Raymond Williams

Welsh scholar, author, and Marxist literary critic

Raymond Henry Williams (31 August 192126 January 1988) was a Welsh socialist academic, novelist and critic. He was Professor of Drama at the University of Cambridge (1974–1983).

Raymond Williams At Saffron Walden (1980s)


  • If from poetry we expect a succession of signals for the release of miscellaneous private emotion we are likely to find Tears, Idle Tears valuable.
    • Reading and Criticism (1950)
  • We all like to think of ourselves as a standard, and I can see that it is genuinely difficult for the English middle class to suppose that the working class is not desperately anxious to become just like itself. I am afraid this must be unlearned.
    • Culture and Society (1958)
  • Shaw's association with Fabianism is of great importance, for it marks the confluence of two traditions which had been formerly separate and even opposed. Fabianism, in the orthodox person of Sidney Webb, is the direct inheritor of the spirit of John Stuart Mill; that is to say, of an utilitarianism refined by experience of a new situation in history. Shaw, on the other hand, is the direct successor of the spirit of Carlyle and of Ruskin, but he did not go the way of his elder successor, William Morris.
    • Culture and Society (1958) p. 181
  • The shaping influence of economic change can of course be distinguished, as most notably in the period with which this book is concerned. But the difficulty lies in estimating the final importance of a factor which never, in practice, appears in isolation.
    • Culture and Society (1958) p. 280
  • My own view is that if, in a socialist society, the basic cultural skills are made widely available, and the channels of communication widened and cleared, as much as possible has been done in the way of preparation, and what then emerges will be an actual response to the whole reality, and so valuable.
    • Culture and Society (1958) p. 283
  • Every aspect of personal life is radically affected by the quality of general life, and yet the general life is seen at its most important in completely personal terms.
    • Realism and the Contemporary Novel (1961): The Long Revolution
  • The gap between our feelings and our social observation is dangerously wide.
    • Realism and the Contemporary Novel (1961): The Long Revolution
  • Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language.
    • Keywords (1983)
  • It is then in making hope practical, rather than despair convincing, that we must resume and change and extend our campaigns.
    • "The Politics of Nuclear Disarmament" (1980), in Resources of Hope p. 188 (1989).
  • It is as if a really secure nationalism, already in possession of its nation-state, can fail to see itself as 'nationalist' at all. Its own distinctive bonding is perceived as natural and obvious by contrast with the mere projections of any nationalism which is still in active progress and thus incomplete. At this point radicals and minority nationalists emphasize the artificialities of the settled 'common sense' nation-state and to their own satisfaction shoot them to pieces from history and from social theory.
    • Who Speaks For Wales?: Nation, Culture, Identity (published posthumously in 2003), p. 193
  • Real independence is a time of new and active creation: people sure enough of themselves to discard their baggage; knowing the past is past, as shaping history, but with a new confident sense of the present and the future, where the decisive meanings and values will be made.
    • (1975)
  • There has never been a time, until the last fifty years, when a majority of any population had regular and constant access to drama, and used this access. . . . It seems probable that in societies like Britain and the United States more drama is watched in a week or weekend, by the majority of viewers, than would have been watched in a year or in some cases a lifetime in any previous historical period. It is clearly one of the unique characteristics of advanced industrial societies that drama as an experience is now an intrinsic part of everyday life, at a quantitative level which is so very much greater than any precedent as to seem a fundamental qualitative change. Whatever the social and cultural reasons may finally be, it is clear that watching dramatic simulation of a wide range of experiences is now an essential part of our modern cultural pattern.
    • Television: Technology and Cultural Form

Quotes about Raymond Williams

  • The most advanced socialist thought in England is Raymond Williams’ superbly intricate and persuasive work... Any English Marxism will have to measure itself against this landmark in our social thought.
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