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Raymond Williams

Culture and Materialism

Raymond Williams has written many books on Marxism, Literary Criticism and Culture. Culture and Materialism is a selection of his essays, mostly written in the 1970's.

I read this book because I thought the author might have something interesting to say about the status of culture and the arts, in particular in non-capitalist societies. Also, reading essays by an author helps in deciding whether it's worth reading his longer works. My decision was 'probably not'. Unfortunately, as a Marxist writer, Williams doesn't seem to think it necessary to justify many of his assertions. He seems to think it obvious that anything to do with capitalist societies is bad, and that it will be put right it a communist society, despite all of the evidence to the contrary. I felt that this spoilt what might otherwise have been interesting essays on topics such as advertisng, utopia in science fiction and the Bloomsbury writers. I did begin to see, though, how such an intelligent person could write in such a dubious way. Williams is clearly a brilliant scholar, and when such a scholar writes for his peers, he assumes that they have a certain background knowledge. These essays are written in a similar way (although they are supposedly for the 'ordinary man', they are in fact fairly difficult to follow), but here the background is the assumption of the superiority of Marxism. I'd give the book a miss if I were you.

Product Description
Raymond Williams is a towering presence in cultural studies, most importantly as the founder of the apporach that has come to be known as “cultural materialism.” Yet Williams’s method was always open-ended and fluid, and this volume collects together his most significant work from over a twenty-year peiod in which he wrestled with the concepts of materialism and culture and their interrelationship. Aside from his more directly theoretical texts, however, case-studies of theatrical naturalism, the Bloomsbury group, advertising, science fiction, and the Welsh novel are also included as illustrations of the method at work. Finally, Williams’s identity as an active socialist, rather than simply an academic, is captured by two unambiguously political pieces on the past, present and future of Marxism.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews