The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018
Cultural materialism: An approach to the analysis and understanding of culture developed by Marxist critic Raymond Williams in works such as Culture and Society (1958) and Marxism and Literature (1977) and grounded in the belief that economic forces and modes of production inevitably affect cultures and cultural products, such as literature. Cultural materialists argue that literary texts perform a “subversive” or otherwise politically charged function — not only in their own historical eras but also in subsequent epochs, when they take on different meanings and become the sites of new kinds of debate. This view of literature as persistently subversive is in keeping with the broader interest of most cultural materialists in transforming the existing sociopolitical order, which they tend to view as being exploitative along the lines of class, gender, and race. A number of British and American new historicist and cultural critics have borrowed the terminology of cultural materialists as a means of relating their descriptions of the past to the politics of present-day discourses and institutions.