It is significant to see that the conception of culture as a web of meanings/symbols related with but apart from “social structure”, with its specific and autonomous dynamics, formulated by Clifford Geertz but reverberating the “division of labor” among social sciences set forth by T. Parsons, is still generally accepted among scholars including those with postmodernist propensities
We may state that, Geertz’ inheritance to his successors has two implications:
1) That culture is a “thing” related to the domain of mentalities/meanings/ symbols; and,
2) That since each and every culture consists of a web of meanings/symbols shared by the members of a particular society and only by them; any approach to culture can only be relativistic.
In this respect, Eagleton (2000) in an important work in which he traces the historical track of the idea of culture draws our attention to the contiguousness of the original meaning of the concept to nature and labor processes. The concept of culture, deriving from the Latin verb colere which has various significations diverging “from agricultural development to dwelling, from worshiping to protecting” is intrinsic to nature “which itself produces the means of its own transcendence” or, to put it more correctly, to the transformation of nature through human agency. “If nature is in a sense always cultural, the cultures consist of their constant interaction with nature, or, more precisely, of what we call labor,” says Eagleton (2005: 11)
 while drawing our attention that the concept, once “signifying a totally materialistic process, has at some time “shifted to spiritualistic issues”. And the concept of culture, “in Marxist terms, gathers the super and substructure under the framework of a single concept.” (p. 10)
Yes, culture is shaped through the activities of man -himself a natural species- on nature, to be able to subsist. These activities necessitate that human beings relate to each other, to cohabit, to communicate, to organize, to see that these organizations are stable, to hand on knowledge and experience to forthcoming generations… In other words, human beings “socialize” while providing for their natural needs; transform themselves from a herd to a society. What transforms human groups from herds to societies is precisely culture.
This brief evocation leads us to assert that to isolate the human activities that transform nature from human reflections, beliefs, imaginations, frames of signification, “webs of meaning”, symbol systems, etc. or to isolate culture from the society, though it may seem to provide analytic convenience, is an endeavor which complicates things. Any attempt at analysis which ignores the relations between human praxis and imagination (praxis generates imagination and is shaped by imagination) is not only incomplete, but also illusory.
Linked by purchase and persuasion to dominant ruling-class interests, such social institutions are regularly misrepresented as politically neutral, especially by those who occupy command positions within them or are otherwise advantaged by them. What Gramsci said about the military might apply to most other institutions in capitalist society: their ‘so-called neutrality only means support for the reactionary side.’”
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A shortcut definition for “revolution” is the meeting of the (subjective) will of an (organized) group who knows what they want and the (objective) discontent of the masses who know what they do not want. Hence revolution is the product of objective conditions as well as subjective will, or a dialectics of objectivity-subjectivity. The non-convergence of discontent and the will to change, or the insufficiency of one or both parts may lead to counter-revolutionary conditions.
Yes every revolution, in order to be able to perpetuate, has to be, at the same time, a “cultural revolution” – in the sense of transforming the frames of reference through which the masses interpret actuality. But the deed of “transforming the frames of reference through which actuality is interpreted”, when imposed on the society through coercive measures, incites a strong and persistent reaction – as exemplified by the Kemalist reforms in Turkey. Radical and coercive interventions to cultural domain facilitate the presentation of those who intervene as autocrats, “alien” and “external”.
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To resume, I may state that,
· Culture is not a
· That culture encompasses not only the actuality but also the historical, in other words, its consisting of the sediments of social praxis, renders it a source of legitimization from which different social sectors/classes derive support for their political agenda.
· In other words, its “legitimizing” power renders it a critical resource both for the interventions of the opressors/exploiters to perpetuate the status quo and for the actual and long-term transformative struggles of the oppressed and the exploited.
· But what has been said up to now should not lead to the conclusion that culture is a “derivative” (or a “by-product”) open to arbitrary (or mechanistic) interferences and rough interventions. The transformation of culture is the process of “reinterpretation” of the “things” that consist the cultural repertoire (i.e. ideas, values, styles, modalities, frames, ways, propensities…) And this is a process which necessitates the participation of the bearers/transferes of a culture, and especially of the most “subaltern”, the most oppressed and exploited among them…
Eagleton, Terry (2000). The Idea of Culture. Verso.
- (2005). Kültür YorumlarÄ±. Ä°stanbul: AyrÄ±ntÄ± YayÄ±nlarÄ±.
Parenti, M. (1999). “Reflections on the Politics of Culture”, Monthly Review, vol. 50, no. 9.
 The citations are rough translations from the Turkish translation of Eagleton’s The Idea of Culture (2000).
 Borkluce Mustafa is a disciple of Sheikh Bedreddin, a heterodox religious leader who had propagated communalistic ideas in the late 14th and early 15th centuries within Otoman territories. Borkluce led a popular/peasant revolt against Otoman rule with egalitarian and emancipatory demands. The revolt was violently repressed, but the event has left a permanent stamp on the popular conscioussness, inspiring generations of Alevites and later, young social rebels of the 1970’s.