Culture is the embodiment of knowledge, customs, identity, and community. Defined differently through time and by different philosophers, culture remains a pillar of society as every nation has to maintain its culture. According to Schweitzer (1923), culture means a dynamic change of material and social circumstances. Therefore, culture is a social actor in generating new ways of thinking and helping people.
Consequently, culture has often been perceived as an indicator of social class, as there is a difference between what is called pop culture (or low brow) and high culture (or high brow). Popular culture can be described as temporary coming from the people for the people (often from the same social class), for instance, reality TV or gaming. High culture transcends time as it cannot be reproduced by anyone else but the artist that created it. Thus, it is associated with high classes as they value it from Shakespeare’s plays to Beethoven or Mozart music.
However, two pairs of philosophers, Arnold and Leavis, Hoggart and Willams, have opposite views on culture. Arnold and Leavis believe in ‘Great Tradition’, that working and lower classes do not have a culture of their own and have to be ‘sold’ a culture rather than creating it themselves. And by educating them they will become less prone to uprisings and wanting to defeat hierarchy. On another hand, Hoggart and Williams consider culture as being for everyone and every class possesses one. Williams especially, in ‘Culture is Ordinary’ (1958), put forward the idea of ‘Culturism’, that culture is shared by everyone and interpreted differently depending on where you come from.
With that said, an example, of culture being for everyone could be the Punk Culture. The Punk culture, at its peak in the 70s, was characterized by its music, clothing, activist and its ideology based on being against any form of establishment and individual freedom. Anyone had the possibility to express themselves.
Therefore, culture can be universal but very personal at the same time.
Written by: Nathalie Combs, DMC 2019.
References: BERGMANN, A. (2008). MUSIC-CITY SPORTS-CITY LEISURE-CITY. 1ST ED. WEIMAR: BAUHAUS UNIVERSITÄT WEIMAR. COGAN, B. (2008). THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PUNK. 1ST ED. NEW YORK: STERLING. MILIC, N. AND CHEN, Y. (2016) ANALYSIS OF CULTURE [POWERPOINT PRESENTATION], PU001992: IDMC CTS. UAL. 25 NOVEMBER. -WILLIAMS, R. (1989). RESOURCES OF HOPE. 1ST ED. LONDON: VERSO, PP.3-14.