Close Reading: Culture Is Ordinary by Raymond Williams Essay

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Pages: 5

Close Reading: Culture is Ordinary by Raymond Williams

The article by Raymond Williams is an attempt to describe and analyse the changing dynamics of culture through its constant shifts in meaning. He begins his essay with a brief account of a visit to his childhood home in Wales, in a few words describing his own personal history. 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. 6). He then explores this concept further by contesting two common ideas of culture that he has encountered, firstly what Williams labels
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He insinuates how bougeouis culture can teach working class values in future cultural developments, such as “neighbourhood, mutual obligation, and common betterment” (p. 9). The final principle conveys the idea that “since culture and production are related, the advocacy of a different system of production is in some way a cultural directive” (p. 9). Williams strictly rejects this, on the premise that culture is made up of individual and collective meanings, and is therefore ever-changing and unpredictable. He suggests how, as such personal and social experiences are living, it is simply inconceivable to dictate through a change in systems of production.
Williams also rejects Leavis’ idea, who believes that with the industrialisation of England, both art and thinking have suffered. Though he struggles with the idea, he returns to his working class background to view the technological advances and easing on labour, which are in place due to industrialisation, as advantageous. He views it as a newly acquired form of power. He further queries how such power can be bad for society, questioning whom could go back to before there were such products that were brought about by industrialisation and technology, such as electricity or aspirin. Engaging in this idea, Williams wonders how we can defend the “good” advances, and also answer the problem of the “new cultural vulgarity” (p. 11)? In answering this, he puts forward falsities that have arisen from