Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. 3 Culturalism In this chapter I shall consider the work produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson, and Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel. This body of work, despite certain differences between its authors, constitutes the founding texts of culturalism. As Hall (1978) was later to observe, ‘Within cultural studies in Britain, “culturalism” has been the most vigorous, indigenous strand’ (19). The chapter will end with a brief discussion of the institutionalization of culturalism at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Both Hoggart and Williams develop positions in response to Leavisism. As we noted in Chapter 2, the Leavisites opened up an educational space in Britain for the study of popular culture. Hoggart and Williams occupy this space in ways that challenge many of the basic assumptions of Leavisism, whilst also sharing some of these assumptions. It is this contradictory mixture – looking back to the ‘culture and civilization’ tradition, whilst at the same time moving forward to culturalism and the foundations of the cultural studies approach to popular culture – that has led The Uses of Literacy, Culture and Society and The Long Revolution to be called both texts of the ‘break’ and examples of ‘left-Leavisism’ (Hall, 1996a). Thompson, on the other hand, would describe his work, then and always, as Marxist. The term ‘culturalism’ was coined to describe his work, and the work of Hoggart and Williams, by one of the former directors of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, Richard Johnson (1979). Johnson uses the term to indicate the presence of a body of theoretical concerns connecting the work of the three theorists. Each, in his different way, breaks with key aspects of the tradition he inherits. Hoggart and Williams break with Leavisism; Thompson breaks with mechanistic and economistic versions of Marxism. What unites them is an approach which insists that by analysing the culture of a society – the textual forms and documented practices of a culture – it is possible to reconstitute the patterned behaviour and constellations of ideas shared by the men and women who produce and consume the texts and practices of that society. It is a perspective that stresses ‘human agency’, the active production of culture, rather than its passive consumption. Although not usually included in accounts of the formation of culturalism out of left-Leavisism, Hall and Whannel’s The Popular Arts is included here because of its classic left-Leavisite focus on popular culture. Taken together as a body of work, the contributions of Hoggart, Williams, Thompson, and Hall and Whannel clearly mark the emergence of what is now known as the cultural Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. Richard Hoggart: The Uses of Literacy studies approach to popular culture. The institutional home of these developments was, especially in the 1970s and early 1980s, the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham (see Green, 1996). Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Richard Hoggart: The Uses of Literacy The Uses of Literacy is divided into two parts: ‘An “older” order’, describing the workingclass culture of Hoggart’s childhood in the 1930s; and ‘Yielding place to new’, describing a traditional working-class culture under threat from the new forms of mass entertainment of the 1950s. Dividing the book in this way in itself speaks volumes about the perspective taken and the conclusions expected. On the one hand, we have the traditional ‘lived culture’ of the 1930s. On the other, we have the cultural decline of the 1950s. Hoggart is in fact aware that during the course of writing the book, ‘nostalgia was colouring the material in advance: I have done what I could to remove its effects’ (1990: 17). He is also aware that the division he makes between the ‘older’ and the ‘new’, underplays the amount of continuity between the two. It should also be noted that his evidence for the ‘older’ depends not on ‘invoking some rather mistily conceived pastoral tradition the better to assault the present, [but] to a large extent on memories of my childhood about twenty years ago’ (23, 24). His evidence for the cultural decline represented by the popular culture of the 1950s is material gathered as a university lecturer and researcher. In short, the ‘older’ is based on personal experience; the ‘new’ on academic research. This is a significant and informing distinction. It is also worth noting something about Hoggart’s project that is often misunderstood. What he attacks is not a ‘moral’ decline in the working class as such, but what he perceives as a decline in the ‘moral seriousness’ of the culture provided for the working class. He repeats on a number of occasions his confidence in the working class’s ability to resist many of the manipulations of mass culture: ‘This is not simply a power of passive resistance, but something which, though not articulate, is positive. The working classes have a strong natural ability to survive change by adapting or assimilating what they want in the new and ignoring the rest’ (32). His confidence stems from his belief that their response to mass culture is always partial: ‘with a large part of themselves they are just “not there”, are living elsewhere, living intuitively, habitually, verbally, drawing on myth, aphorism, and ritual. This saves them from some of the worst effects’ (33). According to Hoggart, working class people have traditionally, or at least for several generations, regarded art as escape, as something enjoyed but not assumed to have much connexion with the matter of daily life. Art is marginal, ‘fun’ . . . ‘real’ life goes on elsewhere. . . . Art is for you to use (238). Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. 39 40 Chapter 3 Culturalism He describes the aesthetic of the working class as an ‘overriding interest in the close detail’ of the everyday; a profound interest in the already known; a taste for culture that ‘shows’ rather than ‘explores’. The working-class consumer, according to Hoggart’s account, therefore seeks not ‘an escape from ordinary life’, but its intensification, in the embodied belief ‘that ordinary life is intrinsically interesting’ (120). The new mass entertainment of the 1950s is said to undermine this aesthetic: Most mass entertainments are in the end what D.H. Lawrence described as ‘anti-life’. They are full of a corrupt brightness, of improper appeals and moral evasions . . . they offer nothing which can really grip the brain or heart. They assist a gradual drying up of the more positive, the fuller, the more cooperative kinds of enjoyment, in which one gains much by giving much (340). It is not just that the pleasures of mass entertainment are ‘irresponsible’ and ‘vicarious’ (ibid.); they are also destroying the very fabric of an older, healthier, working-class culture. He is adamant that (in the 1950s) we are moving towards the creation of a mass culture; that the remnants of what was at least in parts an urban culture ‘of the people’ are being destroyed; and that the new mass culture is in some important ways less healthy than the often crude culture it is replacing (24). Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. He claims that the working-class culture of the 1930s expressed what he calls ‘ The rich full life’, marked by a strong sense of community. This is a culture that is by and large made by the people. Here is a fairly well-known example of what he means – his description of a typical day at the seaside: the ‘charas’ go rolling out across the moors for the sea, past the road houses which turn up their noses at coach parties, to one the driver knows where there is coffee and biscuits or perhaps a full egg and bacon breakfast. Then on to a substantial lunch on arrival, and after that a fanning out in groups. But rarely far from one another, because they know their part of the town and their bit of beach, where they feel at home. . . . They have a nice walk past the shops; perhaps a drink; a sit in a deck chair eating an ice cream or sucking mint humbugs; a great deal of loud laughter – at Mrs Johnson insisting on a paddle with her dress tucked in her bloomers, at Mrs Henderson pretending she has ‘got off ’ with the deck chair attendant, or in the queue at the ladies lavatory. Then there is the buying of presents for the family, a big meat tea, and the journey home with a stop for drinks on the way. If the men are there, and certainly if it is a men’s outing, there will probably be several stops and a crate or two of beer in the back for drinking on the move. Somewhere in the middle of the moors the men’s parties all tumble out, with much horseplay and noisy jokes about bladder capacity. The driver knows exactly what is expected of him as he steers his warm, fuggy, and singing community back to the town; for his part he gets a very large tip, collected during the run through the last few miles of the town streets (147–8). Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Richard Hoggart: The Uses of Literacy This is a popular culture that is communal and self-made. Hoggart can be criticized for his romanticism, but we should also recognize here, in the passage’s utopian energy, an example of Hoggart’s struggle to establish a working distinction between a culture ‘of the people’ and a ‘world where things are done for the people’ (151). The first half of The Uses of Literacy consists mostly of examples of communal and self-made entertainment. The analysis is often in considerable advance of Leavisism. For example, he defends working-class appreciation of popular song against the dismissive hostility of Cecil Sharp’s (Leavisesque) longing for the ‘purity’ of folk music (see Storey, 2003 and 2016) in terms that were soon to become central to the project of cultural studies. Songs succeed, he argues, ‘no matter how much Tin Pan Alley plugs them’ (159), only if they can be made to meet the emotional requirements of their popular audience. As he says of the popular appropriation of ‘After the Ball is Over’, ‘they have taken it on their own terms, and so it is not for them as poor a thing as it might have been’ (162). The idea of an audience appropriating for its own purposes – on its own terms – the commodities offered to it by the culture industries is never fully explored. But the idea is there in Hoggart, again indicating the underexploited sophistication of parts of The Uses of Literacy – too often dismissed as a rather unacademic, and nostalgic, semiautobiography. The real weakness of the book is its inability to carry forward the insights from its treatment of the popular culture of the 1930s into its treatment of the so-called mass culture of the 1950s. If it had done, it would have, for example, quickly found totally inadequate the contrasting descriptive titles, ‘ The full rich life’ and ‘Invitations to a candy-floss world’. It is worth noting at this point that it is not necessary to say that Hoggart’s picture of the 1930s is romanticized in order to prove that his picture of the 1950s is exaggeratedly pessimistic and overdrawn; he does not have to be proved wrong about the 1930s, as some critics seem to think, in order to be proved wrong about the 1950s. It is possible that he is right about the 1930s, whilst being wrong about the 1950s. Like many intellectuals whose origins are working class, he is perhaps prone to bracket off his own working-class experience against the real and imagined condescension of his new middle-class colleagues: ‘I know the contemporary working class is deplorable, but mine was different.’ Although I would not wish to overstress this motivation, it does get some support in Williams’s (1957) review of The Uses of Literacy, when he comments on ‘lucky Hoggart’s’ account of the scholarship boy: ‘which I think’, Williams observes, ‘has been well received by some readers (and why not? it is much what they wanted to hear, and now an actual scholarship boy is saying it)’ (426–7). Again, in a discussion of the ‘strange allies’ dominant groups often attract, Williams (1965) makes a similar, but more general point: In our own generation we have a new class of the same kind: the young men and women who have benefited by the extension of public education and who, in surprising numbers, identify with the world into which they have been admitted, and spend much of their time, to the applause of their new peers, expounding and Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. 41 42 Chapter 3 Culturalism documenting the hopeless vulgarity of the people they have left: the one thing that is necessary now, to weaken belief in the practicability of further educational extension (377–8). Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. When, in the second part of his study, Hoggart turns to consider ‘some features of contemporary life’ (169), the self-making aspect of working-class culture is mostly kept from view. The popular aesthetic, so important for an understanding of the workingclass pleasure on show in the 1930s, is now forgotten in the rush to condemn the popular culture of the 1950s. The success of ‘the radio “soap operas”, with working class women . . . is due to the consummateness of their attention . . . to their remarkably sustained presentation of the perfectly ordinary and unremarkable’ (181). This is repeated in newspaper cartoons featuring such figures as ‘the “little man” worrying for days on end about his daughter’s chances in the school cookery competition . . . a daily exercise in spinning out the unimportant and insignificant’ (ibid.). What has happened to the intrinsic significance of the everyday? Instead of talk of a popular aesthetic, we are invited on a tour of the manipulative power of the culture industries. The popular culture of the 1950s, as described by Hoggart, no longer offers the possibility of a full rich life; everything is now far too thin and insipid. The power of ‘commercial culture’ has grown, relentless in its attack on the old (traditional working-class culture) in the name of the new, the ‘shiny barbarism’ (193) of mass culture. This is a world in which ‘To be “old fashioned” is to be condemned’ (192). It is a condition to which the young are particularly vulnerable. These ‘barbarians in wonderland’ (193) demand more, and are given more, than their parents and their grandparents had or expected to have. But such supposedly mindless hedonism, fed by thin and insipid fare, leads only to debilitating excess. ‘Having a good time’ may be made to seem so important as to override almost all other claims; yet when it has been allowed to do so, having a good time becomes largely a matter of routine. The strongest argument against modern mass entertainments is not that they debase taste – debasement can be alive and active – but that they over excite it, eventually dull it, and finally kill it. . . . They kill it at the nerve, and yet so bemuse and persuade their audience that the audience is almost entirely unable to look up and say, ‘But in fact this cake is made of sawdust’ (196–7). Although (in the late 1950s) that stage had not yet been reached, all the signs, according to Hoggart, indicate that this is the way in which the world is travelling. But even in this ‘candy-floss world’ (206) there are still signs of resistance. For example, although mass culture may produce some awful popular songs, people do not have to sing or listen to these songs, and many do not: and those who do, often make the songs better than they really are . . . people often read them in their own way. So that even there they are less affected than the extent of their purchases would seem to indicate (231). Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. Richard Hoggart: The Uses of Literacy Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Again, this reminds us that Hoggart’s target is (mostly) the producers of the commodities from which popular culture is made and not those who make these commodities (or not) into popular culture. Although he offers many examples of ‘proof ’ of cultural decline, popular fiction is arguably his key example of deterioration. He compares a piece of contemporary writing (in fact it is an imitation written by himself ) with an extract from East Lynne and an extract from Adam Bede. He concludes that in comparison the contemporary extract is thin and insipid: a ‘trickle of tinned milk and water which staves off the pangs of a positive hunger and denies the satisfactions of a solidly filling meal’ (237). Leaving aside the fact that the contemporary extract is an imitation (as are all his contemporary examples), Hoggart argues that its inferiority is due to the fact that it lacks the ‘moral tone’ (236) of the other two extracts. This may be true, but what is also significant is the way in which the other two extracts are full of ‘moral tone’ in a quite definite sense: they attempt to tell the reader what to think; they are, as he admits, ‘oratory’ (235). The contemporary extract is similarly thin in a quite definite sense: it does not tell the reader what to think. Therefore, although there may be various grounds on which we might wish to rank the three extracts, with Adam Bede at the top and the contemporary extract at the bottom, ‘moral tone’ (meaning fiction should tell people what to think) seems to lead us nowhere but back to the rather bogus certainties of Leavisism. Moreover, we can easily reverse the judgement: the contemporary extract is to be valued for its elliptic and interrogative qualities; it invites us to think by not thinking for us; this is not to be dismissed as an absence of thought (or ‘moral tone’ for that matter), but as an absence full of potential presence, which the reader is invited to actively produce. One supposedly striking portent of the journey into the candy-floss world is the habitual visitor to the new milk bars, ‘the juke box boy’ (247) – his term for the Teddy boy. Milk bars are themselves symptomatic: they ‘indicate at once, in the nastiness of their modernistic knick-knacks, their glaring showiness, an aesthetic breakdown so complete’ (ibid.). Patrons are mostly ‘boys between fifteen and twenty, with drape suits, picture ties, and an American slouch’ (248). Their main reason for being there is to ‘put copper after copper into the mechanical record player’ (ibid.). The music ‘is allowed to blare out so that the noise would be sufficient to fill a good sized ballroom’ (ibid.). Listening to the music, ‘ The young men waggle one shoulder or stare, as desperately as Humphrey Bogart, across the tubular chairs’ (ibid.). Compared even with the pub around the corner, this is all a peculiarly thin and pallid form of dissipation, a sort of spiritual dry-rot amid the odour of boiled milk. Many of the customers – their clothes, their hair styles, their facial expressions all indicate – are living to a large extent in a myth world compounded of a few simple elements which they take to be those of American life (ibid.). According to Hoggart, They are a depressing group . . . perhaps most of them are rather less intelligent than the average [working-class youth], and are therefore even more exposed than Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. 43 44 Chapter 3 Culturalism others to the debilitating mass trends of the day . . . they have no responsibilities, and little sense of responsibilities, to themselves or to others (248–9). Although ‘they are not typical’, they are an ominous sign of things to come: these are the figures some important contemporary forces are tending to create, the directionless and tamed helots of a machine-minding class. . . . The hedonistic but passive barbarian who rides in a fifty-horse-power bus for threepence, to see a five-million-dollar film for one-and-eightpence, is not simply a social oddity; he is a portent (250). Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. The juke-box boy symptomatically bears the prediction of a society in which ‘the larger part of the population is reduced to a condition of obediently receptive passivity, their eyes glued to television sets, pin ups, and cinema screens’ (316). Hoggart, however, does not totally despair at the march of mass culture. He knows, for instance, that the working class ‘are not living lives which are imaginatively as poor as a mere reading of their literature would suggest’ (324). The old communal and self-made popular culture still remains in working-class ways of speaking, in ‘the Working-Men’s Clubs, the styles of singing, the brass bands, the older types of magazines, the close group games like darts and dominoes’ (ibid.). Moreover, he trusts their ‘considerable moral resources’ (325) to allow them, and to encourage them, to continue to adapt for their own purposes the commodities and commodified practices of the culture industries. In short, they ‘are a good deal less affected than they might well be. The question, of course, is how long this stock of moral capital will last, and whether it is being renewed’ (ibid.). For all his guarded optimism, he warns that it is a ‘form of democratic self-indulgence to over-stress this resilience’ in the face of the ‘increasingly dangerous pressures’ (330) of mass culture, with all its undermining of genuine community with an increasingly ‘hollow . . . invitation to share in a kind of palliness’ (340). His ultimate fear is that ‘competitive commerce’ (243) may have totalitarian designs: Inhibited now from ensuring the ‘degradation’ of the masses economically . . . competitive commerce . . . becomes a new and stronger form of subjection; this subjection promises to be stronger than the old because the chains of cultural subordination are both easier to wear and harder to strike away than those of economic subordination (243–4). Hoggart’s approach to popular culture has much in common with the approach of Leavisism (this is most noticeable in the analysis of popular culture in the second part of the book); both operate with a notion of cultural decline; both see education in discrimination as a means to resist the manipulative appeal of mass culture. However, what makes his approach different from that of Leavisism is his detailed preoccupation with, and, above all, his clear commitment to, working-class culture. His distance from Leavisism is most evident in the content of his own ‘good past/bad present’ binary Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. Raymond Williams: ‘The analysis of culture’ opposition: instead of the organic community of the seventeenth century, his ‘good past’ is the working-class culture of the 1930s. What Hoggart celebrates from the 1930s is, significantly, the very culture that the Leavisites were armed to resist. This alone makes his approach an implicit critique of, and an academic advance on, Leavisism. But, as Hall (1980b) points out, although Hoggart ‘refused many of [F.R.] Leavis’s embedded cultural judgements’, he nevertheless, in his use of Leavisite literary methodology, ‘continued “a tradition” while seeking, in practice, to transform it’ (18). Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Raymond Williams: ‘The analysis of culture’ Raymond Williams’s influence on cultural studies has been enormous. The range of his work alone is formidable. He has made significant contributions to our understanding of cultural theory, cultural history, television, the press, radio and advertising. Alan O’Connor’s (1989) bibliography of Williams’s published work runs to thirty-nine pages. His contribution is all the more remarkable when one considers his origins in the Welsh working class (his father was a railway signalman), and that as an academic he was professor of drama at Cambridge University. In this section, I will comment only on his contribution to the founding of culturalism and its contribution to the study of popular culture. In ‘The analysis of culture’, Williams (2009) outlines the ‘three general categories in the definition of culture’ (32). First, there is ‘the “ideal”, in which culture is a state or process of human perfection, in terms of certain absolute or universal values’ (ibid.). The role of cultural analysis, using this definition, ‘is essentially the discovery and description, in lives and works, of those values which can be seen to compose a timeless order, or to have permanent reference to the universal human condition’ (ibid.). This is the definition inherited from Arnold and used by Leavisism: what he calls, in Culture and Society, culture as an ultimate ‘court of human appeal, to be set over the processes of practical social judgement and yet to offer itself as a mitigating and rallying alternative’ (Williams, 1963: 17). Second, there is the ‘documentary’ record: the surviving texts and practices of a culture. In this definition, ‘culture is the body of intellectual and imaginative work, in which, in a detailed way, human thought and experience are variously recorded’ (Williams, 2009: 32). The purpose of cultural analysis, using this definition, is one of critical assessment. This can take a form of analysis similar to that adopted with regard to the ‘ideal’; an act of critical sifting until the discovery of what Arnold calls ‘the best that has been thought and said’ (see Chapter 2). It can also involve a less exalted practice: the cultural as the critical object of interpretative description and evaluation (literary studies is the obvious example of this practice). Finally, it can also involve a more historical, less literary evaluative function: an act of critical reading to measure its significance as a ‘historical document’ (historical studies is the obvious example of this practice). Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. 45 46 Chapter 3 Culturalism Third, ‘there is the “social” definition of culture, in which culture is a description of a particular way of life’ (ibid.). The ‘social’ definition of culture is crucial to the founding of culturalism. This definition introduces three new ways of thinking about culture: first, the ‘anthropological’ position, which sees culture as a description of a particular way of life; second, the proposition that culture ‘expresses certain meanings and values’ (ibid.); third, the claim that the work of cultural analysis should be the ‘clarification of the meanings and values implicit and explicit in a particular way of life, a particular culture’ (ibid.). Williams is aware that the kind of analysis the ‘social’ definition of culture demands will often ‘involve analysis of elements in the way of life that to followers of the other definitions are not “culture” at all’ (ibid.). Moreover, while such analysis might still operate modes of evaluation of the ‘ideal’ and the ‘documentary’ type, it will also extend to an emphasis which, from studying particular meanings and values, seeks not so much to compare these, as a way of establishing a scale, but by studying their modes of change to discover certain general ‘laws’ or ‘trends’, by which social and cultural development as a whole can be better understood (32–3). Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Taken together, the three points embodied in the ‘social’ definition of culture – culture as a particular way of life, culture as expression of a particular way of life, and cultural analysis as a method of reconstituting a particular way of life – establish both the general perspective and the basic procedures of culturalism. Williams, however, is reluctant to remove from analysis any of the three ways of understanding culture: ‘there is a significant reference in each . . . and, if this is so, it is the relations between them that should claim our attention’ (33). He describes as ‘inadequate’ and ‘unacceptable’ any definition that fails to include the other definitions: ‘However difficult it may be in practice, we have to try to see the process as a whole, and to relate our particular studies, if not explicitly at least by ultimate reference, to the actual and complex organization’ (34). As he explains, I would then define the theory of culture as the study of relationships between elements in a whole way of life. The analysis of culture is the attempt to discover the nature of the organization which is the complex of these relationships. Analysis of particular works or institutions is, in this context, analysis of their essential kind of organization, the relationships which works or institutions embody as parts of the organization as a whole (35). In addressing the ‘complex organization’ of culture as a particular way of life, the purpose of cultural analysis is always to understand what a culture is expressing: ‘the actual experience through which a culture was lived’; the ‘important common element’; ‘a particular community of experience’ (36). In short, it aims to reconstitute what Williams calls ‘the structure of feeling’ (ibid.). By structure of feeling, he means the shared values of a particular group, class or society. The term is used to describe a discursive structure that is a cross between a collective cultural unconscious and an Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. Raymond Williams: ‘The analysis of culture’ ideology. He uses, for example, the term to explain the way in which many nineteenthcentury novels employ ‘magic solutions’ to close the gap in that society between ‘the ethic and the experience’. He gives examples of how men and women are released from loveless marriages as a result of the convenient death or the insanity of their partners; legacies turn up unexpectedly to overcome reverses in fortune; villains are lost in the Empire; poor men return from the Empire bearing great riches; and those whose aspirations could not be met by prevailing social arrangements are put on a boat to make their dreams come true elsewhere. All these (and more) are presented as examples of a shared structure of feeling, the unconscious and conscious working out in fictional texts of the contradictions of nineteenth-century society. The purpose of cultural analysis is to read the structure of feeling through the documentary record, ‘from poems to buildings and dress-fashions’ (37). As he makes clear, What we are looking for, always, is the actual life that the whole organization is there to express. The significance of documentary culture is that, more clearly than anything else, it expresses that life to us in direct terms, when the living witnesses are silent (ibid.). The situation is complicated by the fact that culture always exists on three levels: Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. We need to distinguish three levels of culture, even in its most general definition. There is the lived culture of a particular time and place, only fully accessible to those living in that time and place. There is the recorded culture, of every kind, from art to the most everyday facts: the culture of a period. There is also, as the factor connecting lived culture and period cultures, the culture of the selective tradition (37). Lived culture is culture as experienced by people in their day-to-day existence in a particular place and at a particular moment in time; the only people who have full access to this culture are those who actually lived its structure of feeling. Once the historical moment is gone the structure of feeling begins to fragment. Cultural analysis has access only through the documentary record of the culture. But the documentary record itself fragments under the processes of ‘the selective tradition’ (ibid.). Between a lived culture and its reconstitution in cultural analysis, clearly, a great deal of detail is lost. For example, as Williams points out, nobody can claim to have read all the novels of the nineteenth century. Instead, what we have is the specialist who can claim perhaps to have read many hundreds; the interested academic who has read somewhat fewer; the ‘educated reader’ who has read fewer again. This quite clear process of selectivity does not prevent the three groups of readers from sharing a sense of the nature of the nineteenth-century novel. Williams is of course aware that no nineteenth-century reader would in fact have read all the novels of the nineteenth century. His point, however, is that the nineteenth-century reader ‘had something which . . . no later individual can wholly recover: that sense of the life within which the novels were written, and which we now approach through our selection’ (38). For Williams, it is crucial to Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. 