Popular culture is as debated as it is pervasive. It is pervasive in that the symbolic worlds in which we live and out of which we construct sense are, in many different ways, understood as and within popular culture. It is debated in that it has often been polarized as a negative or positive counterpart to other dimensions of cultural activity.
Volume One establishes the historical dimension necessary for the study of popular culture, showing how popular culture has developed over the past two centuries in the West, and how it has operated as a site of aesthetic debate and contestation as well as of communal pleasure and social interaction. The second and third volumes are devoted to the different theoretical perspectives and analytical approaches to popular culture. These have mainly developed since the late-nineteenth century, though pioneering discussion from this time has recently become sidelined. Along with some examples of such early discussion, the volumes feature contributions from the 'culture and civilization' tradition, the Frankfurt school, Chicago sociology, western Marxism, early cultural studies (rejecting the term 'culturalism'), structuralist and poststructuralist approaches, folkloristics, feminism and men's studies, postmodernism and postcolonial studies. The final volume concentrates on the questions and issues involved in the aesthetics and ethics of popular culture and their relation to the quality of public life. Volume Four specifically includes articles that deal with issues in popular culture studies that remain ongoing and in dynamic movement, or are in various ways contentious and unresolved.
Volume One: Historical Perspectives on Popular CultureVolume Two: Theoretical Approaches Volume Three: Theoretical ParadigmsVolume Four: Aesthetics, Ethics and Cultural Politics