The Politics of Cultural Studies

  • Francis Mulhern
Keywords: Education, Marxism


Among the more striking intellectual phenomena of these putatively postmodern times is the rise, in the metropolitan academy, of the new discipline of cultural studies. I say "new" because cultural studies properly understood was never merely the organized study of "culture"; it was, from the start, a directed, self-consciously oppositional program of theoretical and empirical investigation. Today, an idea that first took institutional shape as an annex of Birmingham University's English Department has developed to fill out the entire repertoire of academic activity: specialized degree and graduate programs, a new generation of teachers who, unlike their improvising mentors, are graduates trained in the discipline, professional associations, high-profile conferences, networks that cross continents. Corporate publishers devote whole catalogues to the written output of cultural studies, which by now includes not only the prolific research in the field, but also histories of the discipline itself, bulky course readers, and not a few bluffer's guides.