TVRA 4430W, Prof. Hashmi
October 24, 2018
Reading Response #1- Williams, "Traditions, Institutions, and Formations"
In this chapter about Marxist school of thought, Williams analyzes hegemony and breaks it down into three different parts, traditions, institutions, and formations, in order to better understand it. It is rather fascinating, because he contradicts the idea that hegemony is created by a dominate or a powerful social group.
Williams starts off with describing hegemony as, “a more or less adequate organization and interconnection of otherwise separated and even disparate meanings, value, practices, which it specifically incorporates in a significant culture and an effective social order” (pg. 115). Williams breaks down hegemony into three different parts; tradition is like the bigger umbrella that fosters institutions and formations. In the first Williams starts of with discussing “traditions”, he explains about how traditions have always been connected to the historical past, that is often used to justify the present that has been predisposed due to tradition. He argues on how in many hegemonies there are selective traditions; traditions that are the certain practices and meanings that are placed heavy importance and others that excluded or given less attention. He ties this into the area of institutions, from family, education, language, etc. In the topic of institutions, Williams discusses on how powerful they are in helping make connections of certain things or concepts to be either traditional, familiar, or to be alien, non-traditional, and disassociate things through the use of selective traditions. It helps to argue his point on how selective tradition is extremely powerful in creating cultural past and present, because it gives an explanation on how it functions and breaks it down to better know what Williams is talking about. The last section in this passage is focused on formation, which Williams defines to be, “conscious movements and tendencies (literary, artistic, philosophical or scientific) which can usually be readily discerned after their formative productions” (pg. 119). We close off this passage with the most present aspect of hegemony, because these actions, outcomes happen according to present situations, although they do play a big role in tradition and it’s influence on hegemony, it is also the most active and the most diverse aspect of it. Formations are not created only by traditions, it is created by different members of the society, institutions, etc. it helps hegemony to constantly be active it has the power to slowly change any selective tradition that has kept alive certain concepts and get rid of them.
To sum up this passage, we can understand Williams idea of hegemony to be broken into three different parts, that each in their own way are dynamic or are used to justify the idea of “selective tradition” that plays a big role on hegemony as we know it. This passage is very complex in the way that it constructs and ties all of these ideas and concepts into one. It focuses on arguing against the traditional Marxist belief of tradition being simply, a secondary factor that modifies other historical processes. For Williams, tradition is the key factor in which other aspects, parts and concepts of society are formed and understood. Because of how he structures his essay, it helps us to digest his argument. Williams uses the cause and affect method from the more historical aspect, traditions, to tie it into how institutions feed into it, and how formations feed into different institutions. It causes a kind of trickle-down affect that helps get his idea across because we can see how the bigger concepts of culture, can be challenged or become more widespread because of these different areas.