The Uses of Literacy  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life (1957) is a book by British academic Richard Hoggart (1918 - 2014) examining the influence of mass media in the United Kingdom. The book is a key influence in the history of working class culture and Media Studies and in the founding of Cultural Studies.

It was alternatively interpreted as an instance of cultural pessimism which lamented the loss of an authentic popular culture and as denouncing the imposition of mass culture by the culture industries.

Massification of Culture

The Uses of Literacy was an attempt to understand the changes in culture in Britain caused by "massification". It has been described as marking a "watershed in public perception of culture and class and shifted academic parameters". Hoggart's argument is that "the mass publicists" were made "more insistently, effectively and in a more comprehensive and centralised form today than they were earlier" and "that we are moving towards the creation of a mass culture, that the remnants of what was at least in part an urban culture 'of the people' are being destroyed".

The "drift"

In his study Hoggart looks at pulp fiction, popular magazines and newspapers and the movies and finds in all of these, "drift". He documents the break-up of the old, class culture, lamenting the loss of the close-knit communities and their replacement by the emerging manufactured mass culture. Key features of this are the tabloid newspapers, advertising, and the triumph of Hollywood. These "alien" phenomena have colonized local communities and robbed them of their distinctive features. Hoggart's attack is not on popular culture; rather it is on mass culture which is imposed from above. "Popular culture" being self-created has a fundamental integrity and evolves according to its own laws and dictates, not as a result of the mass media.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Uses of Literacy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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