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Marxist cultural analysis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Marxist cultural analysis is a form of anti-capitalist cultural critique which assumes the theory of cultural hegemony and from this specifically targets those aspects of culture which are profit driven and mass-produced under capitalism.[1][2][3]

The Marxist analysis and takes as an area of discourse it has commonly considered the industrialization and mass-production of culture by 'the Culture Industry' as having an overall negative effect on society, an effect which reifies the audience away from developing a more authentic sense of human values.[4][1]

The original theory behind this from of analysis is commonly associated with the Frankfurt School, and specifically the works of Marcuse, and with Gramsci.

In terms of positive engagement of Marxist dialect to driving change in cultural norms, which is to say Marxism applied to cultural goals, cultural engagement is seen as applying Marx's concept of class war to the field of alleged power relationships between cultural groups in society in a struggle for cultural hegemony, known as social conflict theory.

Development of theory


Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Marxist philosopher, primarily writing in the lead up to and after the First World War. He attempted to break from the economic determinism of traditional Marxist thought and so is considered a key neo-Marxist.[5]

Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class — the bourgeoisie — use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie, in Gramsci's view, develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power, he asserted, is used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order, and that this cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.

The Birmingham School

E.P. Thompson's Marxist humanism as well as the individual philosophies of the founders of The Birmingham School (Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall) provide the influences for their "British Cultural Marxism" (also known as British Cultural Studies) as housed at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham.[3] The Birmingham School of Cultural Studies developed later than the Frankfurt School and are seen as providing a parallel response.[3] Accordingly "British Cultural Marxism" focuses on later issues such as Globalization, Americanization, Censorship, and Multiculturalism. Richard Hoggart's The Uses of Literacy (1957), Raymond William's Culture and Society (1958) and E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working class (1964) form the foundational texts for the school, with Stuart Hall's Encoding/decoding model of communication as well as his writings on multiculturalism in Britain arriving later but carrying equal gravitas.[6]

The Birmingham School greatly valued and contributed to class consciousness within the structure of British society.[7]

Due to their positions as literary experts, Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams were called as witnesses during The Lady Chatterley Affair, a court case concerning censorship in publishing, the outcome of which is widely regarded as defining Britain in the 1960s as a "Permissive society". They argued on the side of freedom of language, and against censorship.[8]

Within Hoggart's major work, The Uses of Literacy, he laments the loss of an authentic working class popular culture in Britain, and denounces the imposition of a mass culture by means of advertising, media and Americanisation. He argues against the concept of 'the masses' which he claims is both condescending and elitist. Later referring to this change in cultural production as "massification" and saying it 'colonized local communities and robbed them of their distinctive features'[3][9]

Whereas the Frankfurt School exhorted the values of high culture, The Birmingham School have attempted to bring high culture back down to real life whilst avoiding moral relativism.[1][10][11]

Cultural Marxism

The application of Marxist ideas in the cultural field is characterised as Cultural Marxism, which has become a disputed term. The concept of Cultural Marxism has been used with two contrasting meanings:

  • The redirection of Marx's concept of permanent class war into a struggle between identity groups in accordance with Marxist cultural analysis;[12] or
  • A conspiracy theory alleging ongoing influence of the Frankfurt School.

Marxism applied to cultural goals

The term "Cultural Marxism" first appeared in Trent Schroyer's 1973 book The Critique of Domination, and has most commonly been applied to trends in analysis developed in the Frankfurt and Birmingham schools of Cultural studies.[13]

Rather than being its own category of Soviet or Orthodox Marxism;- "Cultural Marxism", within Cultural Studies, is seen as an attempt at finding a form of Post-marxist Cultural Analysis which extends beyond the traditional base and superstructure model.[14][15][16] It has been suggested by Frederic Jameson that Cultural Studies be redefined as Cultural Marxism as both seek to interrogate the unexamined ideological constraints placed on Cultural Production under capitalism, and to question their implications for society as a whole.[17][18] In this sense, Cultural Marxism views The Culture Industry as creating a type of false consciousness. As a form of media literacy "Cultural Marxism" seeks to critique ideology itself.[19][20][21][22][23][24]

Within more recent history Cultural Marxists have critiqued post modernism and identity politics (also known as recognition politics), claiming that redistributive politics should retain prominence within their discourse.[25][26][27][28] Prominent in the construction of a oppressor-oppressed narrative analysis of culture is the concept of intersectionality, drawing various aspects of perceived identity in terms of modes of discrimination and privilege.

In modern political parlance, Cultural Conservatives have identified Cultural Marxism as the theoretical basis for aspects of cultural liberalism.[29][30] The hyperbole and misinterpretation involved in this 'Culture War' has led to Cultural Marxism given rise, outside philosophical circles, to a conspiracy theory.[31][32][33]

Conspiracy theory

As the theme of a conspiracy theory, Cultural Marxism is alleged to be a conspiracy in which the Frankfurt School is part of a continual academic and intellectual culture war systematically to undermine and destroy Western culture and social traditions.[34][35] As articulated in the 1990s, the conspiracy means to replace traditionalist conservatism and Christianity with the counterculture of the 1960s to promote social changes such as racial multiculturalism, multi-party progressive politics and political correctness in language.[36][37]

In Norway, Anders Behring Breivik quoted Lind's usages of Cultural Marxism in his political manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, which he emailed to 77 people just 90 minutes before killing 77 people in his bomb and gun attacks in Oslo and on Utøya.[38][39][40][41]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Barker, Chris; Jane, Emma (16 May 2016). Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. SAGE. ISBN 9781473968349.
  2. ^ Habermas, Jürgen (1985). Theory of Communicative Action. Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0807015070. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Kellner, Douglas. "Cultural Studies and Social Theory: A Critical Intervention" (PDF). UCLA. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  4. ^ Horkheimer, Max; W. Adorno, Theodor (2002). Dialectic of enlightenment philosophical fragments ([Nachdr.] ed.). Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0804736336.
  5. ^ Haralambos, Michael; Holborn, Martin (2013). Sociology Themes and Perspectives (8th ed.). New York City: HarperCollins. pp. 597–598. ISBN 978-0-00-749882-6.
  6. ^ Thomas Cook (Editor), Daniel; Michael Ryan (Editor), J. (2 March 2015). The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies. p. 47. ISBN 9781118989463.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Thompson, E.P. (1988). The making of the English working class (Reprinted. ed.). London [u.a.]: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140210002.
  8. ^ Feather, John (2006). A history of British publishing (2nd ed.). London [u.a.]: Routledge. p. 205. ISBN 978-0415302265.
  9. ^ Hoggart, Richard (1992). The Uses of Literacy: aspects of working-class life with special reference to publications and entertainments (Repr. ed.). Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin in association with Chatto and Windus. p. 9. ISBN 9780140170696.
  10. ^ Seiler, Robert M. "British Cultural Studies". Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  11. ^ Hoggart, Richard (2009). The Uses of Literacy: aspects of working-class life (New ed.). London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0141191584.
  12. ^ 'Cultural Marxism and Its Conspirators': Paul Pengor in American Spectator 3 April 2019
  13. ^ Schroyer, Trent (1975). The critique of domination : the origins and development of critical theory. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-0807015230. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  14. ^ Richardson, John E. (10 April 2015). "'Cultural-Marxism' and the British National Party: a transnational discourse". In Copsey, Nigel; Richardson, John E. (eds.). Cultures of Post-War British Fascism. ISBN 9781317539360.
  15. ^ Matthew, Feldman; Griffin, Roger (editor) (2003). Fascism: Fascism and culture (1. publ. ed.). New York: Routledge. p. 343. ISBN 978-0415290180. Retrieved 28 October 2015.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Marx, Karl (1989). Contribution to the critique of political economy. [S.l.]: Int'L Publishers Co. ISBN 978-0717800414.
  17. ^ Jameson, Frederic; Buchanan, ed. by Ian (2007). Jameson on Jameson : conversations on cultural Marxism. Durham [u.a.]: Duke Univ. Press. pp. 8, 11, 75, 180. ISBN 978-0822341093.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Arce, Dr. José Manuel Valenzuela. "Cultural diversity, soci al exclusion and youth in Latin America" (PDF). Campus Euroamericano. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  19. ^ Merchant, Guy (1 January 2012). "Critical Media Literacy". The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. doi:10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0282. ISBN 9781405194730. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  20. ^ Kellner, Douglas. "The Frankfurt School and British Cultural Studies: The Missed Articulation". Illuminations: The Critical Theory Project. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  21. ^ Horkheimer, Max (2004). Eclipse of reason ([Rev. ed.]. ed.). London: Continuum. ISBN 9780826477934.
  22. ^ Habermas, Jürgen (1985). Theory of Communicative Action. Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0807015070. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  23. ^ Adorno, Theodore; Ashton, E.B. (1983). Negative dialectics (Repr. ed.). New York: Continuum. ISBN 978-0826401328.
  24. ^ James, Beverly A. (1987). "The Frankfurt School: Critical theory as the negation of culture" (PDF). Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies. 8 (1): 5–24. doi:10.1080/02560054.1987.9652975. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  25. ^ Aylesworth, Gary (2015). "Habermas's Critique". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  26. ^ Habermas, Jürgen (1987). The philosophical discourse of modernity : twelve lectures (14. Nachdr. ed.). Cambridge: Polity in association with Basil Blackwell. ISBN 978-0262581028. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  27. ^ Fraser, Nancy (May–June 2000). "Rethinking Recognition. New Left Review 3, May-June 2000". 3. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  28. ^ Zubatov, Alexander: 'Just Because Anti-Semites Talk About ‘Cultural Marxism’ Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Real': in Tablet Magazine November 29, 2018
  29. ^ Harris, Malcolm (19 February 2016). "Hooray for cultural Marxism". Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  30. ^ Wilson, Jason. "'Cultural Marxism': a uniting theory for rightwingers who love to play the victim". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  31. ^ Lind, William S. "Column by William S. Lind". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  32. ^ Blackford, Russell (August 2, 2015). "Cultural Marxism and our current culture wars: Part 2". The Conversation.
  33. ^ Cudlipp Lecture, 22 January 2007: Paul Dacre
  34. ^ Jay, Martin. "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe". Salmagundi Magazine. Archived from the original on 24 November 2011.
  35. ^ Jamin, Jérôme (2014). "Cultural Marxism and the Radical Right". In Shekhovtsov, A.; Jackson, P. (eds.). The Post-War Anglo-American Far Right: A Special Relationship of Hate. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 84–103. doi:10.1057/9781137396211.0009. ISBN 978-1-137-39619-8.
  36. ^ Berkowitz, Bill. "Ally of Christian Right Heavyweight Paul Weyrich Addresses Holocaust Denial Conference". Southern Poverty Law Center. SPLC 2003. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  37. ^ Stuart Jeffries, Grand Hotel Abyss, pp.6-11 , Verso 2016
  38. ^ "'Breivik Manifesto' Details Chilling Attack Preparation". BBC News. 24 July 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  39. ^ Trilling, Daniel (18 April 2012). "Who are Breivik's Fellow Travellers?". New Statesman. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  40. ^ Buruma, Ian. "Breivik's Call to Arms". Qantara. German Federal Agency for Civic Education & Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  41. ^ Shanafelt, Robert; Pino, Nathan W. (2014). Rethinking Serial Murder, Spree Killing, and Atrocities: Beyond the Usual Distinctions. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-56467-6.
This page was last edited on 11 October 2020, at 11:47
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