In 2014, Birmingham University marked 50 years since the introduction of cultural studies. Essentially, cultural studies refer to the theoretical, political and empirical analyses of community culture. Even though the discipline has its origins in Britain, more and more countries globally have assimilated and incorporated cultural studies into their educational curriculums. Culture plays an indispensable role in enhancing community efficiency and is the primary determinant of the progression of people’s efforts.
However, given the social and political changes since 1950’s, Cultural Studies have been the subject of revisions and changes, which were intended to address the prevailing issues in the contemporary society. Therefore, there has been a need to incorporate new elements into the entire cultural studies component while at the same time, there has been a need to remove certain elements that are no longer in practice and have no influence in the 21st century societies. Thus, culture is largely influenced by the political, social and economic dynamics and a change in these components directly influences the components of cultural studies.
Shifts in Cultural Studies
As a result of a myriad political, social and economic changes since the inception of British cultural studies, cultural studies have had to change to reflect these changes. The changes have been applied to the methods of analysis, the elements of analysis and the individuals involved in cultural analysis process with an increased number of scholars from a variety of disciplines undertaking to explore the tenets of cultural studies. Thus, below is an examination of the changes that have taken place in cultural studies since the Birmingham inception.
Changes the Methods of Cultural Analysis
When cultural studies began, the pioneers of the phenomenon had largely employed the Marxist method of analysis to examine the components of culture and their influences on the society (Hartley 106). This method of analysis was based on the linkage between social components and political elements. The Marxist theory assumed that there were two divisions in human society; the base and the superstructure. The base, comprised the productive processes while the superstructure comprised culture and political power components. At the time, cultural studies prevailed that the base was the predominant influence on the two components. This was a consequence of the class system, which was predominant in Britain at the time of the establishment of Birmingham Cultural Studies.
In the first half of the twentieth century, work comprised a primary element in the analysis of socio-cultural components. The emphasis was thus placed on the inter-relations at the workplace to determine the state of culture in the society. It was essentially from the interrelationship between production and workplace dynamics that inferences on cultural examinations were drawn. Relationships between the two components were employed to generalize on the prevailing culture in the society at the time (Hartley 191).
Nonetheless, this form of analysis has been the subject of revisions and criticisms in recent times. Cultural studies at present recognize the immensity of each Marxist component, the base, and superstructure, and further, reinforce that each has an equal influence on the other without one being more influential than the other. Essentially, based on this context, cultural studies have shifted from the position that the base is a state but rather a process just as the superstructure is. Consequently, the recent forms of cultural analysis are those that acknowledge the base and superstructure, not as permanent components but rather dynamic components that continuously change. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
This change was influenced by the increasingly liberal political systems in operation in the world. After Stalin’s suppression of the Hungarian uprising of 1956, there was the introduction of the new left which did not incline its proclamations on the principles set forth by the Marxist theory. The New left, even though aligned to the old left which found its roots in the communist principles set forth by the Marxist framework, was supportive of the abolition of the education and economic privileges in the society which opened up the base to influence from the superstructure and equally the superstructure from the base.
In this era, the left-wing called for the empowerment of the working class in the society. Consequently, after the Cold War, more people were able to secure employment which reinforced the influence that the superstructure had on the base and hence the negation of Marxist systems of analysis in research of cultural studies. Cultural studies research was thus conducted in the assumptions that the base and superstructure were reciprocal and not irregular as has been the case before.
Changes in Reference terms
Secondly, cultural studies shifted from the natural and biological terms of reference to more socially inclined reference terms. This was a result of the fear that prevailed in generalizations. Essentially, there was a concern that fixed or uni-dimensional identities were asymptomatic of “essentialism” and were thus replaced by the plural of hybridized phenomenon. Thus, whereas in the past, cultural studies have integrated terms such as “gender” to as a supplant of the previous term “sex,” which was used to define the differences between male and female individuals in the society.
