1 What is Popular ?

- - aus: STOREY, John: Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. London et al. (PearsonlPrenUce Hall) 2001 - I

Before we consider in detail the different ways in which popular culture has been defined and analyzed, I want to outline some of the general features of the debate which the study of popular culture has generated. It is not my intention to pre-empt the specific findings and arguments which will be presented in the following chapters. Here I simply wish to map out the general conceptual landscape of popular culture. This is, in many ways, a daunting task. As Tony Bennett points out, 'as it stands, the concept of popular culture is virtually useless, a melting pot of confused and contradictory meanings capable of misdirecting inquiry up any number of theorrt- ical blind alleys'.' Part of the difficulty stems from the implied otherness which is always absendpresent when we use the term 'popular culture'. As we shall see in the chapters which follow, popular culture is always defined, implicitly or explic- itly, in conuast to other conceptual categories: folk culture, mass culme, , working-class culture, etc. A full definition must always take this into account. Moreover, as we shall also see, whichever conceptual category is deployed as popular culture's absentlpresent other, it will always powerfully affect the con- notations brought into play when we use the term 'popular culture'. Therefore, to study popular culture we must first confront the difficulty posed by the term itself. That is, 'depending on how it is used, quite different areas of inquiry and forms of theoretical definition and analytical focus are suggested'." The main argument which 1 suspect readers will take from this hook is that popular culture is in effect an empty conceptual category, one which can be filled in a wide variety of often conflicting ways, depending on the context of use.


In order to define popular culture we htneed to deiine the term 'culture'. Raymond Wllliams calls culture 'one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language'.' Wllllams suggests three broad defimtions. First of all, culture can be used to refer to 'a general process of lnteuectual, spiritual and aesthetic

16 W/,at is l'opcrtor Cuiture?

Day, Gary (ed.), Readings hi I'oprrlnr (:ulti.irc, Lonilon: ~Vlacmillan,1990. A mixed collcc- rion of essays, romp inteicsting and useiol, nrhc~.stilo unsure abimr how seriously to take poprrlar culture. Du Gay, Paul, Stuart Hall, Llnda Jancs, Hugh Mackay and Keith Negor, Doing Cultural Siudies: The Story of the Sony Wlilbi??an,London: Sagc, 1997. Ail cxcellcnr ilitroducrio<~ to sornc oi thc key issues in culti~ralsrildies. Worth reading for the explanation of 'the circuit of ciilruie'. Fiskc, Jnhn, Underitonding Pop2*liir-Culture, London: (inwin Hyman, 1989. A clear presenra- tion of his particular approach to the study of popular cnlture. Fiskr, John, Reoding the Popular, 1.ondon: Unwin Hyrnan. 1989. A of essays analyzing difkrent examples of popular culti~ie. (;oodall, Peter, High Culrrure, Popular Cu1rur.e: The lung debole, Sr Lronaids: Alleli & Unwin, 1995. The traces the debare between high and popular culture, with particu~ lar, hot nor exclusive, reference to the Australian experience, from the eighteenth century to the prcscnt day. Milner, Andrew, Cot?rentporar?, C~~ltuialStudies,2nd edn, London: UCI. Press, 1994. A useful inrl-odnction to contemporary culmral theory. Mukerii, Chandra and Michael Schudson (eds), Rethinking Po/>~,lnrCrriture, Berkeley: Universiry of California Press, 1991. A collenion of essays, with an informed and interesr- inp introducrion. The book is helpfully divided into sections on differeim a~,lproaches m - Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991. A useful and interesting collection of essays on cultural theory and popular culture. Strinati, Dominic, An Introd~ictronto Theories of Popular Cultidre, London: Routledge, 1995. A clear and comprehensive introduction to theories of popular culture. Tolson, Andrew, Mediations: Text and discoullre in media studi~r,London: Edward Arnold, 1996. An excellent introduction to the study of popular . Turner, Graerne, British Culturn1 Studies, 2nd edn, London: Routledge, 1996. Still the best inrroduction ro British . Notes

w Ha\,cn: Yale Univcr sit" Press. 1957, D. xv. ! kc rnc ;I,ml>.?~~~., I .:I:? K) :',I, . , ~< . .\, .<

1 What is Popular Culture?

1. Tony Bennett, 'Popular culture: a teaching objcct', Screen Edrrcotion, 34, 1980, p. 18. 2. Ihid., p. 20. 3. Raymond Williams, Keywords, London: Fontaaa, 1983, p. 87. 4. Ibid., p. 90. 5. Ihid. 6. Ihid. 7. Craeme Turner, British Cultui.al Studies: An introduction, 2nd edn, London: Routledge, 1996, p. 182. 8. James W. Carey, 'Overcoming resisrance to cultural studies', in W'hat Is Cultural Stud- ies: A Render, edited by John Storcy, London: Edward Arnold, 1996, p. 65. 9. Stuarr Hall, 'Some paradigms in cultural studies', Annali, 3, 1978, p. 23. 10. See and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology (srudenr edirion), edited and introduced by C. J. Arthur, London: Lawrcncc & Wishart, 1974. 11. I

