Cultural Studies and Cultural Value

Cultural Studies and Cultural Value

Cultural Studies and Cultural Value

Cultural Studies and Cultural Value

Synopsis

Cultural studies has generally organized itself around the opposition of high to low culture, reversing the traditional hierarchy of value, but leaving intact the polarity and the direct correlation of culture and class. Through detailed readings of the work of Pierre Bourieu, Michel de Certeau, Stuart Hall, and Ernesto Laclau, John Frow challenges this key assumption. He argues that the field of culture now has multiple centers and multiple domains of value and that these are irreducible to a single scale. Intellectuals play the crucial role in the mediation of the cultural field; their possession of cultural capital endows intellectuals with specific class interests which are distinct from those of the classes of groups for whom they claim to speak. Cultural Studies and Cultural Value seeks a revitalized and "poststructuralist" account of social class, a basis from which cultural studies can effect a much-needed reorientation.

Excerpt

This is a book about the organization of cultural value in the advanced capitalist world. I argue that -- for precise historical reasons -- there is no longer a stable hierarchy of value (even an inverted one) running from 'high' to 'low' culture, and that 'high' and 'low' culture can no longer, if they ever could, be neatly correlated with a hierarchy of social classes. I seek to situate this transformation in relation to changes in audience structures and to the increased integration of the aesthetic in economic production; and I then try to think seriously about the class of intellectuals, in a very broad sense of that word, since they play a crucial role in the production and circulation of cultural value. In writing this book I have tried to clarify my position in relation to two sets of problems: I want to understand the changed conditions of cultural production and consumption in the postmodern world; and I want to know why, under what conditions, and on what basis I can and do continue to make and to apply judgements of value within this disrupted and uncertain universe of value.

I pose these questions within the framework of the discipline of cultural studies. But that discipline -- both as a relatively arbitrary institutional demarcation, and as a set of problems still in the process of being formed and enunciated -- is itself a symptom of one of these problems. It therefore becomes part of the work of this book to subject it to a recurrent (though often indirect) questioning.

Cultural studies is the symptom of a problem in so far as, in defining itself by means of a renunciation of the aesthetic concerns of literary or cinematic or art-historical studies, and in adopting some of the rhetoric and some of the founding assumptions, if not the instruments, of the social sciences, it tends to repeat, and so to be caught within, that opposition of fact to value which has always haunted the latter. To refuse . . .

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