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His headline-grabbing bestseller opened up a whole new area of cultural study and remains essential reading, both as a historical document, and as a commentary on class, poverty and the media.
A searing account of George Orwell's observations of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire in the 1930s, The Road to Wigan Pier is a brilliant and bitter polemic that has lost none of its political impact over time. His graphically unforgettable descriptions of social injustice, cramped slum housing, dangerous mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unemployment are written with unblinking honesty, fury and great humanity. It crystallized the ideas that would be found in Orwell's later works and novels, and remains a powerful portrait of poverty, injustice and class divisions in Britain.
Published with an introduction by Richard Hoggart in Penguin Modern Classics.
'It is easy to see why the book created and still creates so sharp an impact ... exceptional immediacy, freshness and vigour, opinionated and bold ... Above all, it is a study of poverty and, behind that, of the strength of class-divisions'
Richard Hoggart was born in Leeds and educated at Leeds University. As Professor of Modern English Literature at Birmingham University, he founded the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. For five years he was assistant Director of Unesco at its headquarters in Paris, where he and his wife still live. Until 1984 he was Warden of Goldsmith's College, University of London. His many works range from The Uses of Literacy, Speaking to Each Other, An English Temper, to An Idea of Europe (with Douglas Johnson). His recent work includes the highly acclaimed autobiographical trilogy A Local Habitation, A Sort of Clowning, and An Imagined Life, and the inimitable study of modern provincial life, Townscape with Figures: Farnham - Portrait of an English Town.