Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, by Raymond Williams
Since [Edward Tylor's definition], many others have followed more or less his lead, seeing in culture “the complex of values, customs, beliefs and practices which constitute the way of life of a specific group” (Eagleton 2000, 34). Different emphases are also to be found, with a range and overlap of meanings, as illustrated in Raymond Williams’s (1985, 91) observation that “in archaeology and in cultural anthropology the reference to culture or a culture is primarily to material production, while in history and cultural studies the reference is primarily to signifying or symbolic systems.”
First published in 1976, Raymond Williams' highly acclaimed Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society is a collection of lively essays on words that are critical to understanding the modern world. In these essays, Williams, a renowned cultural critic, demonstrates how these key words take on new meanings and how these changes reflect the political bent and values of our past and current society. He chose words both essential and intangible—words like nature, underprivileged, industry, liberal, violence, to name a few—and, by tracing their etymology and evolution, grounds them in a wider political and cultural framework. The result is an illuminating account of the central vocabulary of ideological debate in English in the modern period. This edition features a new original foreword by Colin MacCabe, Distinguished Professor of English and Literature, University of Pittsburgh, that reflects on the significance of Williams' life and work. Keywords remains as relevant today as it was over thirty years ago, offering a provocative study of our language and an insightful look at the society in which we live.
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