9 Hoggart’s prophetic warnings of the rise of consumerism, dumbing-down, and Americanisation are very impressive. It could be argued that a new culture has developed based on tabloid newspapers, cheap magazines, advertising and Hollywood. This culture is imposed from the outside, bearing down, crushing any individuality or regional variation; a culture external to the one it dominates. If one were to look at any high street you would see row upon row of large name, identikit concerns; even the spread of ‘Estuary English’ stifling regional accents; all have been used in support of Hoggart’s arguments10.
The Uses of Literacy was written before the rise of popular music and the massive growth in television. The rise of these media has led to new popular cultural icons, such as soap operas and S Club 7; these it could be argued all lend credence to Hoggart’s arguments. Support also comes from Barker who states, ‘In all the emphasis on Society’s vertical divisions, remember the tremendous horizontal impact of mass culture. However rich or poor you are, you can only drink the same Coca-Cola, eat the same McDonald’s cheeseburger’. 11 Mass culture is about material goods, these roll off the production line to an eager audience.
An audience that Hoggart would argue is being primed and lead by the mass media. It is hard using twenty-first century eyes to feel any loss for some of the world Hoggart describes, a world of cramped housing, of living financially from day-to-day, a working class world of limited opportunity. In our modern, clean and shiny shopping mall world, the life of the working class has in the material sense improved hugely. However, has something been lost along the way? Taylor states, ‘You are left with a feeling that we have lost quite as much as we have gained from the wholesale obliteration of past English life’.
12 It is a pessimistic, a ‘Hoggartist’ view of the damage caused by mass culture. However, for all this it is possible that culture can start from the ‘street’ uninfluenced from the forces above; the everyday use of the English language where sayings and words are regularly added to the dictionaries, generally years after their inception; the rise of rebellious music styles (for example Punk or Garage); these are eventually assimilated into mass culture having their spiky edges smoothed, but it shows that real ‘popular culture’ can still exist amongst the Macdonald and Pepsi world.
It is Taylor who has a more upbeat and confident view than Hoggart when he states, ‘Curiously enough, it is still possible to live a substantial part of your life beyond the stultifying embrace of mass culture’. 13 It is a view that shows some optimism, I suspect that Richard Hoggart would not agree.
Word count 1001 Bibliography. Barker, P. “Who’s Afraid of The Class System? ” New Statesman No 610 (19 June 2000), 25-27. Hoggart, R. The Uses of Literacy. (4th Ed London: Penguin, 1992) Mulhern, F.The Present Lasts A Long Time. (Cork: Cork University Press, 1998) Strong, R. The Story of Britain A People’s History. (London: Penguin, 1996) Taylor, D. J. “Whatever Happened To Popular Culture?
” New Statesman No 715(16 July 2002), 27-30. 1 Hoggart, Richard. The Uses of Literacy (London: Penguin 1992) p384 2 Taylor, D. J, “Whatever happened to popular culture? ” New statesman no 715 (16 July 2002), 28 3 Mulhern, Francis. The Present Lasts a Long Time. (Cork: Cork University Press 1998) p120.
4 Mulhern. E present. p122 5 Hoggart, S, The Uses Of Literacy, p386 6 Hoggart, S, The Uses of Literacy, p95 7 Strong, Roy. The Story of Britain A people’s History. (London: Pimlico 1996) p507 8 Strong, R. The Story of Britain, p507 9 Taylor, D. J. Whatever Happened, 28 10 Taylor, D. J. Whatever Happened, 28 11 Barker, Paul, “Who’s afraid of the class system? ” New Statesman no. 610(19 Jun 2000) 27 12 Taylor, D. J. Whatever Happened, 29 13 Taylor, D. J. Whatever Happened, p29.