the latestuart halleSuch cultural studies within a Marxist tradition allow us"Understanding culture - cultural discourse - place and relationship of the ideological".
In this podcast, part of our Marxism in the 21st Century series,Steve Edwards, Open University Professor of Art History discusses Marxism and culture with Kieron Yates. They examine how Marxism can be viewed as a deeply aesthetic philosophy, drawing many of its core categories from thinking about art and aesthetics, the organization of sensibility...
VOICEOVER: STUART HALL: It's not that Marxism doesn't exist, but the sort of conversations that Cultural Studies have had with... critical thinkers against some aspects of... around the issues... extension of a tradition Marxism. .. that's missing and that's a real weakness. I think important achievements have been made that allow us to understand the culture... the cultural discourse... the place and relationship of the ideological. So I think a lot of ground has been covered...some kind of conceptual ground has been covered that might enrich the position as long as the basic conversation resumes, but if it doesn't resume then this interim period..... .you know... The cultural sciences got lost and will find him again.
Kieron Yates:Hello and welcome to Pod Academy. You just heard the late Stuart Hall give academic Sut Jhally an assessment of the state of Marxism in cultural studies in 2012.
In this issue of Pod Academy, I speak with Steve Edwards, Professor of Art History at the Open University, about the development of cultural studies in Britain out of certain Marxist traditions, and ask him if Marxism has been able to reaffirm its relevance in more recent times. I began by asking what Marx and Engels themselves had to say about cultural phenomena.
Steve Edwards:It's lumpy at first. I think there are two things to say about that...there were very educated men back then with a very strong taste in literature, especially in high culture in Europe...widespread. I don't think there's a point where they... the ideas of Marx and Engels aren't very developed. Marx originally intended to write an aesthetic that he never did... he wrote poetry as a young man... Engels wrote something like that... there are occasional pieces... mostly about literature, but I think moreover, what is important. What they did was to recognize that Marxism is in a sense a deeply aesthetic philosophy... that many of its core categories stem from thinking about art and aesthetics... the organization of sensibility. So the whole debate, for example, about alienation from the alienation of work...the debate about fetishism...the whole point about some kind of future society that will transcend the division between the spiritual and the manual...that heals class divisions ; these are basically aesthetic categories. So I think it's important to think not only about what they wrote explicitly about art or literature, but about how discussions and reflections, especially in German idealist philosophy, about art fundamentally contributed to shaping their worldview to form. .
KENTUCKY:Marx and Engels can be seen as part of a developing tradition of social criticism in the 19th century that included such aesthetic thinkers and writers as Ruskin, Carlyle, Arnold and Dickens. This sometimes extremely conservative, romantically sensual and anti-modern aesthetic critique of capitalism also found a more progressive voice in William Morris.
ES:There's a distinct direction there, a kind of tradition of British social criticism that's very focused on 19th-century art. can anyone imagineRuskin, fastCarlyle, fastDickensmiarnaldo. These are figures who fundamentally reject capitalism... reject the new kind of modernity. In general they are very conservative thinkers, very undemocratic, and in Ruskin and Carlyle... Carlyle in particular has some pretty awkward aspects of race and so forth in his thinking. One of the things you get fundamentally is this rejection of the new industrial society and the devastation and destruction of the old social order in its conception. Ruskin is very central to work and art...probably the best way to characterize it is as romantic anti-capitalism...Criticism of this society, its industrialization, its ugliness, its destruction of nature, the effects it has on which had workers. , about beauty... they found this society fundamentally ugly.
The big difference toMorrisit's because Morris had a different political background when he shared his aesthetic critique of capitalism. So Morris did indeed come from liberalism, and in particular from a certain type of anti-imperialist liberalism that was very different from them. What Morris did was transform this tradition of romantic anti-capitalism into some kind of socialist form. In many ways his writing on art, much of what he has done himself as a practicing craft designer etc. is very much inspired by that Ruskinian sense of the aesthetics of work...a sense of craft and beauty and dedication to work ...but it fundamentally transformed them into another political dimension...an aspect of socialism. You know, when he read Marx... he struggled with Das Kapital... we know he read it and struggled, although he was also influenced by some aspects of anarchism... but the founding of the Sozialistische Bund and for ten years that Morris before mainly as a kind of organizer. So there is a close insight ... a close connection in Morris's thought between his socialism and an aesthetic critique of capitalism in terms of rejection of what it does to both nature and work.
KENTUCKY:Perhaps one of the absolutely central figures in the history of 20th-century Marxism is the SardinianAntonio Gramsci. It is his thinking about ideology and hegemony that has most influenced cultural studies.
