English 216: notes for Chapter 10

The Politics of the Popular

thesis: criticism must include both political economy and cultural analysis

McGuigan: critiques cultural studies

  • new revisionism: hegemony made it “uncritically optimistic” about consumption
  • i.e., hegemony focuses on consumption as resistance, ignores political economy

John Fiske: McGuigan’s example of the above, but Storey argues he gets Fiske wrong

  • financial economy: selling products for money (aka, Marx’s “exchange value”)
    • tends to side with homogenization and domination
  • cultural economy: how people make meaning (akin to Marx’s “use value”)
    • tends to side with heterogeneity and resistance
  • social resistance: actions
  • semiotic resistance: symbols


Pierre Bordieu: Fiske uses his theory of cultural fields to make his case

  • cultural fields: all cultural groups (classes) reproduce their own values (i.e., ideology)
    • capitalists: high financial capital + low cultural capital = power to naturalize ideology
    • intellectuals & artists: low financial capital + high cultural capital = pure gaze (below)
      • pure gaze: aesthetic tendency towards formalism: how it’s made
        • formalism: form determines meaning; thus, ahistorical & decontextualized
      • naïve gaze: opposite of pure gaze; functional interpretation, what it means
  • grounded aesthetic (Willis): meaning derives from how texts/commodities are used
  • poaching (de Certeau): use texts we don’t own to circulate unauthorized interpretations


Henry Jenkins: his study of fan cultures is a prime example of poaching

  • fans: special kind of consumption, integrate texts into their lives (not vice-versa)
  • rereading: shift attention from what (plot) to how (meaning)
  • fanfic: produce & circulate in order to create new meanings that fans need and/or want
  • mundania: everyday/mainstream culture against which they compare themselves
  • critique (Grossberg): this is just a new kind of élitism; fans ≈ academics / critics


Storey’s Solution: hegemony still works!

  • common culture (Willis): profit motive creates contradictions within the culture industry
    • desire for profit (exchange value) can create spaces for resistance (use value)
  • hegemony: integrates structure (political economy) and agency (subjectivity of consumers)
    • first instance: economics determine form/content of pop culture objects
    • second instance: “production in use,” meaning is produced in the act of consumption


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