Justin Schlosberg

The rediscovery of ideology (once again): A tribute to Stuart Hall

In 1982, Stuart Hall wrote a seminal essay entitled 'The rediscovery of ideology: return of the repressed in media studies' (Hall 1982). In it he sketched out the theoretical framework of a resurgent critical paradigm following a long-standing pluralist tradition of studying the media in terms of its influence on audiences, which was rooted in behavioural science. This produced a body of empirical work that over several decades consistently found evidence of 'minimal effects' - especially when it came to the mass media's impact on political views and attitudes. This paper begins by unpicking the historical and theoretical foundations of the critical paradigm before sketching out the contours of a new pluralistic discourse that arguably regained ascendancy in media studies during the 1990s and early 2000s. It was fuelled by, among other things, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the spread of digital technologies of communication, and the supposed collapse of social deference toward elites (McNair 2006). But far from consigning ideological critique to the annals of history as some have suggested (Downing et al. 2014), this renewal of liberal pluralist ideas has in its turn prompted new ways of thinking about - and studying - the media's 'ideological work'. The paper concludes by reflecting on what all this means for the possibilities of genuine resistance to dominant narratives in mainstream news discourse.

Keywords: media, ideology, hegemony, power, Stuart Hall


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Note on the contributor

Justin Schlosberg is a Lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College, University of London, and Edmund J. Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University, 2014-2015. He is the author of Power beyond scrutiny: Media, justice and accountability (Pluto, 2013) and campaigns actively on behalf of the Media Reform Coalition, as well as other civil society groups engaged in media policy reform.