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Journal Article

Stuart Hall's Cultural Studies and the Problem of Hegemony

Brennon Wood
The British Journal of Sociology
Vol. 49, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 399-414
DOI: 10.2307/591390
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/591390
Page Count: 16
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Stuart Hall's Cultural Studies and the Problem of Hegemony
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Abstract

The vigorous growth of Cultural Studies has in part come about through an insistence on strong contrasts with sociology. Unlike sociology, the theoretical orientations of Cultural Studies are often held to be postmodern and discursive in character. This paper questions the usefulness of such contrasts by examining the work of Stuart Hall, focusing in particular on the problem of hegemony. I argue that Hall's approach slides ambiguously between reading hegemony as either concentrated state domination or free-wheeling discourse. Consequently, Hall cannot resist and indeed in some ways reinforces the discursive turn in contemporary Cultural Studies, despite his own explicit criticisms of this development. I track the instability of Hall's approach to an abstract logic of articulation that fragments social relations and subordinates them to political association. Hall's predicament suggests that social life must be theorized as something more than a pliant diversity of sites. The problem of hegemony calls for an account of cultural and group formation as distinct from their political and ideological construction. I thus conclude that Cultural Studies stands in need of a sociological re-orientation.

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