Marxism & Culture

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  • Marxist theories of culture & identity
    • Karl Marx on culture
      • Origins of culture
        • Human culture has a social origin and cannot be seen as deriving directly from nature or from innate instincts in human beings.
          • Culture had a material origin in human behaviour.
        • Material circumstanceand economic activity shaped human consciousness
        • Culture originates from in human productive activity.
      • Alienation and culture
        • When humans live in freedom, they fulfil themselves through the creative activity of producing things using their imagination.
        • Problems arise when human freedom is restricted by the existence of private property.
        • Alienation involves a sense of estrangement from the work that people do, from other workers, from what they are producing-because they no longer own it.
      • Culture as ruling-class ideology
        • Culture is simply an expression of the distorted view of the world advanced by the dominant class.
        • The ruling class - the owners of the means of production - use their economic power to shape society's culture.
        • All culture in capitalist societies are a product of ruling-class ideology.
          • The working class are seen as suffering from false class consciousness and their beliefs and culture will therefore be shaped by the ruling class.
      • Culture as the reflection of class differences
        • Different classes will always tend to have different cultures because their conditions of material existence are different.
        • Engels - People can see through false class consciousness and produce cultural works that show an appreciation of the oppression and exploitation and ruling-class domination
    • Neo-Marxist theories of culture
      • Raymond Williams - Culture & Society
        • Working-class culture and bourgeois culture
          • The basis of working-class culture was the commitment to acting collectively.
            • Working-class culture took shape through trade unions and political parties.
          • Cultures are not the automatically determined products of class structures.
          • People who are responding to their economic circumstances actively create them.
      • Pierre Bordieu - class and culture
        • Capital and culture
          • Class and culture were closely related. Cultural difference could influence your class position.
            • Individuals and groups possessed different types of assets which they could use to achieve success in society.
              • Consisted of economic capital (material goods & wealth), social capital (social contacts), symbolic capital (high status & reputation) and cultural capital (education/appreciation of the arts).


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