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Extra resources for New Historicism and Cultural Materialism
This section of the book discusses the significance of Foucault and Williams for literature and history in general, and in particular as precursors of the emergence of new historicism and cultural materialism. Raymond Williams In retrospect, two critics dominate literary studies in 1950s Britain and to a large extent since then - Raymond Williams, who published Culture and Society 1780 to 1950 in 1958, and F. R. Leavis, who had made his mark on literary criticism since the 1930s, and who published The Great Tradition in 1948 and The Common Pursuit in 1952.
Lukacs posited the notion that although material circumstances determined the position of the proletariat, and although material circumstances also determined that capitalism would enter into a crisis which would provide the opportunity for change, there was no inevitability about the proletariat coming to a sudden consciousness of their historical destiny. The problem for Marxism was not one of economics but of consciousness and the ideological factors which exerted pressures on consciousness.
E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class is a classic example of this kind of work. Broadly speaking, Marxist thinkers have followed two different interpretations of this idea that, in Marx's words, 'the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its 24 The Turn to History ruling class' (Marx and Engels 1991, 50). g. capitalism, feudalism) determines the ruling mode of cultural production. According to this view, which tended to dominate the institutional Marxism which came to prominence in the USSR and China among other places, all ideas, beliefs, values and cultural forms belong to and shape the superstructure which is determined by the interests of the economic base.