45 Years, 45 Days: All Culture, All the Time


For 45 days, we'll be celebrating Reason's 45th anniversary by releasing a story a day from the archives—one for each year of the magazine's history. See the full list here.

It's easier than ever to make and buy culture, Nick Gillespie observed in Reason's April 1999 issue. No wonder some people are so upset.

In an increasingly wealthy and educated society where the overwhelming majority of people have concerns about food, clothing, and shelter pretty well covered, culture takes on more and more meaning as the medium through which we articulate our identities, dreams, fears, aspirations, and values. Little wonder, then, that stories about the "culture wars" have been burning up the pages of newspapers, magazines, and intellectual journals for the past few years: There's so much more to fight about these days.

While such battles are typically waged in apocalyptic—and apoplectic—terms, we should be clear about one thing: The very fact that there are culture wars is cause for celebration. They're a flashing neon sign that more and more people are able to express and enjoy themselves on something like their own terms: One man's "pap," after all, is another man's Proust—and we've entered a phase where people are increasingly willing to argue the point. Proclamations of artistic or social value can no longer be issued ex cathedra but must now be submitted before a skeptical audience.