Raymond Williams’ Marxism and Literature provides a good concept of culture. One cannot discuss a cultural phenomenon without defining the word culture, and that is how Williams comes in. William argues that culture has never been about one thing and that people have never agreed on proper definition of culture.
That being the case, Williams reviews the history of the concept of culture and provides four key words; arts, class, industry, and democracy that encompasses culture. Williams further reveals that the meaning and concepts of culture have evolved over time. He disagrees with the Marxist theory analysis of culture, since it does not question the bourgeois notion of culture; which are founded on economic ideas. Nonetheless, Marxism and Literature leaves room for debate since its concepts of culture takes into account emerging issues that contradict old ideas of culture. The goal of this analysis is to bring out the emergent ideas of culture central in Williams’ work and review his definition of culture.
Williams argues that culture is ordinary. Each society has unique culture in terms of purpose, shape, and meaning. The societies express their culture in learning, arts, and institutions. He further states that culture has two features, the directions that society members are trained to follow and the known meaning. These ordinary processes in the human mind helps propagate the ideas of culture in society.
The word culture means the way of life which includes the arts and learning. Culture is ordinary because it’s everywhere and is found in everything. The way people talk, walk, and carry out their lives is determined by a particular culture common in that society.
The culture is ordinary because the normal people propagate it. Older generations are the custodians of culture and pass on their beliefs on to the younger generation. The normal arts, schools, and institutions are used to train people on culture hence the ordinary nature of culture.Raymond William further argues that though culture is unique to each society, it is mean for everyone. The analysis contradicts Eliot views on culture. According to Eliot, culture can either be high or low and that only a section of society can conform to culture. The essence of culture according to Eliot is to prevent social disintegration.
Moreover, only the elite in the society maintain culture for their personal interests. The two scholars seems to differ on the use of culture. Whereas, Eliot holds the idea that culture serves only the elite, Williams believe that culture serves society as a whole.William was right to argue that culture is influenced by means of production and economies.
According to him, a capitalist society shapes the capitalist culture. For instances, access to education was restricted by class. Education being a means of propagating culture, it therefore means only the elite could access a particular culture and practice it since they are capable of going to school. However, he seems to criticize the elite ownership of culture due the means of production. He advocates for Marxism concept of culture in which the society owns the culture but not a particular group of the privileged. The important idea propagated by Williams is that democracy and diversity are a must for a socialist culture. That is true because true democracy and diversity eliminates any form of prejudice that alienate people from their culture.The meaning of culture has evolved to mean civilization.
One can point out that culture is synonymous with civilization, which is built around progress, refinement, and celebration of the new “order.” Williams believes that culture is a progressing concept that ought to bring development just as civilization does. The observation are true given that people are moving away from oppressive and backward culture to a more civil culture. Since humanity is at the center of any culture, culture is constantly refined to ensure only progressive culture finds it way in the society. For instance, laws are passed to ensure the working class are protected. This new culture of enacting progressive laws is meant to protect the workers from oppressive culture such as poor working environment and low wages.
Currently, cultural enlightenment is the goal of society. As such, any culture that does not contribute to economic wellbeing of the society is done away with.Culture as a way of life encompasses customs, laws, art, and morals that define human interaction in a given society. Nations, people, and religions have their own way of doing things. In an organization for instance the police force, there is an occupational culture called cop culture this determines how the police conduct their work and interactions with people. Culture as a way of place varies from point to point and changes over a period of time. Such culture is exhibited in issues such as norms, attitude, and behaviors. Culture according to the Williams is not written anywhere or announced to public but people learn culture by observing others.
Culture is the reference point for it provides boundaries and influence on how people live in a society. It has underlying values that guides and affects the way a society goes on with life. Culture is an important component of society because it determines how people relate and interact. Without it, the society would be in jeopardy.Culture is process of human perfection. The idea behind this definition is that culture upholds values which improve human conditions.
Such values, have withstood a test of time for a long time. It remains important to the foundation for ethics in society. The process of identifying and describing those values is an ongoing practice that has been there for a great amount of time. The main reason the author views culture as a process of human perfection is because it contributes greatly to human growth. For instance, humans have always adopted culture that encourage their dominance over nature. The capitalist exploit the available resources such as land to amass wealth. The analysis shows that the culture with developing technology and taking children to school as noted by Williams; is to ensure technology improve human lives and that people better themselves. Culture influences the worlds social, ethical, and political struggles.
Culture has been at the center of all struggles for a long time. In many cases of struggle, the low-class citizens tend to oppose the capitalistic culture in which those in power tend to take everything. The use of the struggles endured by people, the languages used, identity and culture are the terms in which political demand are enforced and made. Ever since the 19th century, culture has become the opposite of a dictatorship and barbarism. Civilization in particular has been used to advocate for a culture of inclusiveness in all economic spheres. Unfortunately, the ideals of our current civilization; clashes with the composition of culture.
Civilization advocates for human freedom in which individuals are free to do what they want. In contrast, culture advocates for ideologies that hold society together. As such, whereas civilization would embrace capitalism, culture would align with socialism because majority (the 98%) would benefit from available resources as opposed to capitalism that favors the elite( the 2%) and the workers.Neo-Marxist concept of culture influence Williams’ philosophy. He agrees that there is a relationship between culture and economy and that this association varies from society to society.
Radical Marxists argues that the capitalist use culture to control society. They believe that schools, churches, and families are instruments of capitalism, used to control the people by instilling in them a culture that upholds capitalism. Such culture passed down by those agents of capitalism influence how people think and relate to class rule. For instance, teaching that the boss is always right helps place the elite at the top of class system. This enforces that the lowly ranked classes would continue serving the elite. Such systems also ensure the elite class continue to control the means of production such as land, labor, and capital. This models is called “cultural dominion” in which the ruling class ensures their grip on power.
The media is the modern tool used to propagate mass culture. Williams revealed concepts such as Black people are inferior beings and that the Russians are villains. These depictions are seen in films that show Black people in poverty stricken situations and Russian people as criminals. Children who watch such films develop a notion that Black people should work for and serve the white elites. Moreover, they tend to believe being a poor Black person is normal and there is no need to struggle to improve your life standards.
Those who struggle against capitalist culture should use non-combative means to overthrow culture of domination. For instance, people should learn about culture and how it influences them. Understanding culture offers tools to defend oneself against oppressive culture. Additionally, creating and spreading a culture of equality that would help benefit the working class. A culture of rapport, bridges the gap between the classes.
Similarly, it enhances harmony in society since the elite class would not be able to take advantage of the working class. Culture is not set in stone; it can be changed. If enough people’s minds and morals rearrange themselves; to take a stand against a certain aspect of a culture. Then that aspect can be over thrown from culture.