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Habermas , Finally, his mature project, the self-styled cultural materialism, has continued to gather interest e. It is not insignificant that Williams regarded his Television: Technology and Cultural Form Williams , the site of his major critique of McLuhan, as a prime example of this cultural materialism in practice Williams , 6. In short, Williams's critique of McLuhan has much contemporary relevance.

At the very least their disagreements highlight continuing problems with the conceptual relationship between the categories of "medium" and "technology. There are three related but distinct moments in Williams's relationship with McLuhan's work.

The second is the aforementioned extended polemical discussion of McLuhan ten years later in Television: Technology and Cultural Form Williams and his related comments in Marxism and Literature Williams Finally, there is the attempt to develop an alternative, normatively sociological, typology of means of communication in various works between and Each of these shall be dealt with in turn following an examination of some potentially "formative common ground.

Williams's relationship with the work of McLuhan is also a major indicator of shifts within his own project. McLuhan's mature work constituted a significant alternative configuration of intellectual tendencies with which Williams was in negotiation throughout his career: Romanticism, "Leavisism," the growing theoretical acknowledgment of "new media," aesthetic formalism and, following from the last of these as we shall see , aesthetic and theoretical avant-gardism.

To some degree at least McLuhan and Williams developed their positions from similar intellectual training in English literary criticism. This provided overlapping aesthetico-social conceptual frameworks for their early work. Of more lasting significance is their early recognition of the relevance of locating discussion of "the media" within such frameworks. McLuhan had commenced postgraduate study of English literature at Cambridge five years before Williams arrived there in Even more than Williams, he had been drawn towards, without fully embracing, the marginal radicalism of the Leavises' Scrutiny circle.

This had included attending F.

Burn the Maps

Leavis's lectures and enjoying the intellectual environment of the Leavises' "open house" Molinaro, McLuhan, and Toye , 67, McLuhan's earliest popular cultural analyses, such as those in his first book, The Mechanical Bride , bear considerable resemblance to Leavis's "moral critique" of "technologico-Benthamite civilization," his characterization of capitalist modernity Mulhern Stearn and McLuhan , Leavis , both actively use the "post-Romantic" ideal of "the organic community" as a normative basis for their criticism of contemporary culture and for their advocacy of the contemporary social mission of literary criticism.

The former text is also the first extended attempt to develop an educational "manual" in the application of literary-critical techniques such as "close reading" to the critical analysis of popular cultural forms. Relying on remarkably slim historical sources, the Leavises' analyses postulated in the organic community ideal a lost unity of culture and civilization that had been subjected to a "vast and terrifying disintegration" Leavis and Thompson , But what is primarily idealized by cited example is a pre-urban, pre-industrial craft labour process in general production.

Curiously absent from the Leavises' lost ideal is an emphasis on the folk cultural forms so prominent in similarly Romantic folkloric arguments Cocchiara In its stead are valorized high points of common cultural consumption which are seen to transcend social class barriers e. Both Leavises were quite insistent about the near-absolute degree of destruction of the "culture of the people" in Britain F. Leavis , ; cf. Leavis , Nonetheless it is the continuity of a quite different tradition which provides a proposed means of reconciliation between the lost craft labour processes, the irrecoverable spontaneity of the organic community, and the crisis of the present.

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For only one means of transmission, language, and one language-based tradition, literature, remain available. Literary criticism was thus openly invoked as the means of reconstitution of "the art of living" Leavis and Thompson , The initial goal of the Leavis circle's journal, Scrutiny , was accordingly to establish an intellectual stratum of similar orientation, especially within general education i. But the larger hope was for a subsequent broadening of the required critical "taste.

The expansion of this critical "sensibility" amongst the general population was the means of resistance to the expansion of that "technologico-Benthamite civilization," especially its mass cultural forms like the tabloid and advertising. This critique could at times take the form of an almost overtly political project, albeit one vulnerable to the charge of an overly self-confident idealism Baldick , However, a precondition of The Mechanical Bride appears to have been the abandonment of the Leavises' overt hostility to such popular cultural forms and, instead, their recognition as, in the words of its subtitle, The Folklore of Industrial Man.

This allowed McLuhan to immanently follow the "lines of force" of the "visual language" of advertisements Stearn and McLuhan , as "social myths. Williams had published an even more evident emulation of Culture and Environment the year before as his first book, Reading and Criticism However, the position Williams developed concerning popular culture in that text and over the next decade does not coincide with either the Leavises' or the early McLuhan's "moral" critiques based in an immanent literary analysis.

Instead, he maintains Leavis's role for a normatively based critique of popular culture but changes its "content. This dimension of Williams's project remains a source of confusion today. His opposition to the elitist usage of the category of "mass culture" is well known e. Jhally , 4. An immanent analysis of individual advertisements, like those in The Mechanical Bride , thus remained an impossibility for him.