1.5. Srual-r Mall, 'The rediscovery of ideologu: rhc i-ctu)~,01 the rcpl.rsscd in media studics', 40. Clranral rMooffc,'Hegemony ind ideology ii~Gramsci'. in Cirltrrre, Ideology and .Sorial in Subjcctiuity nnd .Sociul RcIairoi?s, cdired by Vcronica Berches and James Donald, I'rocess. edited lhy Tony Bennerr, Colin Mrrcer anil Janer \Voollacotr, Milron Ipt~lal-"',in Cultural Ti,eory and PI>/I~,/OF 41. Raymond Williams, 'Basc and sopcrsri-octurc in Marxist culrr~ialthcory', m Pi.oblefzs i~ Culture: A Reodcr, 2nd cdn, edircd hy John Storey, Hemel Hempsread: Prenticc Hall, Moterialism and Calture, London: Verso, 1980. I9YX. 41. Sruait Hall, 'Grcodingldecodin~', in Cr*/trtr-e, Media, Langaqqr, edited by Stuart Hall, 17. Williams, Keywords, p. 237. Dorothy Hobson, Andrew Lowe and I'sill Willis, London: Hurchinsoa, 1980. David 1.8. Bcnnerr, 'l'opi~lat.culrure: a reaching object', pp. 20-1 Morley, The Nntiorrlvide Audience, London: BFI. 1980. For critical commentary nee 19. , Disti,zcfio,r: A sociol crjtique of lhe ludp,nent of . rranslared by John Storey, ~ralStudies and the Study of Pop,*Lr Cultirre, Ed~nburgh:Edinburgh Richard Nice. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University IJr.css, 1984, p. 5. University Press, 1996, and John Storey, Culturai Conremnptzon and . 20. For a discussion of Shakcsprare as pop~llarcrilrure in nineteenrh-centi~ryAmerica, see I.ondon: Edward Arnold, 1999. I.,IMICIILCL~villr, Hi8/,bri,w/Jaor(ib~: The eInergencc ~~~ulturalhierorchg ti, America, 43. See Hall, 'Notes an dcconsrur~crinpthe popular'. Cambridge, Mass.: I-laivard University Press, 1988. 44. Tony Bennett, 'The polit~csof the popdar', in Po/,ular Cstlti~reand Social Relatiorzs, 21. See '"Expecting Rain": Opera as popular culture?‘, in Hzglr-Po/,, edited by Jim Collins, p. 20. Oxford: Hlackwcll, forrhcoming, 2000. 45 Turner, British Cultrrral Studies, p. 6. 22. See Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 5. 46. Lawrence Grossberg, It's a Sin: Essop an postmodemism, and cultirre, Sydney: 23. Ste Williams, Keywords, pp. 236-8. Power Publications, 1988, p. 7. 24. Hall, 'Notes oo deconstructing "the popular"', pp. 448-9. 47. Raymond Williams, Culture ond Soctct)r, Harmonilsworrh: Penguin, 1963, p. 11. 25. This is rhr principal theme of the 'production of culture' approach. See Paul Di- 48. See Pcter Burke, Popular. C~lltereitr Eady Alodern Europe, Aldershor: Scolar I'ress, Maggro, 'Cultural entreprener~rshipin ninereenth-century Boston: the creation of an 1994. organizational base for in i\rnerica3, in Celturol Tl~eoryand Po/~tulnr 49. R. J. Morris, Class awd Class Consciousness h the Irtdusrrral Reiiolutron 1780-1850, Cultirre: A Reader, 2nd edn, edited by John Storey, Hemel Hempsread: Prentice Hall, landon: Macmillan, 1979, p. 22. 1998. 50. Bennett, 'Popular culture: defining our rerms', p. 86.

26. John Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture, London: Unwin Hyman, 1989, p. 31. 51. Dick Hehdiee. 'Aanalararna, or can pop. ~ save us all?' New Statesman e" Socict),. 27. Simon Frith, Sound Effects: Youth, leisure and the politics of rock, Londoo: Constable, 9 ~ecemberi988. 1983, p. 147. 52. Geoff~.eyNowell~Srnith, 'Popular culture', New Formntions, 2, 1987, p. 80. 28. Fiske, Understnizdjng Fopirlar Culture, p. 27. 29. Richard Maltby, 'Inrrodocrion', in for Sale: Popular culture ix the 20th cantuq, edited by Richard Malrby, London: Harrap, 1989, p. 11. 30. Andrew Ross, No Respect: I~~lellectualrand popular calture, London: Routledge, 1989, p. 7. 31. See Duncan Webster, Lookn Yonder!, London: Comedia, 1988. London: Cambridge University Piers. 1960, 32. Malrby, 'Introducrion', p. 14. 33. Ibid. 34. See Nicholas Abeicl-ombie, Stephen Hill and Bryan S. Turner, The Dominant 1deolog)t 3. Ibid., p. 46. Thesis, London: Allen & Unwin, 1980. 4. Ibid., p. 48. 35. Bermerr, 'Popular culture: a teaching object', p. 27. 5. Ibid., p. 89. 36. , 'Hegemony, inrellectuals, and the stare', in Cultural Theory nnd Popu- 6. Ibid., p. 179. lar Cultme: A Render, 2nd edn, edited by John Storey, Hemel Hempsread: Prentice Hall, 7. Ibid., p. 31. 1998, p. 210. 8. Ibid., p. 163. 37. 1 call my approach neo-Gramscian in ol-drr to create some respectful theorcticai and 9. Ibid., pp. 163-4. political distance bcrween my own work and that of Antonio Gramsci. I am conscioos 10. Ibid., p. 163. of the facr that 1 am ,,sing an approach developed ro analyze the general field of polirics 11. Ibid., p. 76. to ~~ndersrandthe particular rerrain of popular culrure. 12. Ibid., p. 69. 38. Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notebooks, p. 161. 13. Ibid., p. 76. 39. Tony Bennett, 'Popular cultlire and the rurn ro Gramsci', in Cultural Theory and Popular 14. Ibid., p. 193. Culture: A Reader, 2nd edn, edited by John Srorey, Hemel Hempsread: Prentice Mall, 15. Ibid., pp. 80-1. 1998, p. 221.