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What Is Popular Culture and What Can It Reveal About History?

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Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

What is Popular Culture and What Can it Reveal About History?

  1. Popular culture defined in relation to other cultures:
  • High culture- culture of the elites. Fluent or proficient, knowledgeable in refined forms of culture; classical music, fine art, poetry, art, Shakespeare, etc. generally expensive to receive/attend this culture. Shifted power in the society. Differentiating yourself from others and escaping reality. Showing people that you can go out. Shakespeare started off as a folk culture but over time been seen as high culture. Prior to industrialization and after used high culture to reinforce their position in society. Prior to industrialization: 3 main classes in society; the landowners, the clergy (members of the church who exercised significant power of authority) and commoner (everybody else, most people fell in this group). Most commoners were peasants on the land. Clergy and noble people tend to fall under high culture since it was usually quite expensive to attend. Hard to receive classical arts teaching which is why only the rich could be apart of it. Nobles had power largely because they owned land, but saw their power/land being taken from rising middle class. Middle class gained power by owning factories that could produce factory goods, shifted the power of society. The new emerging industrial elites began to adopt a piece of high culture to boast their authority and power within society. High culture is a mean of separating and differentiating yourself between others. The still existing is some degree today. Exists prior to industrialization significantly more then it does after the industrialization but is still seen a bit.

  • Folk culture- remanence of the past. Generally folk reply to different rural groups throughout the world, in isolation from each other. Different types of dances, different rights, different periods of their lives and religious practice. Tied into the traditional for ms of arts, dance, etc. Dressed up during special celebrations. Not one of the more popular cultures that have grown and expanded over time. Numerous existing at the same time. More traditional culture used in the everyday. Prior to industrialization people practiced traditional folk culture and still practiced it after industrialization. In folk culture reminisce of the past is seen in the folk culture which is how they identify themselves in a regional group, ethnical group, or national group. What the common people practiced different from the high cultures that were only for the elites, more related to the everyday common person. Taking place in celebration to rural festivals in small places like farms or rural areas. Not one of the larger culture that are starting to exist in the larger scale, on a broader scale as you see on the onsets of the industrialization.
  • Mass culture- culture that is produced more on a global scale. Elements that are part of different cultures but not including everything. Television, films, etc. what we are now familiar with, most common in todays, everyone or almost everyone has seen in industrialized society and has become aware of. Almost everybody went to the movies on a weekly, biweekly or price weekly basis in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, which they went to enormous cinemas. Shared a common experience between almost all people, watching the same thing almost all the time. Culmination helped mass culture develop, railroads, telephones, video reals between multiple places, etc. common exposure to common media forms. Some element are seen within popular culture today. This culture goes against the tradition folk culture as they existed prior to the industrialization. Mass culture is apart of popular culture but not all parts of popular culture includes mass culture. Mass culture developed during the second half of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century. Shared by a large portion of the society and is universal, might encompass an entire country or continent in many cases. Communications helped mass culture develop over time since the culture was able to spread from one place to another.
  • Working class culture- many aspects of popular culture began to emerge from it. Example; in Britain, the coal workers would have a music band to help differentiate between other groups of workers. Factories being created, coal mines, steel making, range of working class culture between workers. Another aspect of industrialization. As elite culture continued on, the middle-class industrialization was able to adopt some aspects of elite culture into the workforce. Many aspects of popular culture begin to emerge as well. Working class culture is used to identify within their class and to show a brotherhood that is created between the workers. In the 19th and 20th century this became a very popular form of entertainment and recreational pursuit. Very different from the classical music, more like a march/band. Apart of the working class, cultures are emerging into new areas, urban areas, often where new industrial activities are taking place. Working culture developed as a result of the industrial revolution. Most of these people ancestors would have lived in farms who would not have traveled more then five miles in their life, but they themselves are now living in much larger communities and working in places where thousands of people worked alongside them. Living together in very compact neighbourhoods developing their own culture based off their jobs and experiences. This changed the course of social relations and in many cases ended up changing the social expectations. Provided with the basic elements of education which includes writing, reading and communication skills, they were able to have newspapers dedicated towards the work class of people similar to the elite class and the middle class.
  • Dominant culture- is a culture that overlaps may other cultures. Reinforce and bolster their position. Most powerful culture in the history of time. The lower. vs. the upper class. Today everyone is created as an equal but before it wasn't the case. The church had a large amount of power since they decided whether or not you could enter into heaven. White power over African culture. Most powerful or influential group of people in that society or political unit at any given time. An example would be the nobles and the clergy that use their power to control the lower classes. A person’s status would give an advantage over other people and power over them. This has changed over time with the liberal democracies that exists today that everybody is seen as an equal. Only the catholic church was allowed to have a large sum of power. This changes with the industrial revolution, now within society is power coming from other forms, most commonly wealth/economic positions. Dominant culture exists at all times in society even in the popular culture of today.







Music Halls

2. Culture:

Definition- the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

Raymond Williams

  •  A cultural theorist he help to define what culture is
  • 3 broad definitions of culture -
  1. A general process intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development
  2. A particular way of life
  3. Works and activities where “meaning” is produced
  • Popular Culture

3. Ideology

  1. Ideas articulated by a specific group
  2. The distortion/concealment of reality
  3. Ideological form
  4. Connotations (Roland brothers)
  5. The practices of the everyday (Althusser)


False consciousness

Karl Marx

Means of production

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

What is Popular Culture and what can it Reveal About History?

1.  “Popular”

Raymond Williams’  4 Definitions  of “Popular”



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