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Essay about What is Culture?

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The first definition of ‘culture’ by Oxford’s Dictionary is ‘art, literature, music and other intellectual expressions of a particular society or time’ (“Culture,” Oxford’s Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English). Anthropologist of culture, Raymond Williams argued that the term ‘culture’ was first used in reference to the cultivation of crops which was later associated in relation to the cultivation of the human mind, hence the expression ‘cultured/cultivated person’. The noun of process thenceforth grew into a noun of configuration in the later 18th century where culture meant ‘the generalisation of the ‘spirit’ which informed the ‘whole way of life’ of a distinct people’ (Williams, 1981) implying a common ‘way of life’ shared between a group of people or community. The plural of culture was first used to clearly differentiate from ‘any singular and unilinear sense of civilization by Herder (1784-1991)’ (Williams, 1981). However, followed by the development of comparative anthropology in the nineteenth century resulted in the construction of the new meaning of culture – ‘to designate a whole at and distinctive way of life’ (Williams, 1981) based on a set and questions emphasized on the ‘lived culture’.
The materialist and the idealist are the two approaches in the study of culture. The materialist approach concerns itself with Marxist and the Frankfurt School’s literary criticisms on culture with an emphasis on class relations and social structure. Contrary to materialism, idealism governs itself in the creation of concepts to adequately explain the current world through ideas through the literary works of Matthew Arnold, F.R. Leavis and Q.D. Leavis, hence the Arnoldian and Leavisism criticisms of culture.
Marxism is...


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.... and Horkheimer, M. “The Culture Industry; Enlightenment as Mass Deception”, in J. Curran et al. (eds), Mass Communication & Society, E. Arnold, London, 1977, pp. 349-374.
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. Third Edition ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd, 2008. Print.
Conrad, P. Television; The Medium and Its Manners, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1982, pp. 1-16.
Marx, K. “The Materialist Conception of History”, in T.B. Bottomore & M. Rubels (eds), Karl Marx; Seleted Writings in Sociology & Social Philosophy, Penguin, Ringwood, 1973, pp. 67-80.
Schiach, M. “TV: Technology and Cultural Decline”, Discourse on Popular Culture, Polity Press, 4 pages.
Swingewood, A. “The Theory of Mass Society”, The Myth of Mass Culture, London, 1977, pp. 8-10.
Williams, R. “Towards A Sociology of Culture”, Culture, Fontana, Glasgow, 1981, pp. 9-14.


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