Advertisement

Reaching for Control: Raymond Williams on Mass Communication and Popular Culture

  • Jim McGuigan
Chapter

Abstract

The critique of mass communication and the struggle for popular culture are recurrent themes in Raymond Williams’s work, though in certain respects elusive and slippery, dispersed as they are across a wide range of theoretical, historical, critical and polemical writing from the 1950s until his death in 1988. What is the meaning of this couplet — ‘mass communication’/‘popular culture’ — in Williams’s very complex and politically engaged discourse? It is tempting to see them simply as the positive (‘popular culture’) and negative (‘mass communication’) terms of a binary opposition: the culture produced by ‘the people’ from below and the culture imposed upon them from above. Yet nothing in Williams’s discourse could ever be read as so simple, categorical, or fixed. Minimally, there is an interaction and, maximally, a crucial site of contestation.

Keywords

Popular Culture Cultural Production Capitalist Society Mass Communication Labour Party 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    S. Heath and G. Skirrow, ‘An Interview with Raymond Williams’, in T. Modleski (ed.), Studies in Entertainment (Indiana University Press, 1986) p. 3.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Raymond Williams, Culture and Society (London: Chatto & Windus, 1958: Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961) p. 289.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Raymond Williams, Keywords (London: Fontana, 1976) p. 162.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    ‘The Press and Popular Culture’, in G. Boyce et al. (eds), Newspaper History (London: Constable, 1978) p. 49.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Raymond Williams, Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review (London: New Left Books/Verso, 1979).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Raymond Williams, ‘You’re a Marxist, Aren’t You?’, in Resources of Hope (London: Verso, 1989; originally published in 1975).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    T. Eagleton, Criticism and Ideology (London: New Left Books, 1976) p. 22.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Raymond Williams, Culture (London: Fontana, 1981) p. 228.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    The chapter on ‘The Growth of the Popular Press’, in Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution (London: Chatto & Windus, 1961; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965) can hardly be read as ignorant of economic and political determinations, the role of capital and the capitalist state. Significantly, I think, both Eagleton and Barnett pay scant attention to Williams’s work on non-literary communications, which is perhaps the main reason for the partiality of their criticisms.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    Raymond Williams, ‘Advertising: The Magic System’, reprinted in Raymond Williams, Problems in Materialism and Culture (London: Verso, 1980) p. 184.Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    See Williams’s excellent discussion of Marx’s writings in relation to ‘Culture’ in D. McLellan (ed.), Marx - The First 100 Years (London: Fontana, 1983).Google Scholar
  12. 28.
    See Walter Benjamin, Understanding Brecht (London: New Left Books, 1973), and his ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in Illuminations (London: Fontana, 1973).Google Scholar
  13. 29.
    Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977) p. 97.Google Scholar
  14. 30.
    Raymond Williams, ‘Marxism, Structuralism and Literary Analysis’, in New Left Review, no. 129 (September-October 1981), reprinted in Raymond Williams, Writing in Society (London: Verso, 1984).Google Scholar
  15. 31.
    Raymond Williams, Towards 2000 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1983; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985) p. 244.Google Scholar
  16. 33.
    See T. Bennett, ‘Theories of the Media, Theories of Society’, in M. Gurevitch et al. (eds), Culture, Society and the Media (London: Methuen, 1982).Google Scholar
  17. 34.
    See S. Giner, Mass Society (London: Martin Robertson, 1976).Google Scholar
  18. 35.
    F. R. Leavis, ‘Mass Civilization and Minority Culture’, in his Education and the University (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979, originally published as a pamphlet in 1930).Google Scholar
  19. 37.
    Raymond Williams, ‘Communications as Cultural Science’, in C. W. E. Bigsby (ed.), Approaches to Popular Culture (London: Edward Arnold, 1976).Google Scholar
  20. 38.
    Raymond Williams, ‘The Growth and Role of the Mass Media’, in C. Gardner (ed.), Media, Politics and Culture (London: Macmillan, 1979).Google Scholar
  21. 39.
    See M. Tracey, ‘The BBC and the General Strike’, in his The Production of Political Television (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977).Google Scholar
  22. 43.
    See Dave Morley’s The ‘Nationwide’ Audience (London: BFI, 1980) and Family Television (London: Comedia, 1986).Google Scholar
  23. 44.
    V. N. Volosinov, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986, originally published in the Soviet Union in 1929) p. 11.Google Scholar
  24. 47.
    Raymond Williams, Communications (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976) P. 9.Google Scholar
  25. 48.
    See, for instance, John Hartley’s Understanding News (London: Methuen, 1982).Google Scholar
  26. 56.
    Raymond Williams, Drama from Ibsen to Eliot (London: Chatto & Windus, 1953)Google Scholar
  27. Raymond Williams, Drama in Performance (London: Frederick Muller, 1954)Google Scholar
  28. Raymond Williams, Modern Tragedy (London: Chatto & Windus, 1966)Google Scholar
  29. Raymond Williams, Drama from Ibsen to Brecht (London: Chatto & Windus, 1968). Williams originally invoked his concept, ‘structure of feeling’ in a book on film, Preface to Film (London: Film Drama, 1954), co-authored with Michael Orrom.Google Scholar
  30. 58.
    Raymond Williams, ‘A Lecture on Realism’, in Screen, vol. 18, no. 1 (Spring 1977) p. 70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 61.
    Raymond Williams, ‘ITV’s Domestic Romance’, in A. O’Connor (ed.), Raymond Williams On Television (London: Routledge, 1989) p. 109, also in Williams, Communications, p. 88.Google Scholar
  32. 63.
    Raymond Williams, Television, Technology and Cultural Form (London: Fontana, 1974) p. 87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 64.
    J. Ellis, Visible Fictions (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982) p. 118.Google Scholar
  34. 65.
    A. O’Connor, Raymond Williams - Writing, Culture, Politics (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989) p. 98.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jim McGuigan

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations