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What is the importance of cultural theories?

Marxism as a Cultural Theory

‘’Culture is a material force tied into the socially organized production of the conditions of human existence and refers to the forms assumed by social existence under determinate historical conditions’’.

The dictionary of cultural studies ‘’ by Chris Barker.

  • The idea is expressed in the metaphor of the base and superstructure.
  • Organizations of economic mode of production.
  • Marxism society=a society based in cultural Materialism.
  • Base is media (the means of production, distribution and exchange).
  • Superstructure is ideology.

Criticism on Marxism society:

  • The inequalities generated by capitalist structures of society.
  • The vast majority of individuals cannot be free.
  • Under the slogan of bringing up a classless society, in fact it promotes class based society on larger structures.
  • Cultural studies on a more radical and marginalized project.
  • Base=economy /media.
  • Superstructure=culture/ideology.
  • The relationship of economy and culture.
  • Cultural superstructure is shaped by economic base.

Liberalism as Cultural Theory

  • Liberalism is founded on the work of John Locke and J.S Mill.
  • Liberalism involves consideration of the principles of individual freedom of action and an equality of rights.
  • Liberalism as a cultural philosophy deals with the balancing act between individual freedom and reduction of suffering through community action.
  • For liberals, a better culture is often taken to be one that cultivates individuality and individual freedom provided that this does not violate the freedom and rights of others.
  • Liberalism is connected to the nation of cultural pluralism, diversity and justice.
  • Liberalism as to find ways for human beings to be freer, less cruel, more leisured and richer in goods and experience while trying to maximize people’s opportunities to live their lives as they see fit.
  • It is entirely acceptable to liberals those aspects of our societies and cultures that restrict freedom and cause suffering. As such, cultural studies could be understood as a critical wing of liberal societies drawing attention to the continuation of suffering without rejection

Hegemony as Cultural Theory

  • The term was coined by Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci in 1930s.
  • Hegemony is the power of the ruling class to convince other classes that their interests are the interest of all. As inclusive power over the economy, education and the media.
  • The success of imperial power over colonized people and the success of Bourgeoisie class in the Marxist society.

In cultural studies:

  • Hegemony is seen as having influence over culture. The interpellation of the colonized subject by imperial discourse so that Euro-centric values, assumptions, beliefs and attitudes are accepted as matter of course as the most natural or valuable.


Western civilizations to Indians:

  • Gramscian’s concept proved to be long-lasting significance within cultural studies because of the central importance given to popular culture as a site of ideological struggle.

 Capitalism as Cultural Theory

  • The exploitation of one social class by another social class.
  • Class conflict is the marker of capitalism:


Bourgeoisie : A master class.Proletariat A working class. Who sell their labor for service  
  • Capitalism aims to make a profit and does so by extracting value from workers:

The value of the Labor taken to produce goods, which become the property of the Bourgeoisie.

For Marx, it is great in its merit in relation to Feudalism.

Capitalism is the driving force of a renewed globalization.

Bourgeoisie: Transnational corporations Multinational corporationsWorld organization  Proletariat : Under developed 3rd world countries.

Important terms used in capitalism:


  • A commodity is something available to be sold in the market place.


                              The process associated with capitalism by which all spheres of a culture are increasingly put under the sway of the market.

Commodity feudalism:

                                        The process through which the surface appearance of goods sold in the market place.


  • Capitalist social culture is just like the feudal social culture at local level.
  • The imposition of high culture or popular culture.
  • The rejection or negation of the indigenous low culture.
  • The kind of practice was seen in the colonized world.

Structuralism as Cultural Theory

  • An intellectual movement, launched in France by Levi Strauss and Roland Barthes.
  • Things cannot be understood in isolation, but have to be seen in the context of larger structures. Or meaning lies in the context.
  • Meaning are not inside the things meanings are always attributed.
  • Structuralism is concerned with how cultural meaning is generated and understand culture to be structured like language.
  • The metaphor of langue and parole.
  • Langue means language.
  • Parole means the understanding, specific use and utterance of language.
  • Structuralism understands culture to be an expression of the deep structures of language that lie outside of the intention of individuals.
  • Whatever culture gives a meaning to something becomes a structure.

Semiotics as Cultural Theory

  • Semiotics is the study of sign process. It includes the study of signs and processes, indications, designation, likeness, analogy, allegory, metonymy, symbolism, signification and communication.
  • Semiology is the subset of semiotics.


  • The object/thing


  • The physical existence
  • The meaning are arbitrary, constitutional and relational.

Post structuralism as Cultural Theory

  • Meaning neither lies in a book nor in writer’s mind.
  • Meaning lies in the mind of the reader.
  • The death of the author is the birth of the reader.
  • Deconstructionist practice=textual harassment or oppositional reading.


  • A French term coined by Derrida.
  • Difference means difference and deferral.


  • The production of meaning in the process of significance is continually differed and supplemented as the chain of signifiers.


  • In cultural studies, the cultural values are differed and supplemented as the chain of signifiers across cultures.
  • Post-structuralism rejects the ideas of stable structure of binary pairs.
  • There is no original meaning circulating outside of representation.
  • Everything is decentered.

Cultural imperialism as Cultural Theory

  • Cultural imperialism is said to involve the domination of one culture by another and is usually thought of as a set of process involving the ascendancy of one nation or global domination of consumer capitalism.
  • 3 central difficulties in cultural imperialism:
  • The global flows of cultural discourses are constituted as one way traffic.
  • The predominant flow of cultural discourse remains from west to east and north to south.
  • It is not clear that current period of globalization represents a simple process of hegemonization since the forces of fragmentation and hybridity are equally as strong.                                           
  • The waves of economic, military and cultural globalization were part of the dynamic spread of western originated capitalist modernity.
  • The process of globalization.
  • The interrogation of other.
  • Colonial control manifested itself as military control.
  • Cultural ascendancy.
  • The origins of economic dependency.

Cultural materialism as Cultural Theory

  • The idea that the meanings and representations that we designate as culture are generated through material process under particular and social circumstances.
  • Cultural materialism is concerned to explore the questions of how and why meanings are inscribed at the moment of production.
  • Cultural practices and political economy.
  • Raymond Williams, ‘’cultural materialism is, to involve the analysis of all forms of signification within the actual means and conditions of their production.


  • Here culture is a corporeal force tied into the socially organized production of the material conditions of the existence and refers to the forms assumed by social existence under determined historical conditions.
  • The material base is said to shape the parameters of cultural superstructure of ideas, politics, arts and so forth.

Circuit of culture:

  • The ideas of a circuit of culture has developed from the debates about cultural materialism and the relationship between economy and culture.
  • The metaphor ‘circuit of culture’.

 Post-modernism as Cultural Theory

A late 20th century movement characterized by:

  • Broad skepticism
  • Subjectivism
  • Relativism
  • A general suspicion of reason
  • An acute sensitivity to ideology
  • The objective natural reality, according to post-modernists, is a conceptual construct as an artifact of language.
  • The descriptive and explanatory statements of historians can be objectively true or false.
  • There is no such thing as truth and the rejection of an objective natural reality.
  • Modernist thinkers believes that the human civilization will be better in future with the help of science and technology. Post-modernist thinkers deny this enlightenment faith in science and technology.
  • For modernists, reason and logic are merely conceptual constructs and are valid only within the establishment intellectual traditions in which they are used.
  • Post-modernists insist that all aspects of human psychology are completely socially determined.
  • Language refers to and represents a reality outside itself. According to post-modernists, language is not such a ‘’mirror of nature’’ meaning neither lies in the book, nor in the writers mind.
  • Human beings can acquire knowledge about natural reality and this knowledge can be justified on the basis of evidence.
  • Point of view: nature as a philosophical foundation for research.
  • For modernists, the negation of such type of foundation in nature.
  • Examples:
  • 17th century French philosopher Rene Descartes, dictum.
  • ‘’I think, therefore I am’’.
  • The prevailing discourse in any society reflects the interests and values of dominant or elite groups.
  • There is no universal truth or objective truth according to relativism; rather each point of view has its own truth.
  • Cultural relativism is the idea that a person’s beliefs and practices should be understood based on that person’s own culture, rather than be judged against the criteria of another.


The doctrine that knowledge, truth and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or history context and are not absolute.

Post-modern culture:

  • The term describes a range of activities events, and perspectives relating to art, architecture, the humanities and the social science in later half of 20th century.
  • Post-modern culture is characterized by the valuing of activities, events and perspectives that emphasize the particular over global or the fragment over the whole.
  • The individual over the society.

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