I thought I’d go with a quote from Richard Hoggart this month to accompany the International Journal of Cultural Studies’ special issue titled “The Uses of Richard Hoggart” (Volume 10, Number 1, March 2007). The idea for this issue grew out of a conference last April in Sheffield to inaugurate the Hoggart Archive at the University of Sheffield which has acquired 82 boxes of his papers. Hoggart is credited as the founder of cultural studies in the UK. Our April Commquote is from his groundbreaking The Uses of Literacy (which Suart Hall calls “one of Cultural Studies’ three founding texts”). In it Hoggart locates popular culture within his readers’(British working class) lives by exploring their customs, relations and attitudes.
There is, after all, an inherent danger of exaggeration in essays of this kind. There is danger of gradually becoming remote from our everyday sense of the endless variety and complexity of human nature. In this particular instance, as I noted at the very beginning, there is a danger of failing sufficiently to allow for the migrations of older influences, of ignoring the less admirable aspects of the ‘older’ attitudes and the more admirable of the new. As we study popular publications we insensibly intend to give them, so great is their mere bulk, a larger prominence in the whole pattern of people’s experience than, in fact, they have. In the areas in which they have their most intensive effect, that effect can be harmful: over some wider aspects of experience, they may have some adverse effect too; but there the effect is quite slowly felt, is checked and neutralized again and again by other forces. People are not living lives which are imaginatively poor as a mere reading of their literature would suggest. We know this, simply from day-to-day experience. Most contemporary popular entertainment encourages an effete attitude to life, but still much of life has little direct connection with it. There are wars and fears of war; there is the world of work, of the relations, the loyalties and tensions there; there are the duties of home and the management of money; there are neighborhood ties and demands; there are illness and fatigue and birth and death; there is all the world of local recreation. That is why I tried much earlier to describe the quality of ordinary working-class life, so that the closer analysis of publications might be set into a landscape of solid earth and rock and water.
—Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy (1957)