Chapter 1: Cultural Analysis

Cultural studies rose in the West as secularization increased. In the first phase of cultural studies, culture was seen as something high, something that primitive people progressed towards. Even in civilized countries, lower classes could become cultured if the right steps were taken. Culture was taken to be the best of human achievement and thought, and social civilization the pinnacle of human accomplishment. Romanticism identified the arts as that which could liberate people from the evils of industrialization. Some looked back at pre-urbanization and saw a more humane way of living in rural, agrarian lifestyles. The second phase of studying culture examined the interrelationships of components in a society, particularly in regards to the exercise of power. Marxism has been highly influential in these analyses. Marx saw class struggle as the driving force of human history and experience. As the Marxist dialectic proceeded, it was supposed to result in a classless society. Nietzsche argued that there is only perspective, not truth, and that people exert their will to power, using “truth” as a tool. The use of truth concepts as tools of power was explored by Foucault and others. Liberation theologians, feminists, and far, far more continue to look at culture in terms of divisions and power struggles. The third phase overlaps the first and second. Some thinkers began to identify culture with customs. Rather than perceiving culture to be something high and advanced, culture was seen to be plural and relative. There are many profound insights in the work of those who study culture, and many points that corroborate biblical principles. Secular analyses fail, however, to fully reflect the truth about culture and the human experience that the Bible presents.