I looked up the definitions in Raymond William’s book “A vocabulary of culture and society”, for alternate, and more in depth explanations of the keywords we had been given. He describes Class as being “virtually equivalent to rank.” He also comments that the changing of understanding of the separation of the classes is held within the “increasing consciousness that social position is made rather than merely inherited.” Williams’ also states that individual mobility through the ranks, changed the social system by creating social divisions; classes within classes. He brings up the hypocrisy in the class system through “political, social and economic rights, between the 1790s and the 1830s” where class meant the separation of the useful. In 1844 Cockburn referred to this with “What are termed THE working classes, as if the only workers were those who wrought with their hands.” This would make me more sympathetic with classes higher than myself, if only that seems to the only problem they have to complain about the class systems with.
In his definition of ‘Taste’, he notes that ‘good taste’ “in the sense of good understanding is recorded from 1425, and has become, in conjunction with ‘taste’ in the sense of liking something, “so separated from active human senses and have become so much a matter of acquiring certain habits and rules, in spite of its ironic relation to the actual history of the world.” Meaning that our ‘tastes’ overrule us, and have become what history is made of, I think. The other interesting part of Williams’ definition of ‘taste’ is the comment that “The idea of taste cannot now be separated from the idea of the consumer”, he notes that they have, as ideas, grown together and have caused the human development of “the highly developed theory of criticism” through the understanding that whoever is reading/seeing/spectator is a “consumer, exercising and subsequently showing his taste.”
Raymond Williams’ definition of ‘Culture’ is the longest and starts curiously with its etymology; “’In-habit’, ‘Cultivate’, ‘Protect’, ‘Honour with worship’. Some of these meanings eventually separated though still with occasional overlapping, in the derived nouns. Thus ‘inhabit; developed through ‘Colonus’ Latin ‘to colony’. ‘Honour with worship’ developed through ‘Cultus’, Latin ‘to Cult’. ‘Cultura’ took on the main meaning of ‘Cultivation or Tending’, includes, as in ‘Cicero’, ‘Cultura animi’, though with subsidiary medieval meanings of honour and worship.” Essentially starting the definition with the idea that ‘Culture’ is made up as a state of a group working together for or to a higher power in order to gain protection. The inclusion of the word ‘Cult’ connects a lot of connotations that aren’t painting a nice image of a word I already understand to mean germs in jar.
There is also a brief passage of the pluralism of ‘Culture’ both in a single nation and globally:
“To speak of ‘cultures’ in the plural: the specific and variable cultures of different nations and periods, but also the specific and variable cultures of social and economic groups within a nation. This sense was widely developed, in the Romantic Movement, as an alternative to the orthodox and dominant ‘civilisation’. It was first used to emphasize national and traditional cultures, including the new concept of folk-culture.”
It also includes a short statement on the development of the “mechanical character”, which was the new civilization growing, which Williams’ refers to with “’inhumanity’ of current industrial development. He comments that “It was used to distinguish between ‘human’ and ‘material’ development. Politically, as so often in the period, it veered between radicalism and reaction and very often, in the confusion of major social change, fused elements of both.”
As a final definition Williams’ states a list;
- “The independent and abstract noun which describes a general process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development,
- The independent noun, whether used generally or specifically, which indicates a particular way of life, whether of a people, a period, a group, or humanity, in general
- The independent and abstract noun which describes the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity.
This seems often now the most widespread use: culture is music, literature, painting, sculpture, theatre and film”, as defined by the “Ministry of Culture.”
As a last note Raymond William’s comments on the American phrase, ‘Culture-vulture’: “it is significant that virtually all the hostility has been connected with uses involving claims to superior knowledge, refinement and distinctions between ‘high’ art and popular art and entertainment.”
The study of these have given me an expanded knowledge of what those vague keywords given to us actually are; it is an eloquent explanation of what it means to like something; and that we are apparently pre-programme to do so through our patch job culture; like whispers of what we could mean for no reason whatsoever.
The idea of the ‘culture vulture’ reminded me or a documentary of fish I watched a while ago, particularly of Angler fish; those large ugly fish with large mouths of needle teeth and a glowing line coming from the top of the head to lure the gullible. The show explained that only the females look like that and the males are actually parasite type creatures that latch onto the females body to carry on the species. In this metaphor the Female is ‘culture’ and the Males and the ‘sub-cultures’ she uses to build another more powerful version of herself.
The explanation of ‘Culture’ also brought up the idea of an anthropomorphic culture, an actual creature; depicted as a withering husk compared to its historical culture; (Which could be turned on its head as Cultural force feeding.) which in turn brought up the idea of landscapes: cracked grounds and desert like plains; the usual war territory. This then started up another political theme as a focus: Political Brainwashing. (Like the “WE WANT YOU” posters: now set up in “LIVE LIFE” advertisements centred on money and still being able to have another job at the same time as being in the army.) Politics is an area I am very much wanted to avoid.