ES:It is important to remember this first of allThe Prison Notebooksthey were not translated into English until 1971. One of the things that I think is very important in this work is the recognition that there is a need to think beyond the dimensions of economics and politics and to think about a political constitution around struggle in popular culture. in himself and especially in what he calls hegemony...the dominance of one social group over another...he sees it as happening within different cultural forms but also, mainly for him, the party.
The second dimension of what I think is really important is that people before Gramsci saw ideology as ideas... as a set of ideas that could be challenged... that they could belong to one group or another... the dominant ideas of that sort should be subdued by opposition group. What Gramsci begins to do is develop the idea that instead of focusing on ideas, one should pay attention to the institutions and actors of this hegemony. To think about how hegemony is produced in certain institutions and to think about a sociology of the intellectuals... who do this work and focus not so much on ideas as on their production and the places of their production. So you start to switch with Gramsci to look at a whole bunch of different avenues... popular literature... an interest in detective stories... an interest in language... different kinds of aspects of the history of the social development of Italy or whatever. So you find a particular focus on the way ideas are formed and shaped, and that instead of looking at them somehow as instinctively generated ideas from certain classes, you look at the way those ideas can be challenged, they can be questioned and whatever working class hegemony can be constructed.
KENTUCKY:In Great Britain, cultural studies itself only emerged with the founding ofBirmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studiesin the early 1960s. The center was founded byRichard Hoggartwho wanted the initiative to further develop their workThe uses of literacywhich explored working-class popular culture. Hoggart's first officer at the Birmingham school was Stuart Hall of the New Left, who was to become director of the centre.
ES:The first thing to say about Cultural Studies as it was founded in Birmingham where it was called the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies is that Cultural Studies is not the same as Cultural Studies, there are many disciplines that study culture, Art history, musicology, ethnology and so on... there is a whole range of disciplinary foundations for this. I think the first thing to say is that cultural studies are not the same as studying culture. I think the main difference with the emergence of cultural studies was the way certain literary and social history studies shifted to assess the popular cultural form. So I think there are at least three strands that we need to consider in shaping what's happening in Birmingham.
The first is the change after World War II with the increasing commodification of everyday life. So the first thing we need to look at is capitalism's growing influence on aspects of life that were not previously attracted to it...or, to a lesser extent, were under capitalism's direct reproductive influence. It's about... you talk about consumption... that's how you describe it... but also about the generation of popular entertainment... mass entertainment that's being commercialized and capitalized right from the start. So that's the first aspect.
The second, I think, is what people have described as the shift within British Marxism towards culturalist thinking... figures like the historianepic Thompson, Raymond Williams in literary criticism...it must be said that they disputed that notion...they denied that they were cultural scientists...it is a lived experience occurring within aspects of culture and cultural form. That's certainly the second aspect, and a lot of the people who formed the center came from that path a little differently. Richard Hoggart who wroteThe uses of literacyabout class... drawing on his own experiences of growing up working class in Yorkshire... and the impact of popular culture on that community and class. Hoggart has always been a different character...in a lot of ways he was anti-Marxist...I think in a lot of ways he was kind of a classic Labor and he's the founder of the Centre. He hired Stuart Hall who took over when Hoggart couldn't return from a UNESCO assignment... and Hall is a very interesting figure to be part of this shift in relation to the British left... he followed with a Rhodes UK Fellows from Jamaica and the Right are involved in New Left formations from a very early stage. One of the really interesting things aboutJuan AkomfrahThe latest film in a film or two actually exists in two guises...by Stuart Hall...you can see how present he has been in the media since the 1950's...both as a culture commentator but also as a commentator on the Black experience in Britain ... in which Hall is a very prominent figure in the making of the British. He failed to attract any literary attention with Marxist theory and a black experience... and Hall articulates those things from the start, I think. One of the things that tends to happen is that people tend to periodize it too much, as if the attention to racing somehow came much later down the road. I think we could say that paying attention to race and ethnicity starts with things likeCrisis Monitoringas for the center... of course there's a lot of black activist work that's going on elsewhere. But while this becomes much more prominent in the Center's work from the mid-1970s, I think Hall has been dealing with these kinds of issues long before that...they come and go in his work.
