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When a society becomes more affluent, does it lose other values? Are the skills that education and literacy gave millions wasted on consuming pop culture? Do the media coerce us into a world of the superficial and the material - or can they be a force for good?
When Richard Hoggart asked these questions in his 1957 book The Uses of Literacy Britain was undergoing huge social change, yet his landmark work has lost none of its pertinence and power today. Hoggart gives a fascinating insight into the close-knit values of Northern England's vanishing working-class communities, and weaves this together with his views on the arrival of a new, homogenous 'mass' US-influenced culture. His headline-grabbing bestseller opened up a whole new area of cultural study and remains essential reading, both as a historical document, and as a commentary on class, poverty and the media.
Richard Hoggart was born in Leeds in 1918. He served with the Royal Artillery in North Africa from 1940 to 1946, after which he taught literature at the University of Hull, was visiting professor of English at the University of Rochester in America and senior lecturer in English at the University of Leicester. Professor Hoggart has been a member of numerous bodies and at different times was an Assistant Director-General of UNESCO, Chairman of the New Statesman and Vice-Chairman of the Arts Council.
The Uses of Literacy, his most widely acclaimed work was partly autobiographical and drawn from his own boyhood growing up in the North of England.