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British Cultural Studies and Television

By John Fiske



A few statistics. See State of Working America.


Marxist Assumptions

Concern with the "generation and circulation of meanings in industrial societies."

Hooks calls them "motivated representations."

"Also underlying this work is the assumption that capitalist societies are divided societies."

"Social power is the power to get one’s class or group interest served by the social structure as a whole."

"In the domain of culture, contestation takes the form of the struggle for meaning, in which the dominant classes attempt to 'naturalize' the meanings that serve their interests into the 'common sense' of society as a whole, whereas subordinate classes resist this process in varying ways and to varying degrees and try to make meanings that serve their own



Ideology: "For Althusser, ideology is not a static set of ideas imposed upon the subordinate by the dominant classes but rather a dynamic process constantly reproduced and reconstituted in practice -- that is, in the ways that people think, act, and understand themselves and their relationship to


Commonsense and Interpellation

"At the heart of this theory (of overdetermination) is the notion of ideological state apparatuses (ISA’s), by which he means social institutions such as the family, the educational system, language, the media, the political system, and so on. These institutions produce in people the tendency to behave and think in socially acceptable ways (as opposed to repressive state apparatuses such as the police force or the law, which coerce people into behaving according to the social norms)."

"The social norms, or that which is socially acceptable, are of course neither neutral nor objective; they have developed in the interests of those with social power, and they work to maintain their sites of power by naturalizing them into commonsense---the only--- social positions for power."


"Social norms are ideologically slanted in favor of a particular class or group of classes but are accepted as natural by other classes, even when the interests of those other classes are directly opposed by the ideology reproduced by living life according to those norms."


"Hailing is the process by which language identifies and constructs a social position for the addressee.

Interpellation is the larger process whereby language constructs social relations for both parties in an act of

communication and thus locates them in the broader map of social relations in general."

A U.S. News Example

Hailing at work:

Anchor: There is a growing concern tonight about the possible economic impact that a nationwide railroad strike set for midnight tonight poses. The unions and the railroads remain deadlocked. Wyatt Andrews brings us up to date on what President Bush and Congress may do about it.

Reporter: By morning 230,000 rail workers might not be working on the railroad and the strike threatens millions of Americans. Just as thousands of commuters may find no train leaving the station beginning tonight at midnight.


"The word strike hails us as anti-union, for ‘striking’ is contructed as a negative action by labor unions that ‘threatens’ the nation."

Responsibility for strike ascribed to unions.

Report juxtaposes unions, not to management, but to "the railroads". Management then becomes identified with "the railroads", which can be understood not as an industry but as a national resource, a national resource standing for the nation, even for "us" the viewers.

"Recognizing ourselves in the national "us" interpellated here, we participate in the work of ideology by adopting the antiunion subject position proposed for us."


Copyright 1999 Burrelle's Information Services


View Related Topics


November 30, 1999, Tuesday

TYPE: Newscast

LENGTH: 398 words






The WTO defenders, and there are many, say the organization has cut tariffs on world trade, meaning greater economic growth and tens of millions of jobs

for workers around the world.

And it is true that some of those people in the streets of Seattle are determined to get attention by any means.

But there are others truly disenchanted with the way things are going and with something significant to say. ABC's Deborah Wang has spent the day with some of them.


Unidentified Woman #1: We're here for all the people of the world.

DEBORAH WANG reporting:

They began gathering before dawn, thousands of protesters for the thousand different stories undeterred by the rain. A children's advocate who once ran for congress.

Unidentified Woman #2: This year's world treaty is the most important issue facing our children and ourselves at this time.

WANG: A high school student who says he learned in class the WTO hurts the environment.

Unidentified Student: It's terrible what they've done, and I'm out here to protest that.


WANG: And a university professor who has seen it all before.

Unidentified Female Professor: Some of us who were there in the 60s and were working for peace and justice are back here. We've been there all the time.

WANG: And they are fighting for essentially the same issues they campaigned for in the '60s. Corporations, which they say are still exploiting workers in the Third World. Agribusiness is still putting small farmers out of work. Mining companies, still displacing peasants from the land.

Unidentified Woman #3: There is a general dissatisfaction here with corporate culture, absolutely. And we're not going to have that slammed down

our throats.


WANG: But what is different is that, for these protesters, this single organization, the WTO, has come to symbolize about all that is wrong in the

modern world.

So, in this global economy where bigger is better and only the fittest survive, these people complain they have less and less control over their jobs and the laws which protect their communities.

Woman #2: If our kids, when they become adults, cannot even create the quality of life that is the American dream, what do we have left? Nothing

else matters.


WANG: And they will stay here making their opinions known for the rest of

the week.

Deborah Wang, ABC News, Seattle.


LOAD-DATE: December 1, 1999

Copyright© 2000, LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Hegemony: "In hegemonic theory, ideology is constantly up against forces of resistance, Consequently it is engaged in a constant struggle not just to extend its power but to hold on to the territory it has already colonized."

Three Levels of Reading

Dominant/Negotiated/Oppositional reading

Polysemy and Multiaccentuality

Polysemy (heteroglossia/multiaccentuality)


7. Discourse: "A discourse is a socially produced way of talking or thinking about a topic. It is defined by reference to the area of social experience that it makes sense of, to the social location from which that sense is made, and to the linguistic or signifying system by which that sense is both made and circulated."

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