It seems that most contemporary societies have some sort of cultural dichotomy or culture war going on. In the West it is Left vs. Right. In Middle Eastern countries it is Secular vs. Religious. In India it is Hindu-nationalist vs. Multi-cultural Indians.

At first I was tempted to assume that this started because of the counter-culture in 1960s (and then spread to other cultures and got modified accordingly).

But then I realized that a lot of this ideological tensions predate the 1960s by a lot of time. In the Middle East, Secular-Nationalists vs. Religious dates to the early 20th century.

In Europe, Monarchist vs. Republican has been around since the French Revolution, etc....

So when exactly did having a cultural dichotomy/culture war mindset in any given society start? Was it the enlightenment? Or has it been always the case, since the beginning of civilized times (i.e. it is in a sense part of the human condition)?

closed as off-topic by Pieter Geerkens, BOB, KillingTime, José Carlos Santos, congusbongus Jun 26 at 5:55

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  • 8
    Probably since the second human voiced an opinion. Isn't this a tautology? Cultures change and grow from conflict, and the losing side always says it is a "war". – Mark C. Wallace Jun 25 at 17:41
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    I think OP is asking about conflict within a culture. Most people would agree that remainers and leavers are both part of British culture, for example, although they're opposed to each other. – Ne Mo Jun 25 at 18:30
  • @MarkC.Wallace "and the losing side always says it is a "war" - follow up question inspired by what you said: Did a losing side ever succeed in reversing a cultural tide? Right now, some parts of the right in the West want to reverse a lot of the cultural changes that occurred during the 20th century, but has anybody actually succeeded in that? – Alex Kinman Jun 25 at 21:12
  • It is a cardinal sin to reply in comments. That said, "is there an example" is "yes" - the question is whether it is like asking if there is an example of hitting blackjack, or whether it is more difficult like a 0 in roulette, or ..... – Mark C. Wallace Jun 25 at 21:50
  • @MarkC.Wallace "cardinal sin" eh - way different from my usual stomping grounds (the stats stack exchange) were if the answer is simple, then post it as a comment. Only something substantial warrants a stand alone answer. – Alex Kinman Jun 25 at 23:40

Insofar as I'm aware, the left vs right dichotomy specifically dates back from the French Revolution, during which conservative royalists sat right and liberal republicans sat left.

Dichotomies within societies, on the other hand, are much older. As early as Ancient Greece, (one would presume conservative) elders were railing about (presumably more progressive) youngsters owing to their lack of deference to traditions as explained in the answers to this question. And as pointed out in Mark's comment, there's no reason to assume it's not older.


There are always (ok, nearly always) conflicts within a culture. Your problem is seeing them as simplistic dichotomies, when there are many different sides. For instance, in the US the right as represented by the Republican Party is (over-simplifing considerably) divided between the economic & political conservatives and the cultural conservative/religious right, who often espouse economic policies more suited to the left. Then on the left/Democratic Party side you have everything from traditional liberals to outright socialists like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez. And outside the non-dichotomy of the two major party system, you have everything from Libertarians to Greens.

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