However, this is consistent with a normative perspective based on two chief premises. The first is consistent with the well-known Gramscian thesis that "all men [ sic ] are intellectuals" Gramsci , 9ff. The second is one which sees popular access to minimal cultural "skills" and the means of communication as a precondition of the exercise of this generic human intellectual ability. These can be seen to articulate with an encompassing third, the ideal of a participatory democracy cf.

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This production-focused perspective is not incompatible with the better-known populist Gramscianism within cultural studies today, most visible within the work of John Fiske, which emphasizes the resistant interpretative capacities of audiences and publics as a foil against models of media manipulation cf. Morley At one level, of course, this resistant reception paradigm moves from the same first premise.

However, Williams remained permanently hostile to any attempt to use such arguments to legitimate unequal relations of cultural production. Similarly, he remained hostile to all attempts at counter-valorizing what he would later categorize as a "residual" cultural form, an aesthetic urban "folk culture. Perhaps unwittingly, Hoggart laid the ground for the "resistant reception" paradigm within cultural studies.

In his review of Hoggart's seminal The Uses of Literacy Hoggart , Williams rejected the significance of an immanent analysis of popular cultural forms and moved instead from an acceptance of "how bad most popular culture is" , There is no evidence that he ever significantly revised this position cf. Brunsdon It must be emphasized, however, that "popular culture" is so understood as the most formulaic products of the culture industries and "bad" derives from the normative principles above -- that is, a rejection of any instant association of popular cultural commodities and popular culture or popular beliefs -- rather than a mere cultural elitism.

The key issue here is that Williams never embraced either a dismissively "mass culture" perspective nor accepted equations like McLuhan's even if ironic between advertising and "folklore. Instead, Williams's earliest analyses were firmly locked into a "post-Leavisite" popular educational strategy of teaching skills of critical analysis to popular audiences. This practice was developed during his long period in adult education in the s and s. Indeed, even the goal of critical consumption was not enough. Its corollary was what he would later categorize as the "organic intellectual" task of aiding the formation of "cultural producers" drawn from subordinated social strata rather than merely the reproduction of more Leavisites McIlroy The popular culture he eventually supported was that produced within these and other designated conditions of compositional autonomy cf.

The wider political implication of this view was the advocacy of a "long revolution" whose goal was an expansive "educated and participatory democracy" Williams b, It was principally in this proto-Gramscian context that Williams saw a democratic potential in the new means of communication. As we shall see, these were the normative commitments which later drew Williams into conflict with McLuhan. McLuhan appears to have had no influence on the development of Williams's most famous triumvirate of works: Culture and Society first published in ; Williams , The Long Revolution first published in ; Williams , and Communications first published in ; Williams The first intellectual contact appears to have occurred with McLuhan's citation of Culture and Society in his The Gutenberg Galaxy first published in ; McLuhan a and Williams's review thereof two years later Williams a.

Williams opens his brief review of The Gutenberg Galaxy with an admission of his "curious reluctance to write about it" ibid. It does seem that Williams took McLuhan's central contention in the book very seriously indeed and accordingly paused in his estimation. As Williams paraphrases it, this contention was "that the inherited procedures of an educated mind are conditioned by the properties of print, so that only by an effort of the critical imagination can these properties be seen" ibid.

At one level, the appeal of such a formulation to Williams is obvious. As he put it himself in the review: "I would be the last person to question an emphasis on the means of communication, and its necessary effects on perception, as a major social factor" ibid. Likewise Williams was open to McLuhan's account of the book's methodology as a "mosaic construction" or "field approach" by which McLuhan attempted to break with the visual linearity of the serial presentation of argument. This partly resembled Williams's rejection of unilinear determinisms like the economic reductivism of vulgar Marxism which had prevented, in his view, adequate acknowledgment of such cultural determinants as the means of communication.

Stylistically, in Culture and Society and The Long Revolution , Williams had also attempted to decentre the role of formal academic citation for a more popular mode of writing. Superficial parallels could thus have been drawn between the claims of McLuhan's field approach and Williams's explorations in the social history of cultural institutions in The Long Revolution. However, a comparison of the two approaches belies any such parallels. Most obviously, although he does not comment directly, Williams must have been more than surprised by McLuhan's usage of his own research from Culture and Society.

Two Paragraphs in Raymond Williams

This occurs in the conclusion, "The Galaxy Reconsidered" McLuhan a, , which McLuhan recommends as "the best prologue" to the mosaic mode of the rest of the book as it presents his case in something closer to conventionally "linear" argument. McLuhan's interest is in Williams's case study of "The Romantic Artist," the chapter of Culture and Society which most prefigures the mode of analysis of the socio-cultural histories in The Long Revolution.

