Williams, Raymond


University of Nevada–Las Vegas, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs241


Raymond Williams (1921–1988) was an influential British literary critic, novelist, and founder of cultural studies. His work was explicitly political, and he was personally active in the New Left. Though a devoted Marxist his whole life, he was sometimes highly critical of Marxist theories for what he thought were ambiguous ideas about culture. His experience growing up in a working-class family in Wales and as a young adult during World War II heavily influenced his perspectives on culture and politics. In the 1950s, along with Richard Hoggart, he formed a new perspective toward ordinary, or popular, culture, and developed the conceptual and methodological foundations of cultural studies. He also pioneered the use of textual analysis as a research method, by which he explored the evolution of cultural meanings through history. Anti-deterministic, his work emphasized human agency and the capacity for political activism to be part of a long revolutionary process toward a socialist future. The point of studying culture was to become more conscious about inequalities, injustice, and marginalization and to contribute to the public discourse. Williams's approach would later be labeled culturalist to distinguish his work from the overly deterministic approach of structuralists, such as Louis Althusser, whom he criticized. Toward the end of his career, Williams ...

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