Friday, July 22, 2011

Stuart Hall: "Notes on Deconstructing 'The Popular'" –review

Stuart Hall's "Notes on Deconstructing 'The Popular'" initially appeared in "People's History and Socialist Theory" (1981) – a collection of essays concerned with socialism in its British contexts. Therefore Hall's "Notes on Deconstructing 'The Popular'" relies on British popular culture and its significance to the lower working class. But since Hall is attempting to deconstruct stereotypical connections between popular culture and the working class, "Notes on Deconstructing 'The Popular'" has theoretical value in relation to the understanding of popular culture as a modern phenomenon in industrialized countries.

Stuart Hall's "Notes on Deconstructing 'The Popular'" works within the tension between the perception of popular culture as something that emanates from the working class and therefore has something authentic about it, and the understanding of popular culture as an exploitative, commercial and mass communication based ally of modern capitalism. Hall's Notes on Deconstructing 'The Popular'" criticizes views that regard popular culture as an authentic expression of the working class and as a site for cultural resistance. Hall favors a more dynamic approach which views popular culture as changing field and as a site for struggle between different social forces over the meaning and value ascribed to popular culture.

"Notes on Deconstructing 'The Popular'" opens with an historical account of the development of British Popular culture. Stuart Hall then proceeds to discuss the meaning of the term "popular" in the phrase "popular culture". Hall is offering three different definitions of "popular" in relation to culture, and his main point in "Notes on Deconstructing 'The Popular'" is to try and point to the complexity of the relation between cultural products and content associated with "the common people" and the products and content of the culture industry. Hall points to the power relation that determine both high culture and popular culture as opposed concepts, while criticizing any attempt for an essentialist view of culture in general and popular culture in particular, and any steady association of content and cultural products with a specific social class.

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