But whereas this position is elsewhere in Culture and Society argued polemically, here Williams seeks the social preconditions of the emergence of the Romantics' critique, initially by registering the radical change in "ideas of art, of the artist, and of their place in society" , It is thus a good example of Williams's early attempts to avoid a reductivist sociological analysis of cultural practices. Accordingly, he finds these preconditions include: a the change in relationship between writers and their reading publics due to the decline of patronage and the rise of a middle-class reading public and a "literary market"; b the increasing commodification of art works which aided the rise of the novel but had disastrous consequences for poetry; c the consequent alienation by "habitual attitude" of the Romantic artist from the public; d the related retreat of the Romantic artists into an idealized conception of both their artworks and themselves as "imaginative" writers.

However, Williams does not see c and d as merely functions of a and b. He argues that while these writings do articulate at times a professionalist pique, they are equally enabling of a genuine social criticism of industrial capitalism. McLuhan's selective citation of Williams demonstrates his entirely different perspective of the significance of Romanticism:. Looking back to the revolution in literary forms in the later eighteenth century, Raymond Williams writes in Culture and Society that "changes in convention only occur when there are changes in the general structure of feeling.

The imaginative reunion with tribal man was scarcely a voluntary strategy of culture.


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McLuhan a, 1. McLuhan's extrapolation in his final sentences from Williams's account of the contradictory location of the Romantic artist must be seen as invalid. For he has imposed a completely different conception of "artistic skill" and "common property of imaginative truth" from that which Williams was invoking.

However, the distinction between such differing perspectives is, as Williams states throughout his chapter, no easy matter. Williams is interested in how the Romantics' dilemmas contributed to a conception of culture as art which was also a "court of appeal" and thus a basis of social critique.

Raymond Williams- Utopia and Science Fiction

This is what Williams means by "common property of imaginative truth. The idealizing and "dematerializing" transformation of the meaning of the word "art" from craft-like "skill" to "creative sensibility" , thus registers this transition but also its contradictory burden. That burden is the potential loss of what he elsewhere in Culture and Society called the "material of that process" , , that is, the continuing role of manual skill and "material" means of objectivation in artistic practice as well as the self-recognition of the specificity of the social preconditions of such artistic practice.

Williams's above-mentioned pedagogy was thus designed to reverse these "burdens" by providing these "skills" to a broader social stratum. McLuhan, in contrast, attempts in the above passage to identify Williams's position with the goal of "remythologization" which is equally part of the Romantic project. By this is meant the cultural "re-enchantment" of an increasingly disenchanted civilization, best demonstrated by the common Romantic claim that poetry could effectively replace the declining organic social role of religion.

Characteristically, Williams acknowledges this dimension only insofar as it generated a critical case for a "social policy" intervention in the institutional organization of the field of culture: Coleridge's eccentric proposal for a quasi-religious cultural "clerisy" Jones McLuhan, however, provides this quite different definition of "imagination" by paraphrasing a passage from the mythological discourse of William Blake's Jerusalem while also arguing that this mythological vision "remains quite opaque" :. Imagination is that ratio among the perceptions and faculties which exists when they are not embedded or outered in material technologies.

When so outered, each sense becomes a closed system. Prior to such outering there is entire interplay among experiences. This interplay or synesthesia is a kind of tactility such as Blake sought in the bounding line of sculptural form and engraving. When the perverse ingenuity of man has outered some part of his being in material technology, his entire sense ratio is altered. He is then compelled to behold this fragment of himself "clothing itself as in steel.

Such was the origin of lineal, fragmented analysis with its remorseless power of homogenization McLuhan a, This is clearly a pivotal component of McLuhan's project. As Fekete has argued , this "sensorium" and the related "extension thesis" developed from Innis is best characterized as an affirmative theory of alienation.


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  6. The norm against which this alienation thesis is measured is not, as in most Marxian versions, the conscious design of that which is objectified or "extended" , but instead a dream-like "unconscious" tribal-organic state which the emerging "electric age" will restore. It is this position that Williams challenges in his review. Characteristically, he assesses McLuhan against his own immanent criteria. Most obviously, McLuhan's insistence on the revolutionary impact of printing leaves him open to the charge of linear determinism despite his claims to a non-linear mosaicism.

    Further, the fact that McLuhan cannot avoid academic citation and copyright acknowledgments demonstrates for Williams the inescapable determinacy of other -- social -- determinants at work in articulated critical intellectual composition even during McLuhan's "electric age. Williams was to be disappointed.

    British Cultural Studies (Pt 3): Raymond Williams and Culture and Society

    On his own account, McLuhan believed the moral critique of The Mechanical Bride was "completely negated by TV" and that television had created in America an "organic culture" Stearn and McLuhan , Nothing could be more at odds with Williams's views than such an affirmative reinvention of the key Leavisian critical category that Williams had strongly criticized in Culture and Society.

    It is as if McLuhan had directly transferred Leavis's idealized function of the bearer of lost organic values from the literary canon to television.