Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview

production and its associated social relations. If there is any real qualitative trend it is towards the reassertion of early nineteenth-century capitalist laissez-faire and social Darwinian values coupled with a twenty-first-century penchant for pulling everyone (and everything that can be exchanged) into the orbit of capital. The effect is to render ever larger segments of the world's population permanently redundant in relation to capital accumulation while severing them from any alternative means of support.

But the political objection to the globalization thesis, is that it denies the possibility for meaningful action within any one of the places of capitalism (be it the nation state or the city as a political milieu for anti-capitalist mobilization). It undialectically presumes the unalloyed powers of spatial processes of capital flow to dominate places. In response, there are many who now try to put the shoe on the other foot.❖

Stuart Hall ( 1932-) was born in Jamaica and studied at Jamaica College. In 1951 he became a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. Hall has been professor of sociology at the Open University in England since 1979. He was director of the Center for Cultural Studies at Birmingham in the 1970s, where he was a leader in the founding of cultural studies as an academic discipline. Hall was also an editor of the New Left Review from 1957 to 1961. His many books and writings include Resisting Through Rituals ( 1974), Politics and Ideology ( 1986), Culture, Media, Language ( 1986), and Modernity. An Introduction to Modern Societies ( 1996, with David Held, Dan Hubert, and Kenneth Thompson).


The Global, the Local, and the Return of Ethnicity

Stuart Hall( 1996)


Narrating the Nation: An Imagined Community

National cultures are composed not only of cultural institutions, but of symbols and representations. A national culture is a discourse--a way of constructing meanings which influences and organizes both our actions and our conception of ourselves. National cultures construct identities by producing meanings about "the nation" with which we can identify; these are contained in the stories which are told about it, memories which connect its present with its past, and images which are constructed of it. As Benedict Anderson has argued, national identity is an "imagined community."

Anderson argues that the differences between nations lie in the different ways in which they are imagined. Or, as Enoch Powell put it, "the life of nations no less than that of men is lived largely in the imagination." But how is the modern nation imagined? What representational strategies are deployed to construct our common-sense views of national belonging or identity? What are the representations of, say, "England" which win the identifications and define the identities of "English" people? "Nations," Homi Bhabha has remarked, "like narratives, lose their origins in the myths of time and only fully realize their horizons in the mind's eye." How is the narrative of the national culture told?

____________________
Excerpt from Hall, ed., Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies ( Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996), pp. 613-619, 626-628. Copyright © 1996. Reprinted by permission of Blackwell Publishers.

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