Communications and Cultural Analysis: A Religious View

By Michael Warren | Go to book overview

The sort of maintenance of meaning I am referring to here is far different from the sort of static maintenance one sometimes finds in overly bureaucratic institutions. Unfortunately, the power structures in institutions can maintain themselves by fostering a rote repetition of the traditions of the past, instead of the active questioning and probing characteristic of cultural agents.28 There is an intentionality of sorts here, but its greatest achievement is muteness and the "chains of command" kind of obedience fostered by the military. In my view, when such bureaucratic maintenance infects religious institutions, the eventual result will be the death of meaning and the gradual fading out of the religious system.

In this chapter I have tried to present Raymond Williams's approach to culture, with its particular value of helping us see how meaning is produced and functions in a social order. If "culture" is in fact one of the two or three most complex words in the English language, the history of the word may help us think about the varied uses of the word today while maintaining an active meaning for ourselves. These distinctions help us understand the relation of religion to culture, and why a religion uses its own meanings as the lens through which culture can be viewed and judged.

In Chapter 3, 1 wish to look at two additional features of culture: the reproduction of culture in schools and the problem this reproduction poses for religious schools, and the question of how culture produces a structure of feeling in particular generations.


NOTES
1.
Here I have followed information found in Raymond Williams's obituary written by Colin MacCabe in Z, April 1988, 59.
2.
Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 128. The next two paragraphs summarize and paraphrase Williams's ideas in the chapter "Structures of Feeling," pp. 128-135, of Marxism and Literature.
3.
A helpful explanation of why so many thinkers have avoided looking at culture in its active, productive sense is given by the British sociologist Anthony Giddens. He points out that many sociologists, and by extension those influenced by them, have bracketed "time" as a concept in their use of functionalism or structuralism, thus giving a snapshot view of society as fixed. Giddens's work tries to restore the flux of ongoing production to the way we view society. See Anthony Giddens, Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Structure and Contradiction in Social Analysis ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), pp. 49-65. Michael Schudson makes a similar judgment, but from a different perspective, in "The New Validation of Popular Culture: Sense andSentimentality in Academia,"

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Communications and Cultural Analysis: A Religious View
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Note xvi
  • Chapter 1 the Problem of Popular Culture 1
  • Notes 19
  • Chapter 2 What is Culture? 23
  • Notes 39
  • Chapter 3 Cultural Reproduction Among the Young 43
  • Notes 53
  • Chapter 4 Cultural Production as an Avenue to Cultural Analysis 59
  • Notes 86
  • Chapter 5 a Theory of Images in Cultural Systems 91
  • Notes 109
  • Chapter 6 Metaphoric Images as Signifiers 113
  • Notes 124
  • Chapter 7: Hegemony and the Possibilities of Contestation 127
  • Bibliography 149
  • Index 157
  • About the Author 163
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