8 jun. 2011

Bullshit Fields (14)

Cultural Studies.

What makes Cultural Studies BS? Well, it is not. But if someone asked me argue that is was, this what I would say.

It has too much invested in studying what is popular at any given time. It hitches its wagon to the cultural marketplace, and thus cannot formulate criteria of value apart from the market. The other major criterion of value it espouses is political, of course. So something becomes worthy of study because it is popular, the product of mass culture, but then the "cultural work" (I hate that phrase) done by the piece of mass culture is some political intervention. "Cultural" ends up meaning "political," but in the symbolic politics of culture.

Cultural Studies is bullshit because it tries to wed these two sources of value, one capitalist and the other quasi-Marxist, into one argument. Debates are always whether the implications of some new development in mass culture are politically positive or retrograde. The Adornian idea that pop culture is simply the worthless product of the "culture industry" caused the contrary reaction, meaning you can't just dismiss pop culture in his high-handed high modernist way. That's good, of course. Adorno was an idiot about jazz, but you can take things too far in the opposite direction.

There were so many articles about Madonna back in the day. Cultural Studies is bullshit because it pretends to be hip but is really looking too hard for positive political meanings everywhere.

Next: Postcolonial Studies.

5 comentarios:

John dijo...

Yeah, but Cultural Studies has the funniest abbreviation ever: Cult Studs.

A friend of mine got a Masters or maybe even his Doctorate at a History of Consciousness program. (He's a prof at U-Texas now; don't remember where he got his PhD.) That one had a good abbreviation too: Hiss Con.

Andrew Shields dijo...

History of Consciousness is at Santa Cruz (or at least there was a His Con program there back in the 80s).

Jonathan, you've nicely highlighted a tension in the whole Cult Studs paradigm here. The idea (or the hope!) seems to be that the market will generate products that are at least implicitly critical of the market. The market is expected to undermine itself.

And that, of course, is absolutely classic Marx (not even Marxism, but Marx): the withering away of the market (if not the state).

Andrew Shields dijo...

I just summarized this to a friend and realized that what you've done here is a nice bit of classic deconstruction.

(Which makes it amusing that my validation word for this comment is "destorka.")

Spanish prof dijo...

May I add that British Cultural Studies (Stuart Hall et at.) are not the same as however they were translated and adapted into the American academia (where everything goes)? And I say this as somebody whose main scholarly interest are Latin American crime fiction and Melodrama.

By the way, as hard as I try, I don't see how semiotics (your current post) can be equated with post-colonialism (your supposed next post).

Jonathan dijo...

I changed my mind. I have to work out my idea on post-col a little longer before I post on that, so I did a quick one on semiotics.