The Concept of Culture: A History and Reappraisal

Hammersley, Martyn (2019). The Concept of Culture: A History and Reappraisal. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.



While the term ‘culture’ has come to be very widely used in both popular and academic discourse, it has a variety of meanings, and the differences among these have not been given sufficient attention. This book explores these meanings, and examines some of the problems associated with them.

The development of four, very different, conceptions of culture is traced from the nineteenth century onwards: a notion of aesthetic cultivation often associated with the name of Matthew Arnold; the evolutionary view of culture characteristic of nineteenth-century anthropology; the idea of diverse cultures characteristic of twentieth and twenty-first century anthropology, but now used much more widely; and a conception of culture as a process of situated meaning-making – found today in some work across anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.

These conceptions of culture are interrogated, identifying fundamental problems. A reformulation of the concept is sketched, designed to serve the purposes of academic inquiry. There is also an examination of the role that values should play in cultural analysis.

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