Cultural product – what people in a culture make
Cultural practice – what people in a culture do
Since the 19th Century the things we do and
produce in our culture have been separated
into two categories.
High and Low Culture
Scared both by working-class revolutionary
movements in Europe and the increasing
financial power of the middle-classes in 19th
For Arnold, exposure to the ‘best that has been
thought and said’ would civilise people. So a
section of British cultural production was
separated from culture in general and called
Wrote Culture and Anarchy
Because the poor and middle-classes could not
read Greek, Arnold chose the best of British
culture as a way of civilising the masses.
Exposure to this would make them cultured
and less likely to want to have a revolution.
Cultural products: Shakespeare, Chaucer etc.
Cultural practices: Theatre, Ballet, Opera,
The idea develops that exposure to these things
made you a ‘better’ person.
All aspects of British culture that were not
included as High Culture were classes
inevitably as Low or Popular Culture.
Very quickly it became accepted that the
cultural practises of the working-classes were a
These ideas filter into the education system.
We study high culture in schools but
low/popular culture is seen as a bad thing to
Leavis developed Arnold’s ideas while teaching
at Cambridge University.
Came up with the idea of a ‘canon’ of the best
Studying this made you a better person
He was the first to study popular culture
(Scrutiny) but as a warning of its dangers.
The Great Tradition
‚After Auschwitz there
can be no more poetry.‛
Theodore Adorno – a Marxist critic. Argued
that the commandants of the concentration
camps were ‘cultured’ men.
Their acts of utter evil meant the idea that there
was a link between high culture and moral
goodness was destroyed.
Adorno was part of a group of thinkers called
the Frankfurt School.
Like Leavis they hated popular culture
They saw it as bland repetitive rubbish
produced by the huge capitalise culture
It numbed the masses into accepting their
exploitation by distracting them with trashy
pop and genre fiction.
Popular culture as the
After the Second World War the first generation
of working-class schoolboys to attend the new
grammar schools went to Oxford and
They began to question the dismissive attitudes
towards the popular culture they had grown
Cambridge in the 1950s
Influential theorist – working class Welsh
Argued that we have to consider popular culture
if we are to understand a culture as a whole.
Popular culture is part of the cultural
conversation of a society (soap operas etc.)
Distinguished between Mass Culture and Folk
Mass = cynically produced by huge corporations to
appeal to the masses and make money from them
Folk culture = emerges organically from the
experience of the lower classes (folk music, street
dance, football etc)
So people realised that we cannot just dismiss
In the 1970s thinkers began to take it seriously
Subjects such as media studies, communication
studies, cultural studies appear on the
curriculum alongside the traditional High
The birth of the subject
Postmodern ways of looking at cultural
production saw no need to divide it into high
and low and say one should be taught as it
made you a better person, and the other
resisted as something bad.
It took popular culture seriously – Hollywood,
comics, pop music, shopping (communication
Postmodern cultural forms refused to be split
into high or low – Pavarotti on TOTP? Bob
Dylan studied at university?
Postmodernism and Culture