So that's another aspect of this job. But coming back to the question of culturalism, I think we see, for example, inRaymond Williamsworkculture and societyand then his book on printingThe Long Revolution...that Williams fits into the long tradition of cultural criticism in Britain...I'm thinking of the bookculture and societyI think it's a very important book...it has a lot of issues...but it's very perceptive to that dimension of romantic anti-capitalism in the 19th century...to reflect on those oppositions to the emerging industrial capitalist society that are coming in this long tradition of cultural criticism...we mention Ruskin, Carlyle, Arnold, Dickens...there's a whole range of these characters that he revisits throughout this book, right down to Morris and Marx.
So you're starting to get attention to culture and ideology here in this configuration, which is the second dimension of what's emerging there. I think we've touched on the third one already, and that's the translation work that's being started on New Left...through New Left Review central. So it's very important to remember, and in a way, our generation is having a hard time thinking that way right nowfloor planswill not appear in English until 1973... Marx'floor plans…than a book likeby Lukehistory and class consciousnessappears in English in its complete edition in the first of '71...Gramsci'sThe Prison Notebooksappears in 71 ... the discussions that will be published together inaesthetics and politicsYou appear until 77 and then you work asWalter Benjamin…Luis Althusserand a little later Lefèvre is translated. So one of the things that's happening is that attention is being drawn away from the British tradition and Marxism is being opened up to a much broader group of intellectual influences from Latin America... from Europe and so on.
So you get a third dimension there, and I think one of the things that's happening with the Birmingham Center is that those three aspects come together in your work. It also relates directly to intervening in the current situation...thinking about what's happening in your world then...about what sets the political direction...using culture as a way of thinking and questioning the things of the moment. There is a wonderful commentary at the end of a 1981 essay by Stuart Hall entitledNotes on the deconstruction of the popular… you ask what is popular …. What do we mean by popular culture and he says at the end of this essay that popular culture has to be a place of struggle for hegemony... that's what popular culture is for him. And he closes this essay with a few lines that I've always liked. He said, "[Popular culture] It's one of those places where socialism can be constituted, so popular culture is important, otherwise, to tell you the truth, I don't give a shit." And what I like about that is that someone like Hall has always been identified with this study of popular culture, but what was really important about the work they did there was that it was primarily a political intervention...locus de la culture as a site of reproduction of hegemony.. .of dominance...and places where that dominance can be challenged.
KENTUCKY:Stuart Hall left the Center for Cultural Studies in 1979 to take a position at the Open University. The change coincided with the birth of Thatcherism - a term coined by Hall himself - and the rise of neoliberalism. In the years that followed, cultural studies moved away from this direct political engagement towards a more professional engagement with the study of popular culture itself. Here is Hall himself describing this era.
ES:Cultural studies have had this long time trying to forget that they had a political bias or a political dimension. It was a waste of high theory... I'm not against theory... I don't think you can understand things without theoretical concepts. But cultural studies has never been an enterprise to produce critical theories, which it has become. Much more pernicious than that... in his attempt to move away from economic reductionism, he forgot that economics existed. So he's in a position... he's not in a wonderful position to do this business cycle analysis job right now... although some people in cultural studies are doing it because they understand that the cultural is constitutive of the political crisis and many others is not people. t. This may enable them to analyze the current situation more deeply than many traditional political scientists or economic theorists would have to ... resort to the political function of cultural studies ... the political dimension of cultural studies. Studies and they would have to go back and ask, well, if economics doesn't ultimately determine everything, what role does economics play in the reproduction of material and symbolic life. So you have to ask economic questions. Now the funny thing is that... historical circumstances are forced upon people's thinking. I hear cultural scholars talk about the Libor interest rate...speak the language of neoliberal economics...trying to understand how the neoliberal global capitalist economy works in ways I haven't heard cultural scholars talk about economics for more than twenty years . I think there is a return to that...I don't want to see a return to economic reductionism, which I've never explained very well...but as Gramsci always said: economics can never be forgotten...it must be taken into account. So cultural studies have to find a way, a language, to re-integrate politics, culture and history, as we tried to do at the beginning of the project.
KENTUCKY:So how do contemporary Marxist thinkers build on the work of the Birmingham School and the debates of the 1970s and early 1980s? It's Steve Edwards again.