47 48 Chapter 3 Culturalism understand the selectivity of cultural traditions. It always (inevitably) produces a cultural record, a cultural tradition, marked by ‘a rejection of considerable areas of what was once a living culture’ (38). Furthermore, as he explains in Culture and Society, ‘there will always be a tendency for this process of selection to be related to and even governed by the interests of the class that is dominant’ (1963: 313). Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Within a given society, selection will be governed by many kinds of special interests, including class interests. Just as the actual social situation will largely govern contemporary selection, so the development of the society, the process of historical change, will largely determine the selective tradition. The traditional culture of a society will always tend to correspond to its contemporary system of interests and values, for it is not an absolute body of work but a continual selection and interpretation (2009: 38–9). This has quite profound ramifications for the student of popular culture. Given that selection is invariably made on the basis of ‘contemporary interests’, and given the incidence of many ‘reversals and rediscoveries’, it follows that ‘the relevance of past work, in any future situation, is unforeseeable’ (39). If this is the case, it also follows that absolute judgements about what is good and what is bad, about what is high and what is low, in contemporary culture, should be made with a great deal less certainty, open as they are to historical realignment in a potential whirlpool of historical contingency. Williams advocates, as already noted, a form of cultural analysis that is conscious that ‘the cultural tradition is not only a selection but also an interpretation’ (ibid.). Although cultural analysis cannot reverse this, it can, by returning a text or practice to its historical moment, show other ‘historical alternatives’ to contemporary interpretation and ‘the particular contemporary values on which it rests’ (ibid.). In this way, we are able to make clear distinctions between ‘the whole historical organ ization within which it was expressed’ and ‘the contemporary organization within which it is used’ (ibid.). By working in this way, ‘real cultural processes will emerge’ (ibid.). Williams’s analysis breaks with Leavisism in a number of ways. First, there is no special place for art – it is a human activity alongside other human activities: ‘art is there, as an activity, with the production, the trading, the politics, the raising of families’ (34). Williams presses the case for a democratic account of culture: culture as a particular way of life. In Culture and Society, he distinguishes between middleclass culture as ‘the basic individualist idea and the institutions, manners, habits of thought, and intentions which proceed from that’ and working-class culture as ‘the basic collective idea, and the institutions, manners, habits of thought, and intentions which proceed from this’ (1963: 313). He then gives this account of the achievements of working-class culture: The working class, because of its position, has not, since the Industrial Revolution, produced a culture in the narrower sense. The culture which it has produced, and which it is important to recognise, is the collective democratic institution, whether Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. Raymond Williams: ‘The analysis of culture’ in the trade unions, the cooperative movement, or a political party. Working-class culture, in the stage through which it has been passing, is primarily social (in that it has created institutions) rather than individual (in particular intellectual or imaginative work). When it is considered in context, it can be seen as a very remarkable creative achievement (314). It is when Williams insists on culture as a definition of the ‘lived experience’ of ‘ordinary’ men and women, made in their daily interaction with the texts and practices of everyday life, that he finally breaks decisively with Leavisism. Here is the basis for a democratic definition of culture. He takes seriously Leavis’s call for a common culture. But the difference between Leavisism and Williams on this point is that Williams does want a common culture, whilst Leavisism wants only a hierarchical culture of difference and deference. Williams’s review of The Uses of Literacy indicates some of the key differences between his own position and the traditions of Leavisism (in which he partly locates Hoggart): The analysis of Sunday newspapers and crime stories and romances is . . . familiar, but, when you have come yourself from their apparent public, when you recognise in yourself the ties that still bind, you cannot be satisfied with the older formula: enlightened minority, degraded mass. You know how bad most ‘popular culture’ is, but you know also that the irruption of the ‘swinish multitude’, which Burke had prophesied would trample down light and learning, is the coming to relative power and relative justice of your own people, whom you could not if you tried desert (1957: 424–5). Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Although he still claims to recognize ‘how bad most “popular culture” is’, this is no longer a judgement made from within an enchanted circle of certainty, policed by ‘the older formula: enlightened minority, degraded mass’. Moreover, Williams is insistent that we distinguish between the commodities made available by the culture industries and what people make of these commodities. He identifies what he calls the extremely damaging and quite untrue identification of ‘popular culture’ (commercial newspapers, magazines, entertainments, etc.) with ‘working-class culture’. In fact the main source of this ‘popular culture’ lies outside the working class altogether, for it is instituted, financed and operated by the commercial bourgeoisie, and remains typically capitalist in its methods of production and distribution. That working-class people form perhaps a majority of the consumers of this material . . . does not, as a fact, justify this facile identification (425). In other words, people are not reducible to the commodities they consume. Hoggart’s problem, according to Williams, is that he ‘has taken over too many of the formulas’, from ‘Matthew Arnold’ to ‘contemporary conservative ideas of the decay of politics in the working class’; the result is an argument in need of ‘radical revision’ (ibid.). The publication of ‘The analysis of culture’, together with the other chapters in The Long Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. 49 50 Chapter 3 Culturalism Revolution, has been described by Hall (1980b) as ‘a seminal event in English post-war intellectual life’ (19), which did much to provide the radical revision necessary to lay the basis for a non-Leavisite study of popular culture. E.P. Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class In the Preface to The Making of the English Working Class, E.P. Thompson states: Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. This book has a clumsy title, but it is one which meets its purpose. Making, because it is a study in an active process, which owes as much to agency as conditioning. The working class did not rise like the sun at an appointed time. It was present at its own making (1980: 8). The English working class, like any class, is for Thompson ‘a historical phenomenon’ (original emphasis); it is not a ‘structure’ or a ‘category’, but the coming together of ‘a number of disparate and seemingly unconnected events, both in the raw material of experience and in consciousness’; it is ‘something which in fact happens (and can be shown to happen) in human relationships’ (ibid.). Moreover, class is not a ‘thing’; it is always a historical relationship of unity and difference: uniting one class as against another class or classes. As he explains: ‘class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs’ (8–9). The common experience of class ‘is largely determined by the productive relations into which men are born – or enter involuntarily’ (9). However, the consciousness of class, the translation of experience into culture, ‘is defined by men as they live their own history, and, in the end, this is its only definition’ (10). Class is for Thompson, then, ‘a social and cultural formation, arising from processes which can be studied as they work themselves out over a considerable historical period’ (11). The Making of the English Working Class details the political and cultural formation of the English working class by approaching its subject from three different but related perspectives. First, it reconstructs the political and cultural traditions of English radicalism in the late eighteenth century: religious dissent, popular discontent, and the influence of the French Revolution. Second, it focuses on the social and cultural experience of the Industrial Revolution as it was lived by different working groups: weavers, field labourers, cotton spinners, artisans, etc. Finally, it analyses the growth of working-class consciousness evidenced in the corresponding growth in a range of political, social and cultural ‘strongly based and self conscious working-class institutions’ (212–13). As he insists: ‘The working class made itself as much as it was made’ (213). He draws two conclusions from his research. First, ‘when every caution has been made, the outstanding Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. E.P. Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class fact of the period between 1790 and 1830 is the formation of “the working class”’ (212). Second, he claims that ‘this was, perhaps, the most distinguished popular culture England has known’ (914). The Making of the English Working Class is the classic example of ‘history from below’. Thompson’s aim is to place the ‘experience’ of the English working class as central to any understanding of the formation of an industrial capitalist society in the decades leading up to the 1830s. It is a history from below in the double sense suggested by Gregor McLellan (1982): a history from below in that it seeks to reintroduce working-class experience into the historical process; and a history from below in that it insists that the working class were the conscious agents of their own making.1 Thompson is working with Marx’s (1977) famous claim about the way in which men and women make history: ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past’ (10). What Thompson does is to emphasize the first part of Marx’s claim (human agency) against what he considers to have been an overemphasis by Marxist historians on the second part (structural determinants). Paradoxically, or perhaps not so, he has himself been criticized for overstressing the role of human agency – human experiences, human values – at the expense of structural factors (see Anderson, 1980). The Making of the English Working Class is in so many ways a monumental contribution to social history (in size alone: the Penguin edition runs to over nine hundred pages). What makes it significant for the student of popular culture is the nature of its historical account. Thompson’s history is not one of abstract economic and political processes, nor is it an account of the doings of the great and the worthy. The book is about ‘ordinary’ men and women, their experiences, their values, their ideas, their actions, their desires: in short, popular culture as a site of resistance to those in whose interests the Industrial Revolution was made. Hall (1980b) calls it ‘the most seminal work of social history of the post-war period’, pointing to the way it challenges ‘the narrow, elitist conception of “culture” enshrined in the Leavisite tradition, as well as the rather evolutionary approach which sometimes marked Williams’s The Long Revolution’ (19–20). In an interview a decade or so after the publication of the book, Thompson (1976) commented on his historical method as follows: ‘If you want a generalization I would have to say that the historian has got to be listening all the time’ (15). He is by no means the only historian who listens; the conservative historian G.M. Young also listens, if in a rather more selective fashion: ‘history is [he claims] the conversation of people who counted’ (quoted in McLellan, 1982: 107). What makes Thompson’s listening radically different is the people to whom he listens. As he explains in a famous passage from the Preface to The Making of the English Working Class: I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the ‘obsolete’ hand loom weaver, the ‘utopian’ artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity. Their crafts and traditions Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. 51 52 Chapter 3 Culturalism may have been dying. Their hostility to the new industrialism may have been backward looking. Their communitarian ideals may have been fantasies. Their insurrectionary conspiracies may have been foolhardy. But they lived through these times of acute social disturbance, and we did not. Their aspirations were valid in terms of their own experience; and, if they were casualties of history, they remain, condemned in their own lives, as casualties (1980: 12). Before concluding this brief account of Thompson’s contribution to the study of popular culture, it should be noted that he himself does not accept the term ‘culturalism’ as a description of his work. This and other related points was the subject of a heated ‘History Workshop’ debate between Richard Johnson, Stuart Hall and Thompson himself (see Samuel, 1981). One of the difficulties when reading the contributions to the debate is the way that culturalism is made to carry two quite different meanings. On the one hand, it is employed as a description of a particular method ology (this is how I am using it here). On the other, it is used as a term of critique (usually from a more ‘traditional’ Marxist position or from the perspective of Marxist structuralism). This is a complex issue, but as a coda to this discussion of Hoggart, Williams and Thompson, here is a very simplified clarification: positively, culturalism is a methodology that stresses culture (human agency, human values, human experience) as being of crucial importance for a full sociological and historical understanding of a given social formation; negatively, culturalism is used to suggest the employment of such assumptions without full recognition and acknowledgement that culture is the effect of structures beyond itself, and that these have the effect of ultimately determining, constraining and, finally, producing, culture (human agency, human values and human experience). Thompson disagrees strongly with the second proposition, and rejects totally any suggestion that culturalism, regardless of the definition, can be applied to his own work. Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel: The Popular Arts The ‘main thesis’ of The Popular Arts is that ‘in terms of actual quality . . . the struggle between what is good and worthwhile and what is shoddy and debased is not a struggle against the modern forms of communication, but a conflict within these media’ (Hall and Whannel, 1964: 15). Hall and Whannel’s concern is with the difficulty of making these distinctions. They set themselves the task to develop ‘a critical method for handling . . . problems of value and evaluation’ (ibid.) in the study of popular culture. In this task they pay specific thanks to the work of Hoggart and Williams, and passing thanks to the key figures of Leavisism. The book was written against a background of concern about the influence of popular culture in the school classroom. In 1960 the National Union of Teachers (NUT) Annual Conference passed a resolution that read in part: Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel: The Popular Arts Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Conference believes that a determined effort must be made to counteract the debasement of standards which result from the misuse of press, radio, cinema and television. . . . It calls especially upon those who use and control the media of mass communication, and upon parents, to support the efforts of teachers in an attempt to prevent the conflict which too often arises between the values inculcated in the classroom and those encountered by young people in the world outside (quoted in Hall and Whannel, 1964: 23). The resolution led to the NUT Special Conference, ‘Popular culture and personal responsibility’. One speaker at the conference, the composer Malcolm Arnold, said: ‘Nobody is in any way a better person morally or in any other way for liking Beethoven more than Adam Faith. . . . Of course the person who likes both is in a very happy position since he is able to enjoy much more in his life than a lot of other people’ (ibid.: 27). Although Hall and Whannel (1964) recognize ‘the honest intention’ in Arnold’s remarks, they question what they call ‘the random use of Adam Faith as an example’ because, as they claim, ‘as a singer of popular songs he is by any serious standards far down the list’. Moreover, as they explain, ‘By serious standards we mean those that might be legitimately applied to popular music – the standards set, for example, by Frank Sinatra or Ray Charles’ (28). What Hall and Whannel are doing here is rejecting the arguments of both Leavisism and the (mostly American) mass culture critique, which claims that all high culture is good and that all popular culture is bad, for an argument that says, on the one hand, that most high culture is good, and on the other, contrary to Leavisism and the mass culture critique, that some popular culture is also good – it is ultimately a question of popular discrimination. Part of the aim of The Popular Arts, then, is to replace the ‘misleading generalizations’ of earlier attacks on popular culture by helping to facilitate popular discrimination within and across the range of popular culture itself. Instead of worrying about the ‘effects’ of popular culture, ‘we should be seeking to train a more demanding audience’ (35). A more demanding audience, according to Hall and Whannel, is one that prefers jazz to pop, Miles Davis to Liberace, Frank Sinatra to Adam Faith, Polish films to mainstream Hollywood, L’Année Dernière à Marienbad to South Pacific; and knows intuitively and instinctively that high culture (‘Shakespeare, Dickens and Lawrence’) is usually always best. They take from Clement Greenberg (who took it from Theodor Adorno) the idea that mass culture is always ‘pre-digested’ (our responses are predetermined rather than the result of a genuine interaction with the text or practice), and use the idea as a means not just to discriminate between good and bad popular culture, but to suggest that it can also be applied to examples of high culture: ‘The important point about such a definition [culture as “pre-digested”] is that it cuts across the commonplace distinctions. It applies to films but not all, to some TV but not all. It covers segments of the traditional as well as the popular culture’ (36). Their approach leads them to reject two common teaching strategies often encountered when popular culture is introduced into the classroom. First, there is the defensive strategy that introduces popular culture in order to condemn it as second-rate culture. Second, there is the ‘opportunist’ strategy that embraces the popular tastes of students Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. 53 Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. 54 Chapter 3 Culturalism in the hope of eventually leading them to better things. ‘In neither case’, they contend, ‘is there a genuine response, nor any basis for real judgements’ (37). Neither would lead to what they insist is necessary: ‘a training in discrimination’ (ibid.). This is not (to repeat a point made earlier) the classic discrimination of Leavisism, defending the ‘good’ high culture against the encroachments of the ‘bad’ popular culture, but discrimination within and not just against popular culture: sifting the ‘good’ popular culture from the ‘bad’ popular culture. However, although they do not believe in introducing the texts and practices of popular culture into education ‘as steppingstones in a hierarchy of taste’ leading ultimately to real culture,2 they still insist (as do Hoggart and Williams) that there is a fundamental categorical difference – a difference of value – between high and popular culture. Nevertheless, the difference is not necessarily a question of superiority/inferiority; it is more about different kinds of satisfaction: it is not useful to say that the music of Cole Porter is inferior to that of Beethoven. The music of Porter and Beethoven is not of equal value, but Porter was not making an unsuccessful attempt to create music comparable to Beethoven’s (39). Not unequal, but of different value, is a very difficult distinction to unload. What it seems to suggest is that we must judge texts and practices on their own terms: ‘recognise different aims . . . assess varying achievements with defined limits’ (38). Such a strategy will open up discrimination to a whole range of cultural activity and prevent the defensive ghettoization of high against the rest. Although they acknowledge the ‘immense debt’ they owe to the ‘pioneers’ of Leavisism, and accept more or less the Leavisite view (modified by a reading of William Morris) of the organic culture of the past, they nevertheless, in a classic left-Leavisite move, reject the conservatism and pessimism of Leavisism, and insist, against calls for ‘resistance by an armed and conscious minority’ to the culture of the present (Q.D. Leavis), that ‘if we wish to re-create a genuine popular culture we must seek out the points of growth within the society that now exists’ (39). They claim that by adopting ‘a critical and evaluative attitude’ (46) and an awareness that it is ‘foolish to make large claims for this popular culture’ (40), it is possible ‘to break with the false distinction . . . between the “serious” and the “popular” and between “entertainment” and “values”’ (47). This leads Hall and Whannel to what we might call the second part of their thesis: the necessity to recognize within popular culture a distinct category they call ‘popular art’. Popular art is not art that has attempted and failed to be ‘real’ art, but art that operates within the confines of the popular. Using the best of music hall, especially Marie Lloyd, as an example (but also thinking of the early Charlie Chaplin, The Goon Show and jazz musicians), they offer this definition: while retaining much in common with folk art, it became an individual art, existing within a literate commercial culture. Certain ‘folk’ elements were carried through, even though the artist replaced the anonymous folk artist, and the ‘style’ was that of the performer rather than a communal style. The relationships here are more complex – the art is no longer simply created by the people from below – yet the interaction, by way of the conventions of presentation and feeling, re-establishes the rapport. Although this art is no longer directly the product of the ‘way of life’ Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel: The Popular Arts of an ‘organic community’, and is not ‘made by the people’, it is still, in a manner not applicable to the high arts, a popular art, for the people (59). According to this argument, good popular culture (‘popular art’) is able to reestablish the relationship (‘rapport’) between performer and audience that was lost with the advent of industrialization and urbanization. As they explain: Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Popular art . . . is essentially a conventional art which re-states, in an intense