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Raymond Williams' Contribution to the Definition of Culture

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Williams refers to a ‘common culture’ brought out by complete democratic participation and is commonly shared by the millions of working-class men and women. Williams also brings out the relationship between one’s way of seeing and one’s way of living and purports that “the process of communication is, in fact, the process of the community: the sharing of common meanings, and thence common activities and purposes; the offering, reception, and comparison of new meanings, leading to tensions and achievements of growth and change” (Williams 1961, 55). Thus, Williams provides importance both to the past experience and the present experience of the individual in determining culture.

  
One can find similarities between Leavis and Williams. He supports Leavis’ notion regarding the real relation between art and experience. However, he does not support the distinction that Leavis has placed between pre and post-industrial-revolution culture. Williams does not consider the ‘old’ culture as valuable and the ‘new’ culture as cheap. Similarly, Williams does not believe that the new lifestyle brought out by the influence of new media is capable of turning the old culture into something new or negative.
Williams’ views on culture and Marxism are very often widely discussed. Williams is immensely influenced by the Marxist ideology in his understanding of the concept of culture. Thus, one finds Williams perceiving culture as “social and material practices, no longer based on raw, unmediated experience but on the given character of processes of production that make up the whole fabric of society” (Juan, 1999, p.4). However, unlike the Marxist paradigm of a base/superstructure, Williams conceives base not as something of a ‘uniform state or a fixed technological mechanism’ but as a dynamic and open-ended process.   
One also notices in the later works of Williams he expands his idea of culture by adopting and expanding on Antonio Gramsci's concept of "hegemony. However, for Williams, “hegemony is a process of cultural domination which is never static or total, but continually "renewed, recreated, defended, and modified”. .

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preview essay on Raymond Williams' Contribution to the Definition of Culture
  • Pages: 11 (2750 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Culture
  • Level: Undergraduate
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