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part of a socialist and working-class-oriented project

that assumed that the industrial working

class was a force for progressive social change

and that it could be mobilized and organized to

struggle against the inequalities of the existing

capitalist societies and for a more egalitarian

socialist one. Williams and Hoggart were deeply

involved in projects of working-class education

and oriented towards socialist working-class politics,

seeing their form of cultural studies as a progressive

instrument for change.

The early critiques in the first wave of British

cultural studies of Americanism and media culture

in Hoggart, Williams, and others, during the

late 1950s and early 1960s, thus paralleled to some

extent the earlier critique of the Frankfurt School,

yet valorized a working class that the Frankfurt

School saw as defeated in Germany and much of

Europe during the era of fascism, and which they

never saw as a strong resource for emancipatory

social change. The 1960s work of the Birmingham

Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies was continuous

with the radicalism of the first wave of

British cultural studies (the Hoggart–Thompson–

Williams “culture and society” tradition) as well

as, in important ways, with the Frankfurt School.

Yet the Birmingham project also eventually paved

the way for a postmodern populist turn in

cultural studies.

During this period, the Centre developed a variety

of critical approaches for the analysis, interpretation,

and criticism of cultural artifacts.

Through a set of internal debates, and responding

to social struggles and movements of the 1960s

and the 1970s, the Birmingham group came to

focus on the interplay of representations and

ideologies of social class, gender, race and ethnicity,

and nationality in mass culture and communication.

The Birmingham scholars were among

the first to study the effects of newspapers, radio,

television, film, and other popular cultural forms

on audiences. They also focused on how various

audiences interpreted and used media culture in

different ways and contexts, analyzing the factors

that made audiences respond in contrasting ways

to media texts.

Like the Frankfurt School, British cultural studies

observed the integration of the working class

and the decline of its revolutionary consciousness,

and studied the conditions of this catastrophe for

the Marxian project of revolution. Like the Frankfurt

School, British cultural studies concluded

that mass culture was playing an important role

in integrating the working class into existing capitalist

societies and that emergent consumer and

media culture was forming a new mode of capitalist

hegemony. But John Fiske in Understanding

Popular Culture (1989) and other writings attacked

the concepts of mass society and mass culture

which were said to be overly homogenized and

mass media and communications mass media and communications


monolithic, neutralizing cultural contradictions

and dissolving oppositional groups and practices

into a neutral concept of “the masses” which

many in the British cultural studies tradition

found overly contemptuous and elitist.

Both traditions, though, see culture as a form of

resistance to capitalist society, and both the earlier

forerunners of British cultural studies, especially

Williams, and the theorists of the Frankfurt School

see high culture as forces of resistance to capitalist

modernity. Later, British cultural studies would valorize

resistant moments in media culture, and

audience interpretations and use of media artifacts,

while the Frankfurt School tended, with

some exceptions, to see mass culture as a homogeneous

and potent form of ideological domination --

a difference that would seriously divide the two


Negative depictions of the media and consumerism,

youth hedonism, excessive materialism, and

growing violence were contested by British cultural

studies which claimed that the media were

being scapegoated for a wide range of social problems.

In Policing the Crisis (Hall et al., 1978), Stuart

Hall and colleagues at the Birmingham Centre

analyzed what they took to be a media-induced

moral panic about mugging and youth violence.

The Birmingham group argued for an active audience

that was able to dissect critically and make

use of media material, arguing against the media

manipulation perspective. Rooted in a classic article

by Hallen titled “Encoding/Decoding” (1980),

British cultural studies began studying how different

groups read television news, magazines, engaged

in consumption, and made use of a broad

range of media. In Everyday Television: Nationwide,

Charlotte Brunsdon and David Morley (1978) studied

how different audiences consumed TV news,

and Fiske wrote a series of books celebrating the

active audience and consumer in a wide range of

domains throughout the world.

Yet critics working within British cultural studies,

individuals in a wide range of social movements,

and academics from a variety of fields and

positions began criticizing the media from the

1960s to the present for promoting sexism, racism,

homophobia, and other oppressive social phenomena.

