E.P. Thompson, , Penguin Books, 1991.  

"Introduction: Custom and Culture" 引言:风俗与文化 pp.14-15

If I were to nominate those components of the bundle which makes up "popular culture" which most require attention today, these would include "needs" and "expectations."  The industrial revolution and accompanying demographic revolution were the backgrounds to the greatest transformation in history, in revolutionising "needs" and in destroying the authority of customary expectations.  This is what most demarks the "pre-industrial" or the "traditional" from the modern world.  Successive generations no longer stand in an apprentice relation to each other.  If we need a utilitarian apologia for our historical enquiry into custom - but I think we do not - it might be found in the fact that this transformation, this remodeling of "need" and this raising of the threshold of material expectations (along with the devaluation of traditional cultural satisfactions) continues with irreversible pressure today, accelerated everywhere by universally available means of communication.  The pressures are now felt among one billion Chinese, as well as countless millions in Asian and African villages.


It is not simple to discuss these problems from our comfortable perspective to the "North" of the global divide. ... Yet we know also that global expectations are rising like Noah's flood, and that the readiness of the human species to define its needs and satisfactions in material market terms - and to throw all the globe's resources onto the market - may threaten the species itself (both South and North) with ecological catastrophe.  The engineer of this catastrophe will be economic man, whether in classically avaricious capitalist form or in the form of the rebellious economic man of the orthodox Marxist tradition.


As capitalism (or "the market") made over human nature and human need, so political economy and its revolutionary antagonist came to suppose that this economic man was for all time.  We stand at the end of a century when this must now be called in doubt.  We shall not ever return to pre-capitalist human nature, yet a reminder of its alternative needs, expectations and codes may renew our sense of our nature's range of possibilities.  Could it even prepare us for a time when both capitalist and state communist needs and expectations may decompose, and human nature may be made over in a new form?   This is, perhaps, to whistle into a typhoon.  It is to invoke the rediscovery, in new forms, of a new kind of "customary consciousness", in which once again successive generations stand in apprentice relation to each other, in which material satisfactions remain stable (if more equally distributed) and only cultural satisfactions enlarge, and in which expectations level out into a customary steady state.  I do not think that this is likely to happen.  But I hope that the studies in this book may illuminate how custom is formed and how complex is its operation.


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