Cultural Theory and Popular Culture
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Dec 16th, 2019

Cultural Theory and Popular Culture

Raymond Williams, a cultural theorist, signified the theory of culture into flexible definitions, where meaning depends on the context one wants to use it. The emergence of popular culture, after observing society’s lifestyle, has maintained a great impact on intercultural and international behavior. As a result, advertising has played a vital role in absorbing cultural impact on behavior.

Since popular culture is influenced by mass media, it has a way of influencing individual’s attitude using media as an effective platform.

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Culture is the characteristic of group of people defined by their intellectual development used in a particular way of people or groups from different walks of life. For instance, the great philosophers, poets, artists, type of sports played, the celebration of festivals etc., are all examples of development of literacy, that play a vital role in setting certain groups apart from others. Mathew Arnold, the author of Culture and Anarchy defined it as “the best that has been thought or said in the world” (Arnold 1869, 7).

In his piece he criticized the value of culture in a historical context, at the time society was changing rapidly. Being a philosopher, he introduced the concept of high culture in his book Culture and Anarchy (1869), where high culture revolved around aesthetic value, philosophical work, history and literacy, that let common man decipher the aesthetic and intellectual trail.
However, in the 19th century, high culture focused on the culture of aristocracy and status symbol. The knowledge, aesthetics and tradition that were famous in a particular class was followed as high culture. As opposed to high culture, low culture represented less educated, low social status, such as barbarians.

In the West high culture “originated in the classical world traditions of intellectual and aesthetic life in Ancient Greece (from C. 8th century BC – AD 147) and Ancient Rome (753 BC – AD 476) (High Culture, 2018). For example, “the Parthenon, the painting and sculpture of Michelangelo, the music of Mozart, etc.”, identifies the exemplary works of high culture of the west. Since high culture is associated with upper class society, the term popular culture on the other hand is shared by the masses of the society.

Popular culture follows the emerging patterns, lifestyle, literature, beliefs, attitudes and leisure activities that are sophisticated and “more appealing to the masses”, unlike high culture (High Culture, 2018). Since industrialization took over the society, it affected the individuality of different nations, where certain crafts and rituals were practiced to maintain the identity of these nations. The term popular culture at one point was associated with low culture, but today it mainly caters masses, due to a high impact of mass media in our societies.

Since popular culture caters the “emerging global mainstream” of a given culture, the everyday lives of the people has been influenced by mass media, that incorporates different phenomena, adapted in the late 20th to 21st century. “Popular culture is lived as well as preserved, and it composed not simply of the artefacts of everyday life, but old practices and rituals such as interaction and play. These things tend not to end up in museums, but without understanding how they were used in their value and meaning might be consigned to history” (Baldwin and Roberts 2006, 75).

When WWII concluded, there came a major change in the culture, which turned the whole society upside down, hence the emergence of youth culture in United States, spread across the whole western world. The U.S pop culture aimed at creating a bridge between large masses with diversity, in order to create uniformity in cultural identity. U.S pop culture has commercialized mass media globally, by taking advantage of film, television programs, commercials, video games, internet, brands, clothing and food. For instance, tattoos became popular after American revolution, and were cultivated by sailors for various reasons, from which one main reason was to define distinguishing marks on their bodies.

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