form, values and attitudes already known; which measures and reaffirms, but brings to this something of the surprise of art as well as the shock of recognition. Such art has in common with folk art the genuine contact between audience and performer: but it differs from folk art in that it is an individualised art, the art of the known performer. The audience as community has come to depend on the performer’s skills, and on the force of a personal style, to articulate its common values and interpret its experiences (66). One problem with their distinction between art and popular art is that it depends for its clarity on art as ‘surprise’, but this is art as defined in modernist terms. Before the modernist revolution in art, everything here claimed for popular art could equally have been claimed for art in general. They make a further distinction to include ‘mass art’. There is popular art (good and bad), and there is art (good and not so good), and there is mass art. Mass art is a ‘corrupt’ version of popular art; here they adopt uncritic ally the standard criticisms made of mass culture: it is formulaic, escapist, aesthetically worthless, emotionally unrewarding. Rather than confront the mass culture critique, they seek to privilege certain of the texts and practices of popular culture and thus remove them from the condemnation of the critics of mass culture. In order to do this they introduce a new category – the popular arts. Popular art is mass culture that has risen above its origins. Unlike ‘average films or pop music [which] are processed mass art’, popular art is, for example, the ‘best cinema’, the ‘most advanced jazz’ (78). They claim that, ‘Once the distinction between popular and mass art has been made, we find we have by-passed the cruder generalizations about “mass culture”, and are faced with the full range of material offered by the media’ (ibid.). The main focus of The Popular Arts is on the textual qualities of popular culture. However, when Hall and Whannel turn to questions of youth culture they find it necessary to discuss the interaction between text and audience. Moreover, they recognize that to do full justice to this relationship, they have to include other aspects of teenage life: ‘work, politics, the relation to the family, social and moral beliefs and so on’ (269). This of course invites the question why this is not also necessary when other aspects of popular culture are discussed. Pop music culture – songs, magazines, concerts, festivals, comics, interviews with pop stars, films, etc. – helps to establish a sense of identity among youth: The culture provided by the commercial entertainment market . . . plays a crucial role. It mirrors attitudes and sentiments which are already there, and at the same Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. 55 56 Chapter 3 Culturalism time provides an expressive field and a set of symbols through which these attitudes can be projected (276). Moreover, pop songs Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. reflect adolescent difficulties in dealing with a tangle of emotional and sexual problems. They invoke the need to experience life directly and intensely. They express the drive for security in an uncertain and changeable emotional world. The fact that they are produced for a commercial market means that the songs and settings lack a certain authenticity. Yet they dramatize authentic feelings. They express vividly the adolescent emotional dilemma (280). Pop music exhibits a kind of emotional realism; young men and women ‘identify with these collective representations and . . . use them as guiding fictions. Such symbolic fictions are the folklore by means of which the teenager, in part, shapes and composes his mental picture of the world’ (281). Hall and Whannel also identify the way in which teenagers use particular ways of talking, particular places to go, particular ways of dancing, and particular ways of dressing, to establish distance from the world of adults. They describe dress style, for example, as ‘a minor popular art . . . used to express certain contemporary attitudes . . . for example, a strong current of social nonconformity and rebelliousness’ (282). This line of investigation would come to full fruition in the work of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, carried out during the 1970s, under the directorship of Hall himself. But here Hall and Whannel draw back from the full force of the possibilities opened up by their enquiries; anxious that an ‘anthropological . . . slack relativism’, with its focus on the functionality of pop music culture, would prevent them from posing questions of value and quality, about likes (‘are those likes enough?’) and needs (‘are the needs healthy ones?’) and taste (‘perhaps tastes can be extended’) (296). In their discussion of pop music culture, they concede that the claim that ‘the picture of young people as innocents exploited’ by the pop music industry ‘is over-simplified’ (ibid.). Against this, they argue that there is very often conflict between the use made of a text, or a commodity that is turned into a text (see discussion of the difference in Chapter 12) by an audience, and the use intended by the producers. Significantly, they observe, ‘This conflict is particularly marked in the field of teenage entertainments . . . [although] it is to some extent common to the whole area of mass entertainment in a commercial setting’ (270). The recognition of the potential conflict between commodities and their use leads Hall and Whannel to a formulation that is remarkably similar to the cultural studies appropriation (led by Hall himself) of Gramsci’s concept of hegemony (see Chapter 4): ‘Teenage culture is a contradictory mixture of the authentic and manufactured: it is an area of self-expression for the young and a lush grazing pasture for the commercial providers’ (276). As we noted earlier, Hall and Whannel compare pop music unfavourably with jazz. They claim that jazz is ‘infinitely richer . . . both aesthetically and emotionally’ (311). They also claim that the comparison is ‘much more rewarding’ than the more usual Storey, J. (2018). Cultural theory and popular culture : An introduction. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from csusm on 2022-03-15 23:12:35. Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel: The Popular Arts comparison between pop music and classical music, as both jazz and pop are popular musics. Now all this may be true, but what is the ultimate purpose of the comparison? In the case of classical against pop music, it is always to show the banality of pop music and to say something about those who consume it. Is Hall and Whannel’s comparison fundamentally any different? Here is their justification for the comparison: The point behind such comparisons ought not to be simply to wean teenagers away from the juke-box heroes, but to alert them to the severe limitations and ephemeral quality of music which is so formula dominated and so directly attuned to the standards set by the commercial market. It is a genuine widening of sensibility and emotional range which we should be working for – an extension of tastes which might lead to an extension of pleasure. The worst thing which we would say of pop music is not that it is vulgar, or morally wicked, but, more simply, that much of it is not very good (311–12). Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. Despite the theoretical suggestiveness of much of their analysis (especially their identification of the contradictions of youth culture), and despite their protests to the contrary, their position on pop music culture is a position still struggling to free itself from the theoretical constraints of Leavisism: teenagers should be persuaded that their taste is deplorable and that by listening to jazz instead of pop music they might break out of imposed and self-imposed limitations, widen their sensibilities, broaden their emotional range and perhaps even increase their pl
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