Williams, Raymond (1958) “Culture is Ordinary”


Link to summary  |  Legacy

Main Idea – Answers the question “what is culture?” Culture is just ordinary things in society and  way of life for a people. Culture is composed of two distinct parts: 1. the ingrained, known meanings, and 2. new observations that are tested.

Summary –

“High culture” is not really culture. It is only a way to maintain class divisions.

Contradicts Marx’s notion of the ignorant masses and how their exclusion from art and learning is contributing to a dying culture. In response, Williams rejects the dialectic of high/low culture as a construct that only further reinforces class divisions. Culture, according to Raymond Williams, is ordinary and simply the way of life of a whole people.

Critique/Notes – Links to Bordieu’s notion of “distinction.”  High culture reinforces class divisions and keeps the elite in power.


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