Study Guide

Raymond Williams Quotes

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What breaks capitalism, all that will ever break capitalism, is capitalists. The faster they run the more strain on their heart. Moreover it helps that they've forgotten they have a heart. Perhaps they never even knew. [From Loyalties]

How many capitalists does it take to screw in a light bulb? None—they have the workers screw the light bulbs in for them. LOL! Can you tell I don't love capitalists? It's no biggie. I just think they're all greedy, grabbing, heartless takers. So what I'm all about in this quotation is that capitalists will eventually do themselves in. In their constant rush to get mo' money, they'll end up killing themselves. Of course, whether they possess that special organ we call a heart is still open to debate.

Over a wide range from general television through commercial advertising to centralised information and data-processing systems, the technology that is now or is becoming available can be used to affect, to alter, and in some cases to control our whole social process. And it is ironic that the uses offer such extreme social choices. We could have inexpensive, locally based yet internationally extended television systems, making possible communication and information-sharing on a scale that not long ago would have seemed utopian. [From Television: Technology and Cultural Form]

So, this is where I went toe to toe with media maven Marshall McLuhan. He believed in technological determinism, which is basically the idea that technology will soon (already has?) come to dominate us.

I just flat out don't believe this idea. I'm also not totally convinced that the people are mindlessly manipulated by media. Sure, I think the media is in cahoots with all sorts of special interests and political and capitalist agendas, but I still say: "Power to the people!" I hold on to the hope that we can use technology for our own ends and purposes. I think there is much more give and take between society and the media that McLuhan allows.

Just as industry and its derived words record what we now call the Industrial Revolution, so democracy and democrat, in their entry into ordinary speech, record the effects, in England, of the American and French Revolutions, and a crucial phase of the struggle, at home, for what we would now call democratic representation. [From Culture and Society, 1780-1950]

You know my whole thing is words—what they mean, who uses them, how they evolve, and so forth. Well, words like industry, democrat, and democracy are no exception. Some big changes happened with the Industrial Revolution (roughly 1780 to 1830). Industry no longer referred to humans farming and sewing and milking the cows. It now referred to the rise of huge institutions and massive manufacturing. In fact, it sort of made mincemeat out of people, as machines began to replace humans.

Now, let's not forget about revolution—which basically went from "revolving" to being all about political upheaval. Though some of us think democracy means equal representation among people, others believe that it reeks of unbridled popular power and people running in the streets murdering with their bare hands—sort of like during the French Revolution.

Peasant came from fw paisant, oF, rw pagus, Rom—country district, whence in another development pagan. It was common use in English from Cl5, often distinguishable from rustic (fw rusticus, L—countryman, rw rus, L—country) in that peasant usually meant working on the land as well as living in the country [until the 19th century, when] peasant [became] a loose term of abuse—in English very self-conscious and exaggerated—of "uneducated" or "common people." [From Keywords]

You know I'm down with the peasants, and I'm not just one of those "I'm an academic so I care about people at the margins" types. I was a peasant. I get peasants. That's why there was no question that "peasant" would be one of my keywords.

As the word has evolved, it has been robbed of its dignity. It used to be a neutral term—it just referred to someone who plowed or hoed and did earthbound things like that. As class distinctions became more pronounced, the work became associated with lack of intelligence, and the word became derogatory. I have a particular beef with that association, because I come from a peasant family and I have a degree from Cambridge. Take that, bourgeoisie.

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