Raymond Williams 1921-1988
Raymond Williams was one of the most original and prolific cultural writers and thinkers in English in the 20th century, opening up new areas of enquiry in literary and cultural studies, communications and social and political theory. His cultural work was rooted in his concept of a long revolution - the democratic transformation of society in order that inequality and oppression would cease to exist.
"I cannot accept that education is a training for jobs, or for making useful citizens..... I ask for a common education that will give our society cohesion, and prevent it disintegrating into a series of specialist departments, the nation become a firm.'
Culture is Ordinary 1958."
Williams spent 15 years working full-time in adult education and almost all the courses he taught were with the WEA. During this time he wrote Culture and Society, The Long Revolution, Communications and essays which became Keywords.
"The WEA taught me much.... It has always stood for the principle that ordinary people be highly educated, as an end justifying itself, and not simply as a means to power. It does not see the good things in society as benefits to be handed down by an elite, or as bargaining counters to win favours of an electorate."
Open Letter to WEA Tutors 1961
'...one of the major benefits of the new technologies could be a significant improvement practically of every kind of voluntary association.... The new interactive technologies could transform (the problems of travel and funding) by providing regular facilities for consultation and decision from people's own homes... This could be, in practice, the achievement of full social and cultural powers by civil society, as opposed to their appropriation or marginalisation by the corporations and the state.'
Towards 2000 1983
The prescience of Williams, evident in these quotes, was high-lighted with the publication of New Keywords (Blackwell, 2005) which 'assembles a stellar team of internationally renowned and interdisciplinary social thinkers and theorists…’ and 'Builds on and updates Raymond Williams classic Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society by reflecting the transformation in culture and society over the last 30 years.’
Keywords is an on-line on-going activity now. Visit http://keywords.pitt.edu/williams_keywords.html
More information on RW and his many books can be found on the web, of course -
The Wikipedia article on Williams is a helpful start.
Derek Tatton Interview for Radio Swindon
Derek outlines the impact of Raymond Williams on 20th century cultural life. What the aims are of the Raymond Williams Foundation. What we are doing in the Learning Revolution Discussion Circles project and what type of informal discussion groups are operating throughout the UK.
To listen to the interview click here
These three books are recommended especially for the reasons given:
Border Country - Raymond Williams in Adult Education
Edited by John McIlroy and Sallie Westwood (NIACE, 1993) is central to RWF’s aims.
Raymond Williams - Writing, Culture, Politics
By Alan O’Connor (Blackwell, 1989) offers an invaluable RW bibliography
Raymond Williams - A Warrior’s Tale
By Dai Smith (Parthian, 2008) has already established itself as a major biographical study