There has been much debate in recent years about the significance and impact of cultural studies (Hall, 1987; Turner, 1990; Franklin et al., 1991; Grossberg et al., 1992): its prospects, its potential relation to the academy and to politics are all uncertain. Whatever its future as a free-standing field of intellectual enquiry, however, there is little doubt that its emergence in Britain in the 1970s contributed to a radical rethinking of approaches to the study of culture in a range of disciplines. This book seeks to develop a conceptual framework within what might be called the sociology of culture, but a sociology which has been disturbed by the insights offered by cultural studies. It thus draws on both institutional analyses of the culture industry (DiMaggio, 1977; Coser et al., 1982; Garnham, 1979; Wolff, 1990) and cultural studies (Hall and Jefferson, 1976; Johnson, 1983; CCCS, 1982a; CCCS, 1982b; Women’s Studies Group, 1978).
This hybrid framework employs a number of terms which have been chosen to avoid a priori privileging of particular processes, including ‘cultural value’ which is used to refer to meaning or symbolic content. The model of value implied is not a representational one: value here is not intrinsically a derivative or metonymic property; it is not finite, determinate or distributable. Rather value is seen as a regulative medium of preference (Fekete, 1987); and the organisation of value is explicated as a function of the force field of value, a network of strategic evaluations, or a circulation process of a collective system of value relations and practices. Rather than seeking to develop a ‘grand’ theory of value then, as might have been the aim of some sociologies of culture, the intention here is to investigate some of the ways in which what Fekete calls the