ES:I think there are many ways in which these debates are approached. First of all, I would like to say that the debates of the 1970s and early 1980s were very inconclusive for me. There is a lot of work that we have to do... we have to go back and think about what they did and the contradictions, the paradoxes, the problems in their work. I think the way they played Gramsci and Althusser was very problematic in a lot of ways and we have to go back and think about what was going on. The strength of the work they did then, as I said, was that it had a very direct political impetus for negotiating what hegemony might be and how we might think about culture. Well, I think one of the things that I think happens right away is that we're dealing with our situation in a lot of different ways. I think it's very noticeable in my own discipline, art history, for example, that a lot of young people are engaging with this critique... with the critique of contemporary capitalism... with its biopolitics, etc. But it's very central in contemporary art. One of the things that's happening there is that there's a big international debate...especially in northern Europe...about art, capitalism, gender and critique...so there's a lot of work there in March. I know less about contemporary cultural studies...my own involvement with them was in their undergraduate education around that time...but what I'm seeing at the moment is a lot of theoretical impetus...a lot of contemporary capitalism studies.....a lot again work translation.
One of the most important things that has happened recently and that we can talk about in relation to this debate is the resumption of social-democratic politics or euro-communist politics with Gramsci, which has been heavily criticized in recent years. : I am thinking, among other things, of the recent speech by Peter Thomas in a book about Gramsci calledDer Gramscian-Momentwhich restores the political and revolutionary dimensions of Gramsci's thought... and I think it's a very important book in that sense. But not only that, there are quite a number of books that have appeared about Gramsici lately. So Gramsci comes to the fore again and probably as a slightly less culturalistic and slightly more political figure... I don't think that hurts... I think contemporary cultural criticism could bring politics back in. One of the things that is happening is a resumption of many of these debates and a return to the debates that have remained unfinished...Northern Europe and Britain. Again, I think we're looking at work that's probably less coordinated, probably more disparate, and probably not yet fused into anything, but I think one of the things we certainly have to acknowledge is that the intellectual level of Marxism this moment reappears. . it's having a resurgence in cultural studies...it's having a resurgence in literary theory...it's having a resurgence in a whole range of disciplines, notably in philosophy...political economy...politics...internationally politics etc. . . So the resurgence is uneven, but it certainly happens.
KENTUCKY:Earlier in this podcast, we heard Steve Edwards describe Marxism as a deeply aesthetic philosophy. At times it seems that Marxism offers only an unsightly critique, but can it help reclaim aesthetics as a mobilizing force within left-wing politics?
ES:It is important to realize that there are very different currents within Marxism... it might be worth talking about Marxisms. But there is one aspect of Marxism that is a very unsightly critique...which consists in seeing aesthetics as a kind of false conquest...a kind of false totality...or a false whole that creates a political illusion of immediacy... ...the Spontaneity... a kind of world without contradictions... and here I think of Eagletonsideology of aesthetics... he's just one person who has voiced this criticism of what he calls aesthetic ideology. I think that's one dimension of it, but I think there's another dimension that really sees aesthetics in a whole different sense, going back to the original notion of aesthetics as the organization of the senses and sensibility and thinking about how that. We know from the start that Marx is involved in these debates and that they run through all of Marxism. So I think one of the problems is that any serious Marxist politics has to deal with these issues of affects and emotions, and I think to a certain extent we often rely too heavily on a rationalist argument... sort of, if you explain how the scales will fall out of people's eyes and they will see the truth and will not understand the way... One of the things that capitalist ideology is very good at is mobilizing emotions... mobilizing affection . We have our own way of doing that... they've always been in our movement and I think there was a kind of feeling that it was a problem for us and we didn't talk about it properly, but I have to confront those questions . I brought a quote from Dorothy Thompson on Chartism that I think is very significant... it goes back to the 1840's. So Dorothy Thompson was a Chartist historian working in Birmingham...she was EP Thompson's wife. He wrote some very substantial discussions on Chartism.
"Throughout the towns and cities of Britain, thousands of anonymous men and women organized the Chartist movement, using traditional forms of procession, carnival, theatrical performances, camp meetings, sermons and services to carry the message of the six points: flags, banners, caps. .scarves, sashes and rosettes have appeared on public occasions since freedom; Slogans from the Bible, literature, and earlier radical movements adorned the flags and banners they carried; Hymns and songs were written and sung; Poems were recited; all aspects of the religious and cultural life of the communities were put at the service of transmitting the Chartist message”.
It seems to me that this is aesthetic... that this is one of the dimensions that Marxism and culture must address. It is an understanding of how culture is lived and experienced, and is fundamental to our understanding of ourselves and politics. We can talk about aesthetics in its elevated forms in relation to art, literature, music, etc., but we must also remember...remember with Gramsci and remember with the Chartists that it is also about lived experience and how we understand our world. ... how we question the meanings imposed on us and define ourselves against capital.
This podcast was made possible by a donation fromAmiel Melburn Trust, and is the first in a series of podcasts on Marxism in the 21st Century to be funded by the Fund.
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