Cultural Studies Exam Notes.docx

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Cultural Studies
Gregory Cameron

1 Cultural Studies Exam Notes CULTURAL STUDIES IS THE RELATION BETWEEN CULTURE AND SOCIETY CULTURAL IS THE PROCESS OF MAKING AND MAINTAINING SENSE - The social production and reproduction of sense, meaning and consciousness - We actively engage in making sense of our surroundings - Economy lies at the heard of the origins of cultural studies One of the oldest examples of cultural studies: Plato’s Republic - How we need to organize our social/political lives in order to prevent social unrest - The answer is education o Believed the stories we tell our children when they are young mold them into who they grow up to be o Parents have some obligation to sensor what they kids are exposed to In late 18 and 19 centuries the idea that education is at the heart of a good society took off - A corner stone of liberal democracy - This is the process of acculturation (person becomes cultured/introduced to the society in which they live) - Children tended to be educated into the culture of the elite (dominant political class) - Taught to look down on their own background if they didn’t belong to this class o WW1 & WW2 interrupted this process  Poor individuals who fought in the war began to make demands, namely for access to all institutions of the society in which they lived (i.e. University, regardless of class)  People started to question the dominant class values they were then taught at schools (instead of integrating)  Its in this context (1950’s) that people from working class backgrounds set up the centre for contemporary cultural studies: BIRMINGHAM SCHOOL Birmingham School: - Devoted to studying the culture of the working class - First time the object of study became popular culture o At this time called ‘working class culture’ - Moment cultural studies was born 2 Horkheimer & Adorno: CULTURAL INDUSTRY THESIS (1930’s) - Within the context of capitalism, culture becomes just like any other industry - Popular culture is ‘junk’ o Contributes to the development of Fascism Karl Marx - First to theorize the idea of communism - Most important theorist of nature of capitalism Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels - Trying to get the point across that capitalism is fundamentally different from any previous social economic system o First social system whose major driving process is profit o Wage labour (work for which we are paid) o Minimum Wage: based on basic cost of living - Manifesto was to inspire people to overthrow capitalism and bring about a communist state - Marx says revolutionary society is a capitalist society, and communism emerges as the final revolution Bourgeoisie: Upper-middle class - ‘Instruments of production’ have to be constantly changing in order to maximize profit o As they change our beliefs about the world, attitudes towards each other, etc. are also changing  Marx says eventually you wont have any values, beliefs, etc, left and you will see the world as it is  Then you will have the final revolution to eliminate capitalism All earlier human societies have tended to prevent change rather that produce it Mathew Arnold - Major figure in anti-liberal conservatism - Culture and Anarchy: Chapter 1 o “Culture is a study of the movement towards perfection” o “Being something rather than having something”  Saying everybody needs to be brought up to strive for perfection  Through this you can bring about a perfect society  Says culture is not something you just have, it is something you have to work towards  Tends to promote dominant class culture 3 “Popular Culture is one of the places where socialism might be constituted. That is why popular culture matters. Otherwise, to tell you the truth, I don’t give a damn about it” – Stuart Hall The word culture derives from the Latin word cultura - Tending/growing: used to refer to agriculture Term adopted by Christian Church in middle ages - To bring someone up as a priest you had to tend him in a way of moving him out of what was seen as the natural state of human being o This was the process of culturing o Being cultured in the middle ages meant you had access to a world of experience and writing that the majority of people do not have  Embedded in culture is a power dynamic between those who are cultured and whose who are not  ‘Natural human being’ – someone who is not cultured Towards end of 19 century anthropology began to challenge the idea of a ‘natural human’ - all humans have culture Folk Culture: the ‘average persons’ culture - Ex. Grimm’s fairytales Prior to urbanization and industrialization there was a tendency for a high degree of repetition Urbanization: production of culture began to be merged with entertainment - Organized culture was not simply a means of entertainment; it was also a means of social control o Organized peoples time and activities after they left their new factory jobs Popular: derives from the Latin word for people - Popular culture is culture that is by or for the people o Somewhat contrasted to ‘high culture’ Popular culture and technology is intertwined - Electric light (& telephone) made a huge impact on popular culture Culture comes to be industrialized (produced to be reproduced): - Technology allowed consumers to purchase culture and take it home Overtime it became clear that certain kinds of entertainment were economically viable (music, movies, books, etc.) - That means when something new was produced their was an attempt to make it as similar to whatever did well that preceded it o (Starts idea of popular music genres) 4 - Standardization Ideology in the cultural sense does not mean belief Ideology is a central subject in cultural studies - Can easily be defined as processes of naturalization - It is the study of ideas (developed by group of philosophers in France) o Argued that the history of humanity is a process by which ideas become more complex The critique of ideology became on of the corner stones of social theory (it is now understood as a negative term) Two components that need to exist in order for a society to persist: 1. Means to provide people with a way to satisfy their basic needs to a relatively high degree 2. Every society requires ‘a set of beliefs’ a. Organize our behaviour, give us a sense of being part of a coherent society b. (One of the most common ways this has been done is through religion) As the prominence of religion began to fade as a way of organizing society, IDEOLOGY emerged - Underlying beliefs, values, attitudes that work to prevent social unrest Ideology of progress: sense that the world is getting inheritably better - Key to the idea of progress is we are constantly striving to discover the new, and critique the old Marx: Preface - We become servants of our ideas rather than the creators - Critiques the idea of progress (through the voice of ideologists) - Saying the world is going to get better when we let go of the idea of god, but Marx questions what this has to do with the people struggling here and now Myths - Ideologies are capable of doing more than one thing at ones (more than one meaning) Ideologies work in a way that makes the conditions in which we live natural and anything else unnatural 5 - Ex. make the constantly changing capitalist societies feel completely normal Soap was the first mass produced commodity to be advertised - Not just about cleanliness, about moral hygiene - Soap was used to promote the idea that Europeans were morally better/superior than the rest of the world - Failure to keep oneself clean meant you were uncivilized Process of convincing people to part with their money in order to purchase something they never knew they needed before (advertising) - Historical ba
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