Furthermore, terms such as “ethnicity” and “racialization” were adopted in cultural studies to reflect on the racial and class differences in school. Thus, the language that is employed currently in cultural studies is more responsive to the prevailing society needs for enhanced integration in the society. Gender and race were firmly entrenched into the cultural analysis. The change in the language employed by cultural studies was a result of several events and circumstances that prevailed in the 1970s.
In the late 1970s, there was increased calls for the empowerment of women in the society. In defining man’s culture, the language that had been used previously had extended little if any credit to the woman in the society. Feminists called for increased participation in the community that would augment their position in the progression of the society. Thus, when women were allowed increased influence on the initiatives of the community, there was a need for their incorporation in the cultural studies as separate a separate entity with a definite identity, which led to the development of gender-sensitive language in the discipline of cultural examination (McOintock 1189). [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
The end of slavery and the increased participation of the black community in the U.S. political and entertainment affairs necessitated the re-drafting of previous terms that were used to define differences in race and culture. Essentially, in the early subcultural studies, black youth, and predominantly the women, were not addressed (Bose 168). As more and more people of different races were integrated, there was a need for their recognition in the cultural examinations, which led the development of connotations that would not be demeaning to any race and would not project similar tenets as, had been extended by previous terms of references on the subject communities. In addition, the end of colonialism led to the further empowerment of African communities and that allowed their influx into the Western countries. In return, this resulted in an increased call for integration which inspired the review of cultural studies.
Increased calls for respect of human rights in the 1970’s resulted in the need for a review of terms that were employed in defining cultural components. As cultural studies expanded globally, cultural studies no longer reflected on solely the British people. Thus, despite the reinforcement of methods of analysis in all cultural examinations globally, the resources that were used to draw findings on cultural studies differed from one country to another. Through the 1990’s, cultural studies as a discipline was adopted by an increased number of people (McOintock 1191). Consequently, to succinctly draw inferences that were not only valid but further responsiveness to the subject communities, cultural studies had to borrow on particular environmental and social resources which were related to the immediate study.
Likewise, the change in terms that are employed in cultural studies are a consequence of capitalist inclinations which has seen an increased empowerment of the working class in the society. Increased empowerment of the working class led to the elimination of the class system, which was prevalent in British colonies (Bose 176). As more and more people had the liberty to generate wealth and own property after the decline of socialist views and the entry of neat capitalism, there was a need for the revision of the terms that conjured insult to people of different wealth in the society. Consequently, cultural studies employ terms that are not deemed offensive to the prevailing social, political, and economic conditions of the subject people.
Internationalization of cultural studies
The internationalization of cultural studies comprises the next change in the discipline. Essentially, there was the negation of the global principles that were used to define and guide cultural studies depending on the prevailing conditions and the subject situation. Essentially, cultural studies no longer had the limitations that were placed on it by the initial frameworks that led to its establishment in Birmingham. Cultural studies were no longer limited to solely the examination of the base and superstructures which led to the expansion of the field. The examination of culture was extended to the analysis of more than the influences of politics and economic components.
The Cultural analysis was conducted vis-à-vis other disciplines which were not addressed at its inception such as technology, medicine, and engineering. Furthermore, whereas it had been assumed that the consumers of cultural studies were mainly adults and intelligent individuals in society, the prevailing cultural studies recognize the immensity of addressing each group in the society (Hartley, 150). The prevailing cultural studies were no longer just concerned with the social state of the prevailing communities but further sought to create and examine the link between the entire components of the society. The democratization of the cultural studies also saw an increased number of participants engage in the discipline of cultural studies.
Contextualization of Media Message
Cultural studies have also changed with regards to the decoding of information that is generated by the media. This debate is a premise of the divergent views on the contextualization of a message. Thus, is it the duty the audience to decode the messages transmitted from a media source or is it the duty of the media outlet to ensure that the message is wrapped in such a way that it can easily be consumed and integrated into the media. Thus in the past, cultural studies examination of media information reinforced the construction of consensus, the reproduction the status quo, and the irresistibility of dominant meanings (Turner 86). Under these influences, the models that were employed by the cultural studies to examine the contextualization of media messages were those that “tended to construct an audience that was, nevertheless, still helpless before the ideological unity of the television message” (Turner 86). It would also be significant to note that this era of cultural studies enforces the immensity of the text as opposed to the reader’s power in contextualizing the received message.
