Raymond Williams Essays

Raymond Williams Essays-57
From his anecdote, Williams delves into his main argument, that Culture is ordinary, breaking this idea into two parts, “the known meanings and directions, which its members are trained to; the new observations and meanings, which are offered and tested” (Williams, 1958, p. He then explores this concept further by contesting two common ideas of culture that he has encountered, firstly what Williams labels The common illusion of ‘high culture’ present in both of these examples is seen by Williams as a way of maintaining class divisions between the ‘highbrow’ and working class, bringing the idea of culture back to the notion of power.The language used in this essay is very personal, and can be seen quite clearly in this argument, as you can see his deep rooted working class sensibility in his attack on these two perceptions of culture, but also from his background as an academic as well. Raymond Williams was perhaps one of the greatest British cultural historians of this century, less well known here than he might have been because he was a Marxist.

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According to Williams however, 'culture' is an unstable mode that moves simultaneously with social changes and is therefore subject to continual reinterpretation, hen...

This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. These essays therefore have a jerky rhythm and are frequently elliptical and undeveloped.

While this is helpful in considering that he can see the situation from two polar opposites of class, that being working class and academic, occasionally Williams tends to rely on this as fact and causes his essay to lose credibility.

In aid of understanding Williams’ notion of culture, three Marxist principles are explored, only one of which is accepted.

R Leavis (1895-1978) introduced his traditional definition of 'culture' inspired by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888).

According to Williams' critique on Leavis and Arnold, this paper will discuss Arnold's and Leavis' classical ideas of culture and contrast those with Williams' anthropological definition of culture in order to highlight to what extent Williams contributed crucially to traditional Cultural Studies.

Williams, during a lull, found Leavis staring back and forth between his own smooth hand lying on the table and Williams's hairy hand lying next to it. in complex and variable connection with other social relations and institutions.'' To take his favorite example, printing as a technology could have had vast democratic repercussions, but since it was born into a particular class system, the privileged controlled the technology and thus the spread of literacy.

It became a conspiratorial moment between them: '' He went on staring at our hands and when he saw that I had noticed, he smiled.'' Other essays here reproduce in pungent summary central arguments from Williams's books. Printing did not begin to realize its democratic potential until the mass extension of literacy in the 19th century.

I once heard a prominent Marxist critic assert heatedly that Williams could not be considered a real Marxist because he did not believe in ''base and superstructure'' (all culture as seen in secondary superstructure, determined by a primary economic base). is a lack of human fit between exposure to reports of world-wide events and either effective knowledge .

Such a litmus test, with its punitive fervor, is a measure of what Williams, with his habit of complex seeing, was up against. In the late 'thirties, after all, the wireless news of these European convulsions came only after a steady reading of the fat-stock prices.


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