Hegemony and the Possibilities
So far I have tried to set out the problem created over seven or eight decades by shifts in the material conditions of communications. Increasingly, the electronic means of communication have been able to create for large numbers of persons a world of meaning they tend to consume, not to create or even to engage creatively. My purpose in looking at this problem has been to foster what I have called cultural agency: the ability, first, to think about how meaning is created, in whose interests it is created, and what sort of rendition of reality it is; and the ability, second, to make judgments about the meaning presented to us, using aesthetic, ideological, and religious criteria. My view is that the skills of cultural analysis can be made accessible to large numbers of persons who can learn to see how they see. Now, at the end of my study, I wish to go back and reexamine the matter of agency.
Embedded in this final chapter are a series of rethinking questions: What difference will cultural analysis make? Are the forces controlling the culture industries so powerful that in fact very little can be done about the situation? If a handful of persons are empowered to think about culture and its processes, what difference will their awareness make when so many others ingest culture so unthinkingly? Most important, could it be possible that my description of culture here and my approach to cultural analysis might actually discourage cultural agency? This last question was raised for me by a reader of an early draft of my work. There are ways of describing a problem, he warned, that ultimately do not empower us to face the problem but instead convince us not much can be done. This happens when a problem is presented as so massive and as possessing such complete power that it can be understood but not countered or even acted