Culture and Society: An Introduction to Raymond Williams
Raymond Williams' Culture and Society appeared in the ideological climate of the cold war and bears all the makes of it. Given the remoteness of that ideological climate—accentuated ironically by the fall of Soviet Russia—and given the present post-Saussurean climate of poststructuralism, it might appear that this text of Williams is rather dated and can have only an academic interest to the students of the leftist writings of Raymond Williams. There are, however, two reasons why I am going back to this text. First, Williams is a thinker whose significance is not sufficiently appreciated in this country. It is rather sad that his seminal contributions were relegated by Althusserian arguments in the Seventies and then by the spate of poststructuralist and Derridean deconstruction. It is often not sufficiently appreciated that Williams addresses these intellectual formations in his later writings, albeit obliquely. My second reason is that where Williams is heard, it is more often as the author of Culture and Society ^ as if his later writings were just an old-style Marxist justification of all that he said in this book. These remarks should not lead one to expect that this article is an overall introduction to the ouvre of Williams. It, rather, a critical presentation of Williams, book mentioned above, which I hope introduces the newcomer to the problems that haunted Williams all his writing life. I have deliberately kept clear of poststructuralist and postcolonial arguments, although the analysis in this essay, I hope, shows where such openings are possible. In the beginning of the essay there are references to certain intellectual formation very specific to the literary-critical world—references to F.R. Leavis and T.S. Eliot. But I have not taken the trouble of explaining them as I thought that might distract the reader from the general argument. In any case such references are marginal.
Because Williams learnt his bitter lesson from the defeat of the reductive Marxism of the Thirties in the battle for cultural interpretation, his political thinking took a longer time in traversing from its initial ethical preoccupation to its subsequent redefinition
'•Reader, Department of Postgraduate Studies and Research in English, Mangalore University Mangalagangothri, Karnataka State.
Social Scientist, Vol. 25, Nos. 5-6, May-June 1997