Week 1

Posted by: | January 12, 2009 | Comments Off on Week 1

Of the two readings for thias week, I have to say I prefer the earlier one by Raymond Williams. The basic idea that “culture is ordinary” is nothing new to me by itself, but Williams presents some arguments along the way that I found very interesting. It seems obvious to me that, to start out, he describes exactly what we were talking about last class. That is, the difference between high culture and popular culture. I agree with his distinctions and opinion that, while different, each is important in it’s own way. And it is true and unfortunate that some people, like in the teashop, devalue anything that isn’t high culture. Bebop,the primal form of jazz music, is considered an “art” music and is very sophisticated, certainly high culture, but would never have existed if it weren’t for various musical traditions of folk and popular culture–blues, ragtime, swing, among others. Had elitists of high culture been powerful enough back in the beginning of the 20th century to subvert those “lesser” traditions, their eventual product would never have existed!

Later on, Williams discusses the effects economics has on culture. He says that, even though more and more bad culture is being made and is more easily distributed, more good culture is also being made. This I can agree with. But he also seems to believe that this proliferation of bad/commercial culture is not a harmful thing. I personally think that commercial culture eats away at the minds of its consumers and participants. But aside from that, it is undeniable that it erodes good culture, by pushing the purveyors of good culture aside. I don’t, however, see bad culture as a necessary evil in an economic society, mainly because you can travel and witness bustling economic cities, even in the U.S. and Canada, with varying degrees (some high, many low) of quality, unique culture relative to commercially infected culture.

The second reading, by Keesing, was interesting, but a little confusing for me having never taken an anthropology or cultural studies class. But generally, I get the idea that culture is very, very hard to define because it is complex, constantly evolving, without bounds, and shapes the perceptions of even those attempting to understand it.


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