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Raymond Williams's Assertion


Perhaps, the most dramatic rethinking was about mass culture and literary critics, many of whom have completely abandoned traditional respect for high culture as a privileged object of study. They had carried out an intellectual revolution that led to the emergence of a number of theoretical schools (structuralism, semiology, post-structuralism, deconstruction, and discourse theory). Moreover, critics created an extremely confusing terminology that scares foreign observers and sometimes even makes dedicated people argue. Nevertheless, in this new bizarre world of literary theory non-trivial methods of critical analysis and new views on the nature of culture, understood in a broad context can be found.

Attention to the popular culture or cultural criticism has its base dissatisfaction on the part of the ‘right’ and ‘left’ ideology of cultural attachments to a mass audience. The ‘right’ condemnation of mass culture was usually associated with a common annoyance against democratic and egalitarian movements (Williams 1985). New forms of popular culture have been accused of many sins because they appeal to the senses and not to reason. They show, and thereby encourage crime and sexual promiscuity. Moreover, they are absorbed by uneducated or poorly educated people and do not require any intellectual effort.

The Understanding of Culture in the Works of Raymond Williams

In England (and in other English-speaking countries) a prominent role in the renewal of critical research traditions played Raymond Williams, historian and literary critic. His works contain a broad analysis of problems of mass media – from theatre to the press and television. They show how messages transmitted by the mass media are constructed in accordance with the political, economic, and technological environment, in which they arise. According to Williams, the message data should be viewed as an expression of social position of their authors (taken in the context of Marxist class analysis), and, at the same time, as signs of new social relations formed under the influence of various means of communication (Williams 1985).

Williams takes a historical analysis of the concept of ‘culture’ in Britain since the end of the 18th century (Gallagher 1992). To show that, along with the bourgeois idea of culture based on individualism, there is formed an alternative, proletarian, view of culture. It is based on the ideas of collectivity and community, from which specific views, behaviours, habits, and institutions grow, such as trade unions, associations, and parties. The key point of this proletarian culture is solidarity, stabilizing complex, and structured, pluralistic, but living together, and a participative culture (Dyer 2015). Unlike to the differentiated ‘class’ of bourgeois culture, Williams develops the concept of culture as a particular community’s holistic lifestyle, the starting point of which is transformation of security element of solidarity in a more or less positive practice of neighbourhood (Williams 1958).

If modernization, modernism, and contemporary experience can be defined as embodiment of possibilities and practices of development and reform, the post-modernization, post-modernism, and post-modern experience seems to imply the opposite. Modern means is rebellious in the sense that it represents an individual and collective consciousness, social and political potential. Also, ‘postmodern’ primarily means coercion, whether it is a forced redistribution of work force caused by de-industrialization, new technology and prevalence of temporary work, or the market, under the influence of which social groups are segregated (Mulhern 2009).

When processes characteristic of modernization, namely state intervention in social and economic production, emerging ideas of egalitarianism and collectivist urban reform deformed, probably in order to achieve a parabola of its peak of capitalist development, the stage was the deformed version of modernism. Postmodernism is a shallow, populist aesthetic, but obviously the cultural form of exceeding consumption, while building of cites accompanies a new stage of over-accumulation based on the debt of the third world military expenditures and capital flight in the monetarist harbour (Williams 1958). In addition to this, there is a significant restructuring of social relations of production based on the casualization of jobs and overexploitation of more flexible workforce. Postmodern experience extremely multiplies income, inherited wealth of a privileged minority, which is able to create its own environment overconsumption, imposed redistribution of labour, and loss of jobs. It also secures a return to the pre-modern era of social relations, at the same time as capital retreats to a more dynamic bastion of international finance, property, high-tech, and defence production.

Culture is “a whole way of life”, as Williams determines, using the expression of Eliot (Williams 1974). Culture is not something separate. There is no public space such as culture; there is a special class of people, which produces values and cultural values. One of the articles of Williams concludes this thesis in its title very simple: “Culture is ordinary” (Williams 1958). Another important aspect of the work of Williams, important for the further development of cultural studies, has been emphasizing the affective aspects of culture as a holistic lifestyle. Culture permeated emotional structures (or ‘structures of sensations’, ‘structures of feeling’); it is an internal, experienced by the side of culture (Williams 1958). This emotional structure can be expressed in art and literature, but due to the failure of the whole concept of holistic Williams, the last cannot be understood in the orthodox Marxist sense as a reflection of basic social processes and structures. In his later works, Williams determined the project of cultural studies as an attempt to reconstruct the relationship between the elements of a certain comprehensive lifestyle using methods of ethnography and in-depth reading, as well as revealing its emotional structures based on the cultural artefacts (Shashidhar 1997). One of the first researchers of the media, Williams knew early on their important role in the political life and culture. He considered democracy to be a prerequisite for genuine culture in this critical role played by creativity in human life (Williams 1974).

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The Influence of Industrial Revolution on the Popular Culture Assertion

Interest in the new forms of communication in the 60s was very closely connected with sentiments of radical academia (West 1992). If media contribute to the assertion of political conservatism, how can be expressed and implemented another, the opposition point of view? Some authors believe that the answer to this question can be obtained by referring to the history of labour movement and try to understand how culture and political opposition have been linked in the past. Of particular interest in this respect are the works of British scientists.

Williams offers a series of key concepts for the improvement of Marxist theory. They are believed to avoid odious interpretation of such terms as ‘basis’, ‘superstructure’, and ‘determined’ (West 1992). In Williams’s lexicon, these categories are complemented by dominant concepts, alternative and oppositional cultures, a dominant becoming an obsolescent culture. Williams leaves no stone unturned in the conventional Marxist metaphors that economic ‘basis’ defines political ‘superstructure’, law, religion, and, which seems particularly significant here, culture (Williams 1985). He believes, like other scientists, that the concept of culture is more meaningful and multifaceted than it usually is in the Marxist theory. Moreover, it essentially denies the fact that culture can be explained as a phenomenon of superstructure. Williams argues that this approach creates a false sense of culture as a set of characters or objects, whereas culture is primarily a set of norms and patterns of social practice (Storey 1998). Consequently, the base and superstructure directly coexist in the body culture. Next, taking the following important conclusion, when considered as a basis for the continued technological and economic system, substitution makes the subject of Marxist research. It is the study of specific activities of people in the real economic and social conditions. The study of processes of social production is replaced by the analysis of some ‘mechanism’ with a known device. Just as dogmatic Marxism distorts the concept of base and superstructure, it misinterpreted the concept of ‘determined’. According to Williams, to ‘determine’ does not mean to ‘prejudge, to guide’ (in general), but rather ‘to set boundaries’ (Williams 1985)

Raymond Williams described the project of cultural studies as a kind of reaction to the professionalization of reflection on literature within literary studies as an academic discipline. Adoption and refining of professional standards he connected with the closure of discipline on itself and its transformation into a self-reproduction community mechanism, teachers, and experts. The recent loss of the ability to answer the questions asked from outside the disciplinary framework for people, for whom to paraphrase their own formulation, production of ‘culture’ is not the way of life (Shashidhar 1997).

Looking back on the revolution in the literary forms that occurred in the late 18th century, Raymond Williams’s Culture and Society, 1780-1850 states that changes in the conventions occur only in case of radical changes in the overall structure of sensuality (Shashidhar 1997). Whereas, on the one hand, the market has contributed expertise in the art, on the other, representatives of the art constantly aspire towards to generalize their skills and choose one as the truth of imagination. This can be seen from romantics who discover their inability to reach the consciousness of people, resorted to the myth and symbol as a way to access their unconscious. It is unlikely that this reunion in the imagination of a tribal man was the conscious strategy of culture (Manheim 1962).

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A rehabilitation worker and popular culture in the works of Williams can be regarded as a compensatory response to the samples of high culture he encountered at the university. The impetus for establishment of the research culture can be considered as an attempt to convert a cultural capital, the working culture, in the symbolic legitimacy of academic capital. The turn to the media and popular culture focuses on dismantling the traditional hierarchy of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture (Mulhern 2009). This is a social genesis related to the general processes of social dynamics of post-war British society, especially with expansion of access to higher education among immigrants from the British working class environment.


Williams is typical in sociological approach to the literature as a source of information about the country. He attracted attention to the 40s of the 19th century, at the end of which the British have become a predominantly urban nation. The model of urban life and culture is seen from newspapers and music halls to the public, parks, museums, libraries, as it was the mass culture. Williams acknowledged the partial truth of Eliot and Leaves. Industrial revolution is the onset of bourgeois epoch that violated the integrity of human being and perception of the world. Having the intellectual culture of the minority and ‘low’ commercial culture of the majority, the latter included a democratic, popular urban culture. It transformed into a modern mass culture, life on the democratic and not exhaustive commercial basis. Moreover, the enlightened views on the culture interact in practice. Williams contributed to the revision of traditional structure of English culture, introduced his first neglect by the tradition of ‘popular culture’. The interaction of towns and villages Williams considered as a process to determine the nature of human civilization and the world. The process of human civilization’s growing up was accompanied by social and ethical deformation. The work on the land lost its value. Unbridled faith in the possibilities of urban civilization turned dangerous to the human existence. Williams regarded his work as a first step towards implementation of the necessary and urgent comparative research literature about the city and countryside in different countries.

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