There was intense focus on the politics of

representation, discriminating between negative

and positive representations of major social groups

and harmful and beneficial media effects, debates

that coalesced under the rubric of the politics of


The groundbreaking work of critical media theorists

like the Frankfurt School, British cultural

studies, and French structuralism and poststructuralism

revealed that media culture is a social

construct, intrinsically linked to the vicissitudes

of the social and historically specific milieu in

which it is conceived and that gender, race, class,

sexuality, and other dimensions of social life are

socially constructed in media representations.

Media and cultural studies engaged in critical

interrogations of the politics of representation,

which drew upon feminist approaches and multicultural

theories to analyze fully the functions of

gender, class, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual

preference, and so on in the media. The social

dimensions of media constructions are perceived

by cultural studies as being vitally constitutive of

audiences who appropriate and use texts.

While earlier British cultural studies engaged

the progressive and oppositional potential of

working-class and then youth culture, under the

pressure of the social movements of the 1960s and

1970s many adopted a feminist dimension, paid

greater attention to race, ethnicity, and nationality,

and concentrated on sexuality. During this

period, assorted discourses of race, gender, sex,

nationality, and so on circulated in response to

social struggles and movements and were taken

up in cultural studies to engage critically the politics

of representation. An increasingly complex,

culturally hybrid, and diasporic global culture

and networked society calls for sophisticated

understandings of the interplay of representations,

politics, and the forms of media, and theorizing

global culture has been a major focus of the

contemporary era.

Many critics emphasized the importance of connecting

representations of gender, race, class, sexuality,

and other subject positions to disclose how

the media present socially derogatory representations

of subordinate groups. bell hooks, in Black

Looks: Race and Representation (1992) and other

writings, has been among the first and most prolific

African-American feminist scholars to call

attention to the interlockings of race, class, gender,

and additional markers of identity in the constitution

of subjectivity. Early in her career she

challenged feminists to recognize and confront

the ways in which race and class inscribe women’s

(and men’s) experiences. In “Eating the Other”

(1992), hooks explores cultural constructions of

the other as an object of desire, tying such positioning

to consumerism and commodification as well

as to issues of racial domination and subordination.

Cautioning against the seductiveness of celebrating

“otherness,” hooks uses various media

cultural artifacts -- clothing catalogs, films, rap

mass media and communications mass media and communications


music -- to debate issues of cultural appropriation

versus cultural appreciation, and to uncover the

personal and political crosscurrents at work in

mass media representation.

Since the 1960s, a broad range of theories and

methods to analyze the production of media texts,

their polysemic meanings, and their complex uses

and effects have been developed. Critical theories

were developed within feminism, critical race

theory, gay and lesbian theory, and other groupings

associated with new political movements,

making critical theory part of political struggle

inside and outside the university. Feminists, for

instance, demonstrated how gender bias infected

disciplines from philosophy to literary studies

and was embedded in texts ranging from classics

of the canon to the mundane artifacts of popular

culture. In similar ways, critical race theorists

demonstrated how racial bias permeated cultural

artifacts, while gay and lesbian theorists demonstrated

sexual bias.

These critical theories also stressed giving voice

to groups and individuals marginalized in the

dominant forms of western and then global culture.

Critical theory began going global in the

post-1960s disseminations of critical discourses.

Postcolonial theory in various parts of the world

developed particular critical theories as a response

to colonial oppression and to the hopes of

national liberation. Franz Fanon in Algeria, Wole

Soyinka in Nigeria, Gabriel Marquez in Latin

America, Arrundi Roy in India, and others all

gave voice to specific experiences and articulated

critical theories that expanded their global and

multicultural reach.

Focus on the politics of representation thus

calls attention to the fact that culture is produced

within relationships of domination and subordination

and tends to reproduce or resist existing

structures of power. Such a perspective also provides

tools for cultural studies whereby the critic

can denounce aspects of media forms and artifacts

that reproduce class, gender, racial, and diverse

modes of domination, and positively valorize

aspects that subvert existing types of domination,

or depict resistance and movements against them.

