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[Xmca-l] Raymond Williams : Drama and Imagination
Mike I am following up your suggestion to start a thread exploring Drama and the Imagination that also brings Raymond Williams within this conversation.
I went to my bookshelf and returned to his book *Marxism and Literature* and turned to the section titled *The Sociology of Culture*
On pages 137 & 138 he is exploring the basic outlines of a Marxist cultural Sociology in its simplest outlines. The intent to study different types of institution and formation in cultural production and distribution and linking these within social material processes. Connected specifically to *modes* of production which is not reduced or limited to techniques and functions within a capital market economy. For Williams *modes of production* extends also to the active formation of audiences and readerships as examples of characteristic social relations. These characteristic formations occur within particular *forms* of cultural activity which are *expressed* [carried out].
Williams then cautions that within this general outline we do not reduce social relations and social content to these explicit and *manifest* GENERAL forms. To Marxist studies of *institutions* and *formations* it is crucial that we add studies of *forms*: For Williams the study of forms is NOT by way of illustration to explain institutions and formations, but rather forms as the most specific *entry into* certain kinds of formation. It is at this *juncture* that Williams turns to a very different sociological tradition – the sociology of *consciousness* which was a seminal element in the period of classical sociology.
This sociology of consciousness tradition is well represented within the Marxist tradition by the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School resisted the reduction of the sociology of consciousness TO the sociology of knowledge. Within the empirical positivist tradition there has been a further reduction from *knowledge* TO the sociology of the institutions of *organized* knowledge, where familiar a priori kinds of evidence, organized consciously within ideas and relationships is represented and made available.
Williams is critical of Marxist tendencies to *understand* consciousness as *knowledge* which he suggest may be primarily *determined* by positivism with a consequence of a weakening of understanding of the forms of art and literature.
In Williams words; “For consciousness is not only knowledge , just as language is not only indication and naming”
For Williams the forms are also *imagination*.
Williams then moves to the example of drama. Thus a sociology of drama is concerned with institutions [theatres] with formations [groups of dramatists, dramatical and theatrical movements], with formed relationships [audiences including the formation of audiences within theatres and within the wider social formation. However Williams goes beyond institutions, formations, and formed relationshipse to INCLUDE *forms* not only in their relation to world-views or structures of feeling, but including the more *active sense* of their performance or expression [social movements of speaking, moving, representing]. Forms relate to specific selection of issues, specific kinds of interpretation, and of course specifically produced content AS fundamentally important content. Williams says there are equally important other forms which are sometimes more fundamental social content that can also be found in the basic social means. [historically variable and always active forms [of language and movement and representation].
Williams states emphatically that the more *manifest* social elements can be *seen to depend* on these forms.
So we arrive at this sense of form as the foundation and that opens the question of how the forms are carried out through the processes of imagination.
I will pause at this point as I wanted to bring in Williams focusing on the relevance of *form* underlying, institutions and formations.
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