[csaa-forum] Re: but wait, it just keeps going on and on
mail at benhourigan.com
Sun Feb 27 20:52:49 CST 2005
This post does eventually get back to the question of how we could
respond to critics of Cultural Studies, so bear with me...
In some off-list correspondence, Danny wrote to me and suggested that I
couldn't reasonably suggest that we drop Marxist political theory from
cultural studies in order to politically re-align it (I'm
(Excerpts from the email that prompted this is reproduced at the bottom
of this post.)
By writing this, Danny's reiterating a point from that post of Terry
Flew's that started the whole "Is cultural studies inherently
000592.html). I don't think that's at all unfortunate. For the record,
I agree: I don't think a Cultural Studies without Marxist theory would
be the same kind of discipline we know today. Though part of the reason
that Marxist theory is so central is that the far-reaching (and
arguably totalitarian) scope of Marxism has caused that tradition of
thought to produce a quantity of cultural theory that is probably
unrivalled by any ideology active in the 20th century. As a
non-leftist, however, this reliance on Marxism bothers me more than a
No doubt it bothers our 'right-wing' critics, too. As you can see
below, I'm no subscriber to Melleuish's particular grievances. But,
while we are doing the work of refuting the particular arguments he and
others put forward against Cultural Studies, could we perhaps make some
conciliatory gestures towards them, rather than lambasting them for
being 'right wing'? Could anyone ever add, to the current, 'leftist'
brand of Cultural Studies, a liberal (à la Thomas Jefferson, rather
than John Kerry) Cultural Studies? A conservative (à la Edmund Burke,
not Andrew Bolt) Cultural Studies?
In other words, could we invite Melleuish, Windschuttle, Miranda
Devine, and their like, to join us (at least from time to time), rather
than try to beat us?
(I hear you, Charles, with regard to the attitudes of some to your work
on popular music. I once wrote to Windschuttle asking for some
references on writing against Marxist cultural theory, and his
suggestion was that the people he knew [and I suspect Keith himself]
wouldn't have much sympathy for that element of my work. Still, he
passed over it tactfully, and I ended up getting my references from
someone he knew.)
EXCERPTS FROM MY OFF-LIST EMAIL TO DANNY BEGIN HERE:
> The right is all for fairness and liberal education, when their
> compatriots are on the soapbox or at the lectern.
I take this to imply that, in taking a position against cultural
studies, 'the right' is against 'fairness and liberal education'
because their compatriots are *not* at the lectern. If cultural studies
lecturers are not the compatriots of 'the right,' then the left/right
spectrum can allow them only two other positions: centre or left. My
experiences with the teaching of cultural studies at Melbourne Uni,
which have involved heavy emphasis on Marxist cultural theory, lead me
to believe that it is not the centre that the discipline is trying to
occupy. Charles doesn't necessarily _need_ to mention the left, since
when Cultural Studies people gather, the assumption is often already
there that they are all leftists, for whom those on the 'right wing'
are natural opponents in debate.
Despite this, sometimes people *do* mention it, as Jason Jacobs did on
the list on 6 January 2005, saying:
> Still, I think all cultural studies scholars believe themselves to be
> left-wing. Whatever that means.
This was in the context of the "Is cultural studies inherently
left-wing?" thread. Then there was Laurie Duggan on Jan 6:
> It's probably true that Humanities academics (over and above cultural
> studies practitioners) are mainly of the left.
and Terry Flew on 7 Jan:
> the globalisation of cultural studies through the
> academic publishing market is, if anything, tightening the linkage
> cultural studies and a version of left politics.
Are the alliances and enmities implied by these statements imaginary? I
don't think so.
Personally, I find Melleuish's attack on Cultural Studies just as
ridiculous as I suppose everyone else does, though it doesn't bother me
that he or the newspaper he publishes in might be 'right wing.' Rather,
it's because he doesn't seem to have a clear idea of the lines between
disciplines (why should Cultural Studies be concerned with Thucydides,
or whether or not students could write a constitution?), and that he
forgets that although students might not be studying Thucydides in CS,
there's nothing to stop them from taking some Classics subjects at the
same time, or taking Politics and learning about constitutions.
Ben Hourigan, B.A. (Hons) (Melb.)
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