The Culture and Civilisation Tradition (C&CT)

This was the first attempt to try and understand the impact of the media and popular culture. New forms of produced culture were associated with industrialisation and urbanisation. It dominated the debate about the media and popular culture until the 1950s.

Culture, or at least high culture, is defined in reference to poetry, classical music, ballet, opera, or literature. Everything else was judged against this. Culture embodies absolute values that transcend time and place. Society at its most refined and pure to inspire, improve and deepen the human experience.

Popular culture was mass produced for a mass market. Considered superficial and shallow. It provides immediate gratification and diversion. But at its worse, it is morally corrupting. Is popular culture anarchy? The media sells ideas for its creators own means.

Society was divided into small cultivated elite capable of appreciating high culture and the poorly educated majority who are not. The elite minority’s role was to maintain the standards of high culture, pass them onto the next generation and keep the barbaric culture of the masses at bay and rule.



  • period of social and economic change
  • transformed an agrarian society into an industrial one
  • altered historical class relationships
  • brought into being new classes centred around manufacturing
  • undermined traditional bonds that had existed (bonds based on mutual obligation and knowing ones status and place)
  • created a population that was rootless, unstable and alienated.


  • massive shift of population from countryside to city
  • population of London doubled between 1800 and 1840
  • doubled again between 1840 and 1880
  • there was a physical separation of the classes
  • whole sections of cities populated by the working class
  • squalor and severe over crowding
  • erosion of economic, political and cultural power
  • potential power of the new working class

Political Context

  • period of ruling class/elite anxiety
  • fear of radicalism
  • french revolution
  • publication of the Communist Manifesto 1848
  • repression and political agitation and strikes in Britain: 1867 Reform Act gave working classes the vote
  • fascism, communism (1917), 1926 general strike.
Notes are from year 2 semester 2 lectures. The image is from:

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