Issues of the politics of representation and violence

and the media intersect in the impassioned

debates over pornography. For a school of feminism

and cultural conservatives, pornography and

violence against women are among the most problematic

aspects of media culture. Anti-porn feminists

argue that pornography objectifies women,

that the industry dangerously exploits them, and

that pornography promotes violence against

women and debased sexuality. Pro-sex feminists

and defenders of pornography, by contrast, argue

that pornography exhibits a tabooed array of

sexuality, provokes fantasy and awakens desire,

and can be used by consumers in gratifying ways.

Hence, while there is widespread agreement

that the media has multiple effects and that its

representations are an important part of the

social world, there is heated debate over whether

the media have positive or negative social effects.

Many critics argue that one-sided pro or con positions

tend to be simplistic and reductive and that

contextual analysis needs to be made on specific

media effects of certain technologies or artifacts

on specific audiences. This position also asserts

that, in general, media have contradictory effects

and that in many cases it is impossible to discern

accurately or distinguish positive or negative features

that are often interconnected. Contemporary

debates thus reflect the bifurcated positions

on the media and mass communications first debated

in the early nineteenth century.


mass society

A type of society based on social conformity, political

complacence, the decline of community, mass

production and mass communication, this concept

was most influential in the 1940s and 1950s

when it was related to theories of social order and

manipulation. Following in the footsteps of

Matthew Arnold, T. S. Eliot, in Notes Towards the

Definition of Culture (1948), refined the distinction

between elite and mass culture. Eliot argued that

it is the duty of the elite to protect the values of

high culture from the onslaught of mass culture,

which he associated with pandering to the lowest

common denominator.

C. Wright Mills argued in The Power Elite (1956)

and The Sociological Imagination (1959) that the

pluralism upon which democracy depended was

being replaced by the standardization of opinion,

values, and behavior. Individual freedom was

being replaced by programmatic behavior orchestrated

by the centralized state and the business

corporation. In the popular sociology of Vance

Packard in The Hidden Persuaders (1957), ordinary

men and women were subject to the “hidden

persuaders” who controlled advertising and operated

the levers of public opinion formation. The

argument paralleled key themes in the Frankfurt

School critique of society, especially the proposition

that mass culture had become one-dimensional

in Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man

(1964). But it was given a fillip in these years by

mass media and communications mass society


the Cold War and the increasing knowledge about

the centralized regulation and orthodox value

systems that operated in the Soviet command state.

David Riesman, in The Lonely Crowd (1950), argued

that a new general personality type was emerging

in mass society. The first settler communities and

the generations that succeeded them up to the

1940s were characterized by “inner-directed” personality

types based in self-reliance, personally

defined convictions, and a strong sense of place.

Under mass society they were being replaced by

“other-directed” types who assimilated opinions

and values from the mass media, were susceptible

to advertising, marketing, and other forms of

public opinion manipulation, and who expressed

a weak sense of belonging and community.

Mass society theory came increasingly under

fire after the 1960s. It was held to sponsor a dominant

ideology thesis that exaggerated the manipulative

power of ruling formations and failed

to grasp social and cultural diversity. Critical

thought shifted to questions of social class,

gender, and race, all of which destabilized the

proposition of a homogeneous mass of citizens,

producers, and consumers. The rise of interest in

multiculturalism projected issues of hybridity,

diaspora, postmodernism, and postcolonial identity

to the forefront of sociological theory. The

effect was to expose the over-simplification and

inflexibility of mass society theory.

Covertly, mass society theory underwent a massive

revival in the 1990s in the guise of George

Ritzer’s thesis in McDonaldization of Society (1993).

Taking over and modernizing Max Weber’s rationalization

thesis, Ritzer argued that social life was

succumbing to penetrating standards of efficiency,

calculability, predictability, and control.

The argument invoked again the notions of standardized

social practice and mass conformity.