Nonetheless, the year 1970 saw a change in the text conceptualization analysis in cultural studies. Intrinsically, there was the introduction of the principles of semiotic analysis in cultural studies. Under these principles, the conceptualization of the text was based on the subject individual depending on their culturally-generated codes that they adopted in the process of growth. Fiske and Hartley (85) prevailed that the internal psychological state of the individual played no role in the conceptualization of media information but rather the immediate culture in which one was born. Thus the methods of cultural studies, with regards to the decoding of information that was extended to the reader by the researcher had changed as a result of changes in media technology.
Contemporary Issues in the 21st century
In order to remain relevant in the 21st century, there are several revisions and additions that need to be incorporated into the cultural studies. In order for Cultural Studies to remain relevant, there is a need to respond to the current issues in the society and the identification of ways by which these issues can be resolved. In a rapidly changing world, these components, if unresolved may lead to economic, social, and political redundancy.
The advent of information technology has resulted in increased globalization. Essentially, more people from different geographical locations can integrate and share ideas through online platforms such as social networks and crowdsourcing platforms. Therefore, for relevance, there is a need for the cultural studies that are being conducted to reflect the diversity that is projected by the social composition of individuals that make up part of the online exchange. Intrinsically, what affects one individual at one point may have been propagated by an event that is not within the immediate vicinity of the culture under scrutiny. Thus, whereas in the past, cultural analyses limited their examination to components that immediately surrounded the prevailing culture under analysis, in the 21st century, there will be increased demand for analyses that draw data from online platforms. . < Click Essay Writer to order your essay >
Likewise, in the 21st century, political conflict is on the rise which results in increased immigration and movement across the continents. Immigration has had a significant influence on the society make-up in several European nations given the influx of immigrants and refugees fleeing persecution in Arab countries. Consequently, cultural studies will have to focus on a particular and limited aspect of culture in the society to enhance the efficiency of the inferences that are drawn from such interventions. Intrinsically, increased migration and immigration leads to the abandoning and integration of culture.
Consequently, if an umbrella approach is engaged to draw inferences on particular components of culture, it is possible that the occurrences of errors would be more often that was the case in previous times. Cultural studies should address, not the collective cultural components of a particular area but rather limit this examination to a particular trait in an identified community to pre-empt confusion.
In addition, increased fanaticism, ethnocentricity, and right-wing religious inclinations have led to increased violence and terrorist activities in the present world. Given that there are no identification frameworks through which such actions can be distanced from the actual religions, there is a need for cultural studies to establish metric through which religion can be differentiated from culture. For instance, most people tend to relate Islam to terrorism because most of the perpetrators often originated from Muslim backgrounds. This blanket view is a projection of the absence of guiding frameworks through which an individual’s actions can be separated from his or her cultural background.
In conclusion, Cultural Studies play an integral part in the maintenance of the social fabric. Through constant review, to reflect the prevailing social, economic and political situations, professionals and other stakeholders identify ways by which cultural barriers can be overcome, and instances such as terrorism can be pre-empted. It is significant to note that culture cannot be separated from man. However, it is possible for people to use cultural studies to channel one’s culture towards productivity and making the society a better place.
Bose, Martina. “Race” and Class in the “Post-Subcultural” Economy .” Muggleton, David and Rupert Weinzierl. The Post-subcultures Reader. New York: Berg, 2003. 167-180.
Hartley, John. A Short History of Cultural Studies. London: Sage Publishing, 2003.
McOintock, Anne. “The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term Post-Colonialism.” Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 1185-1196.
Turner, Graemer. British Cultural Studies. London: Routledge, 2005.