenth-century Germanic notion of culture which is founded upon his study of Goethe and Schiller" (19). He believed many other cultures are based on the thought of curiosity and on scientific expansion. Arnold believed culture was based on the expansion of the individual's mind; only through education can a perfect culture be reached. In his writings, Arnold stated that for a man to be cultured he has to be versed in both religion and classic literature. Although Arnold's culture sought the advancement of the human mind; he did not want people to get wrapped up in technology. "Faith in machinery is, I said, our besetting danger; often in machinery most absurdly disproportioned to the end which this machinery" (23). Arnold believes his culture is "more interesting and more far-reaching than that other, which is founded solely on the scientific passion for knowing" (21). Arnold believed that culture dealt with perfection; as he stated in "Sweetness and Light", "Culture is then properly describe not as having its origin in curiosity, but as having its origin in the love of perfection; it is a study of perfection" (21). Arnold also says that culture is the endeavor to make the moral and social characteristics of individuals prevail. Because culture is a study of perfection, then it is also an "inward condition of the mind and spirit, not in an outward set of circumstances" (Arnold 23). Arnold states that, "In thus making sweetness and light to be characters of perfection, culture is of like spirit with poetry..." (25).
Matthew Arnold felt that religion was an important aspect of culture. Arnold felt that when the reason of God prevailed all society will be cultured. As Arnold states, "Now, then, is the moment for culture to be of service, culture which believes in making reason and the will of God prevail, believes in perfection, is the study of perfection,..." (21). Marx states that the ruling class of culture would be the intellectual and material force, he makes no mention of the religious aspects. In Karl Marx's culture, on the other hand, there would not be enough time to devote to the enrichment of the individual's religious mind. This is caused by his strong devotion to technological advancement.
The view Marx has toward religion and culture as a whole vividly portrays his feelings toward the internal aspect of culture. Marx thought the culture of a nation derived from the economic situation of the nation. His writings show he is more inclined toward the external aspect of culture. This external view of culture includes the thoughts of production, industry, and scientific breakthroughs. Another aspect of Marx's focus on external culture is his lack of focus on the development of religion and education. The focus on Marx's culture was the advancement of technology and power.
The writings of Marx and Arnold strongly oppose each other. The vast differences between Marx's and Arnold's opinion on culture are well noted in their writings. Marx's view of religion and education being non-important in his perfect culture contradicts the view of Matthew Arnold. Arnold believed that culture was a study of perfection in the mind of the individual. These contradicting views are an example of culture's various definitions in the world.