Following the train of classical mass society

theory, Ritzer concludes that the prospects for

resistance are dim. The fate of advanced industrial

society is to subject citizens to various processes

of standardization of emotions and practice in the

conduct of everyday life. CHRIS ROJEK


This concept can be understood in two rather

different ways. In everyday language, it is used as

a moral judgment of a person or philosophy,

ascribing to them an excessive devotion to possessions

or sensory pleasures. In a more technical

vocabulary, it means any secular philosophy or

system which accepts only explanations grounded

in material reality. Themost widespreadmaterialist

system is that of western science, which seeks an

account of the physical world without recourse to

spiritual or supernatural forces. Anglo-Saxon social

sciences and French sciences humaines derive their

inspiration from scientific materialism. Typically

such approaches emphasize observable behaviors,

notably language, rather than intangible elements

such as psychological motivations. Equally significant

is the scientific socialism of Karl Marx. Marx

sought a scientific basis for understanding human

history and social formations, and found it in the

economic activities of societies. Marx’s dialectical

variant of materialism identified the contradictions

arising within economic orders as the motor

of history. Moreover, in his earlier writings, Marx

claimed that the cultural products and symbolic

and political systems of a society were products of

its economic organization. Later materialists, often

inspired by phenomenology’s interest in embodiment,

inquired into the material force of communication,

power, sexuality, and other factors. One

core challenge for materialism is to avoid the

mechanical determinism common in Indian and

classical materialismand some versions of Newtonian

scientific reasoning. Marx’s dialectical materialism,

the phenomenological emphasis on lived

experience, and developments in contemporary science,

especially in cybernetics, have lessened the

more extreme determinist aspects of early materialism.

A second challenge, to describe structure

and change without recourse to abstract ideas,

which are difficult to use without ascribing agency

to them, still proves elusive. SEAN CUB I TT

maternal deprivation thesis

This thesis originally arose in Britain from the

work of John Bowlby, a child psychologist and psychoanalyst,

in the 1940s and 1950s, most notably

from Child Care and the Growth of Love (1953). The

idea of maternal deprivation has been much used

and abused since he developed his thesis, and so it

is important to contextualize his work. As a clinician

Bowlby worked with disturbed children and

he began to relate the delinquent behavior he

witnessed to the quality of parenting, particularly

mothering, that children received. These ideas developed

in a more focused way when he observed

the treatment of children in hospitals and residential

institutions and, also, of those who were separated

from their mothers by wartime evacuation.

Hospital practices at that time entailed a complete

separation of mother and child, and, while in

the institution, the infant was neither cuddled,

materialism maternal deprivation thesis


comforted, nor played with. Bowlby observed that

this resulted in an inability of the child to attach

to other human beings. The idea of maternal deprivation

was therefore an important component

of Attachment Theory. He argued that if the child

did not learn to respond to other key individuals,

most particularly the mother or mother substitute,

s/he could not learn to trust or interact in

a normal way. To achieve attachment, Bowlby

argued that mothers must form affective bonds

with their children and that these bonds should

not be disrupted by long absences, or by the introduction

of multiple carers. His work was part of a

trajectory of work which sought to protect children

and to improve their life chances.

However, the maternal deprivation thesis

became popularized through the growth of social

work and health visiting in the 1950s and 1960s,

and Bowlby’s originally humane ideas became

sedimented into virtual rules for how mothers

should raise their children. Mothers were criticized

for going out to work, especially if their

children were under five, and the idea that

mothers were solely responsible for the delinquency

or disturbed behavior of their children

also became an ide´e fixe. Feminist work in the

1970s became very critical of the maternal deprivation

thesis because it was seen as responsible for

closing nurseries in the postwar era and condemning

mothers to long, lonely hours of virtual imprisonment

with their infants. The thesis was used

to deny employment to women with children, and

alternative care was also frowned upon. Fathers

too became insignificant in this process, with all

the attention being on the quality of the mother–

child bond and the father being seen solely as the

economic support to allow the mother to be a fulltime

carer. However, Denise Riley, in The War in the

Nursery (1983), has argued that much of the criticism

against Bowlby was misplaced because, from

a sociological perspective, it is essential to distinguish

between the original ideas taken in context

(such as the importance of bonding) and the ways

in which these ideas were popularized and utilized

by others who might have had different purposes.

In other words, she suggests that the thesis

was treated instrumentally to keep mothers at

home, whereas the original aim was to recognize

the importance of the mother–child bond and to

improve the treatment of children. CAROL SMART


An anthropological term which describes a society

in which descent and lineage are traced through

the mother rather than the father; an example of

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