Culture/Metaculture (The New Critical Idiom)

Culture/Metaculture (The New Critical Idiom)

Francis Mulhern

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0415102308

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Culture/Metaculture is a stimulating introduction to the meanings of 'culture' in contemporary Western society. This essential survey examines:

* culture as an antidote to 'mass' modernity, in the work of Thomas Mann, Julien Benda, José Ortega y Gasset, Karl Mannheim and F. R. Leavis
* changing views of the term in the work of Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, T. S. Eliot and Richard Hoggart
* post-war theories of 'popular' culture and the rise of Cultural Studies, paying particular attention to the key figures of Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall
* theories of 'metaculture', or the ways in which culture, however defined, speaks of itself.

Francis Mulhern's interdisciplinary approach allows him to draw out the fascinating links between key political issues and the changing definitions of culture. The result is an unrivalled introduction to a concept at the heart of contemporary critical thought.













before the war (pp. 13–16) – the kind of memory which, as it happened, Clive Bell had already suggested to her in the dedicatory address of his Civilization (Bell 1928: v). These rival histories belong to rival discourses. The first and more powerful of the two is plainly feminist, defined by the opposition between a patriarchal order and women’s resistance to it. In the second, that opposition is displaced by another, between art, and the civilizing relations it nourishes, and politics, the

of relevant inquiry, to include everyday modernity: any variety of the making of meaning, the whole social world of sense, might now be opened to examination. In itself, of course, this was no novelty. Anything but dismissive of what some thought to explore as ‘popular culture’, the antecedent tradition was obsessed with it. The Leavises and Scrutiny had dealt extensively with the practices and institutions of mass civilization. Also, Hoggart’s Uses of Literacy showed that Kulturkritik could

matter for objection – it has, at this date, become a hereditary exercise in disputation – was Williams’s emphasis on ‘common’ meanings, on ‘community’ and 81 82 CULTURAL STUDIES ‘communication’ (Thompson 1961; Eagleton 1976). The political implication of this elective vocabulary seemed to be a strategic gradualism, in which capitalist relations of property and power might be dissolved through a process of ‘growth’. Philosophically, it appeared as evidence of an unsurmounted humanism

orders of sense, taste and desire. Popular culture is not appropriated through the apparatus of contemplation, but, as Walter Benjamin once put it, through ‘distracted reception’. (Chambers 1986) The ‘public is an examiner’, Chambers concludes, in words borrowed from Benjamin, ‘but an absent-minded one’ (1986: 12). The novelty and special value of its kind of critical intelligence is that it is the opposite of the familiar kind. Here is a protocol for the Cultural Studies subject – though

politics in bourgeois society. The difference between its older and more recent phases is one of temporality. Seen as Lukács saw it, the perverse autonomy of ‘economics’ in the capitalist mode of production is uncheckable. ‘Conscious action directed towards the comprehended totality of society’ is inconceivable except as revolution. ‘Socialization’ of production, its ‘annulment’ in the reified form of ‘economics’, is the structural condition of a collective life in which culture might really

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