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Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and…
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Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society

by Raymond Williams

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725220,616 (3.95)2
Now revised to include new words and updated essays, Keywords focuses on the sociology of language, demonstrating how the key words we use to understand our society take on new meanings and how these changes reflect the political bent and values of society.

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Say "aesthetician", not "aesthete"; or, don't appreciate the AESTHETIC in an aesthetic way! Civilization is ALIENATION. Mutualism?Federalism? Anti-authoritarianism? No! ANARCHISM! ANTHROPOLOGY:The study of the connection between the body and the soul. It may not have been the freshest piece of information in the article on ART, but it was nice for me to finally learn what disciplines are included in the Trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy). BEHAVIOUR really used to be be+have--"he behad himself well". There was a 17th/18th-century vogue for "citizen" and even "cit" in the same disparaging sense for which we use BOURGEOIS today--"what a cit". There is a subsumed strain where BUREAUCRACY is the positive, and "civil service"--Zivildienst--the negative term, with "service" indicating non-impartiality. CAPITALISM, however, was negative right from the beginning--the useless money men, the middlemen. Here's something mindblowing--how would our society and our sense of what we owe each other, be different if we had translated agape as "love" and not CHARITY,later to become "cold charity"? And "collectivism" used to be used in a sense of socialism from below, from the COLLECTIVE, as opposed to state socialism. Oh, and private soldiers used to be called COMMON soldiers, up till the English Civil War--what an unfortunate world of social change is there. Also, COMMUNIST comes from communionist! And COMMUNITY has had basically a 100% positive meaning throughout its career, which we are led to understand is unusual. Also, big ups to CREATIVE art, leaving representative art in the dust since 1792.


And more, and more, and some even better (cf. e.g. IDEOLOGY, RADICAL, SOCIALIST, reflecting Williams's exemplary politics), if I had been in front of the comp for all of 'em, if I had but world enough and time. These essays don't always have THAT much on simply reading the OED, but I pulled this book out for two separate arguments in my Eagleton reading group the other day, and that counts for something. ( )
  MeditationesMartini | Nov 10, 2009 |
Good, if dated, historical view of language change surrounding social constructivist/critical paradigms ( )
  iceT | May 17, 2009 |
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