As Raymond Williams has described, it was the impact of industry and democracy in the nineteenth century which gave rise to a conception of culture as something separate from and “above” society. The ideas “culture in opposition” variously expressed by such members of the Victorian intelligentsia as Arnold, Morris, and Ruskin, were formed through their practical criticism of the social realities of their day. By degrees, however, the notion of culture as a repository of ideal values became a means not of criticizing the world, but of evading it. (3)

Victor Burgin, “Modernism in the Work of Art” (1976) from The End of Art Theory (1986)

Hostility to the word culture in English appears to date from the controversy around Arnold’s views. It gathered force in lC19 and eC20 in association with a comparable hostility to aesthete and AESTHETIC (q.v). Its association with class distinction produced the mime-word culcha.

. . . It is interesting that the steadily extending social and anthropological use of culture and cultural and such formations as sub-culture (the culture of a distinguishable smaller group), either bypassed or effectively diminished the hostility and its associated unease and embarrassment. The recent use of culturalism, to indicate a methodological contrast with structuralism in social analysis, retains many of the earlier difficulties, and does not always bypass the hostility. (92-93)

Raymond Williams, Keywords (1976, 1983)


Through the sacrifice of its possible relation to praxis, the cultural concept itself becomes an instance of organization; that which is so provokingly useless in culture is transformed into tolerated negativity or even into something negatively useful—into a lubricant for the system, into something which exists for something else, into untruth, or into goods of the culture industry calculated for the consumer. All this is registered today in the uncomfortable relation between culture and administration. (117)

Theodor Adorno “Culture and Administration” (1978) The Culture Industry (1991)