Raymond Williams: ‘Dominant, Residual, and Emergent’

  • K. M. Newton


The complexity of a culture is to be found not only in its variable processes and their social definitions — traditions, institutions, and formations — but also in the dynamic interrelations, at every point in the process, of historically varied and variable elements. In what I have called ‘epochal’ analysis, a cultural process is seized as a cultural system, with determinate dominant features: feudal culture or bourgeois culture or a transition from one to the other. This emphasis on dominant and definitive lineaments and features is important and often, in practice, effective. But it then often happens that its methodology is preserved for the very different function of historical analysis, in which a sense of movement within what is ordinarily abstracted as a system is crucially necessary, especially if it is to connect with the future as well as with the past. In authentic historical analysis it is necessary at every point to recognize the complex interrelations between movements and tendencies both within and beyond a specific and effective dominance. It is necessary to examine how these relate to the whole cultural process rather than only to the selected and abstracted dominant system. Thus ‘bourgeois culture’ is a significant generalizing description and hypothesis, expressed within epochal analysis by fundamental comparisons with ‘feudal culture’ or ‘socialist culture’.


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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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  • K. M. Newton

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