|READING GUIDE TO:
Hall, S (1977) Culture, the Media and the ‘Ideology-Effect’, Curran, J,
Gurevitch, M and Wollacott, J (eds) Mass Communication and Society,
London: Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd., in association with the Open University
We need to develop a proper marxist
account of the role of the mass media. To do this, however, we have to
clear some ground:
1. What is a proper marxist
account of ideology? It is not enough to turn back to classic texts (like
Marx and Engels The German Ideology), since these have been re-read and
are now controversial.
When we have done this ‘theoretical
mapping’, and hopefully established a sound foundation, we can proceed
to sketch out the main ideological role of the media after all:
2. We have to bring our analysis
up to date with readings like those offered by Althusser and Poulantzas.
However, we cannot go along with them entirely either ( they are too pessimistic
about the prospects of revolution, and stress too much the role of a strong
organised Communist Party – not very helpful for Brit activists)
3. At the same time, we have to defend
our earlier commitments – to colleagues ( R Williams and EP Thompson),
and to our main hero – Gramsci.
4. We want to continue our critique
of other marxist traditions – especially those using concepts like ‘expressive
totality’ or ‘mass culture’.
5. We should also bring in other
current work on culture and language and fit it in –especially the French
work by Barthes or the other ‘structuralists’ or 'semioticians'. They can
be brought into line with marxist work really well now, using some marxist
linguists we have rediscovered (in 1977 remember) – Volosinov and Vygotsky
especially (the ‘Russian formalists’).
6. The upshot of all this theoretical
labour will be a nice sophisticated account of culture, language and the
media – one which:
· allows us to see
that culture is not simply determined by the economy
· allows us to grasp that
culture, language and the media can have positive social effects of their
own as well as just reflecting class politics
· allows us to argue that
the complex forces that connect aspects of society are also fragile and
thus that there is still a space for revolutionary politics of the kind
we like (largely, revolutionary cultural politics).
1. It will be to reproduce
dominant ideologies -- that we know already. But we mean that the
media tries to negotiate among a range of meanings, rather than just pump
out one simple version, and quietly to privilege as ‘natural’ the ‘preferred
ones’ (which express the interests of capitalism).
See -easy wasn't it? Now for a fuller
and far more scholarly summary, click here
2. We can use terms like ‘winning
consent’, or constructing an ‘unstable equililbrium’ to describe this ongoing
process (which helps us praise Gramsci as well as encouraging ‘struggle’).
3. We want to introduce the themes
of encoding which we have used before, and to make a link with Poulantzas’s
work on constructing imaginary unities – ‘possessive individuals’ are constructed
in media representations, but they are also somehow united into ‘nations’,
for example, by the media. (Nationalism was a major interest for Hall’s
group in the 1970s).
4. We want to explain how it happens
that media professionals themselves still stubbornly insist on their independence
and integrity – we won’t call them liars, because they are partly right,
but we will insist that we are able to spot unconscious ideological influences
on them which deliver them to ideology in spite of their good intentions.