Introduction Historically through the ages, culture developed by the masses has been seen as “a concern of powerful minorities. Those with political power have always thought it necessary to police the culture of those without political power. ” (1) This view of the masses was laid out as a form of control over the populace. Culture was seen as an indicator of other things, for example the morality of the lower classes. Leaders of society and government made it their business to control how people behaved and culture developed.
They used this as a way to prevent any opposition to themselves and also as a means of promoting their forms of morality. The general view was that if the masses developed culture without intervention or enforced direction it would lead to anarchy (how could an uneducated and uncontrolled populous develop a peaceful, well integrated society alone? ). During the nineteenth century, with the development of the industrial revolution there was a power exchange, which caused this control over the culture of the masses to be lost for a short period.
With the industrialisation of Briton, came urbanisation, workers were now pushed closer together around factories and industrial areas. The management for these factories kept away from the working classes, which took away their influence over them. In the new districts, an independent culture flourished and eventually gave birth to new political and cultural ideas developed solely through this new under-culture. Most prominently there came the idea of Chartism.
Through this threat to the ruling classes it became politically prudent to monitor and study popular culture.
From this time a theorist of social order and social authority, called Mathew Arnold, emerged and set a precedent for looking at Popular Culture. Mathew Arnold Arnold is seen as the pioneer of study into popular culture. He started what is known as the ‘Culture and Civilization’ tradition. This was a way of looking at popular culture within the field of culture as a whole. Arnold bought a fresh way of understanding what culture is and also its purpose.
He believed that the culture of the elite within society was the way to fulfilment and that the debased popular culture of the masses could not be allowed to develop as they didn’t have the intelligence or inclination to prevent the regression to natural law. To Arnold, culture was defined by four meanings, 1. A body of Knowledge. ‘The best of what has been thought and said in the world’ (2) 2. ‘The endeavour to know the best and to make this knowledge prevail for the good of mankind’ (3) ‘To make the reason and will of god prevail’ (4)
3. It is attained by ‘reading, observing and thinking’ (5) ‘ in the endeavour to know the best that can be known’ (6) 4. ‘Culture seeks to minister to the diseased spirit of our time’ (7) ‘getting our countrymen to seek culture’ (8) or can be explained as ‘The seeking of culture’ (9) As this is a little confusing I will use simplified definitions set out by John Storey, 1 the ability to know what is best. 2 what is best 3 the mental and spiritual application of what is best 4 the pursuit of what is best (10)
Arnold used this way of seeing culture in his work; the study into the systems of society of the country. He sees popular culture as a means to prevent anarchy, but that allowing the working class to develop culture and politics separate from the elite of society is to promote discourse. Throughout his work Arnold has very clear views over society, he separated it up into three distinct groups. First there is the Barbarians (aristocracy) second the Philistines (middle class) and last the Populace (working class).
👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!
Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.get help with your assignment