Culture and Materialism
Book: Culture and Materialism
Written by: Raymond Williams
Published by: Verso 1980
Raymond Williams’ book ‘Culture and Materialism’ comprises fourteen texts arranged in five sections in accordance with separate themes. Referring to the end of the eighteenth century as a time of economic and social transition in Britain, the author starts with Mathew Arnold’s response titled ‘Culture and its Enemies’ with regard to the Hyde Park demonstration in 1866, in which Arnold criticised the national obsession with wealth and production, manipulation of opinion and abstraction of freedom, amongst other issues of concern. The book includes a tribute to Lucian Goldman’s contribution to the field of literature and sociology and his works; further, it engages with the concept of ‘base and superstructure’ in Marxist cultural theory. The section further provides a theoretical analysis of the means of communication.
The next three essays discuss the ideas of ‘nature’, Social Darwinism and problems of materialism. Williams presents a very adequate analysis of Social Darwinism and argues that “the theories of evolution and natural selection in biology had a social component before there was any question of reapplying them to the social and political theory” (p.60). The fourth section comprising five studies deals with the social environment and theatrical environment in the context of English naturalist theatre, utopian and science fiction, Welsh industrial novels and the advertising industry. Considering three fictions from the late nineteenth century: Lytton’s ‘The Coming Race’ (1871); Edward Bellamy’s ‘Looking Backward’(1888) and Morris’s ‘News from Nowhere’ (1890), the author examines the utopia, science fiction and dystopia with regard to the concepts of capitalism, marxism and socialism.
“Consciousness is no longer the mere product of social being but is at once a condition of its practical existence and, further, one of its central productive forces. (p.187)”.Culture and Materialism