Interview with Stuart Hall on Culture and Power | by Lynne Segal and Peter Osborne

“The moment of power is not in ideology or culture as an instance. The moment of power is in the historically situated intervention of ideology in practices of signification. That is the moment of overdetermination. That is the moment of suturing. As Voloshinov says, thatʼs when the powerful want to bring history to an end. They want one set of meanings to last for ever and of course it doesnʼt, it canʼt: hegemony is never forever. Itʼs always unwoven by culture going on meaning more things. There are always new realities to explain, new configurations of forces.

RP: But doesnʼt that leave you with a kind of pragmatism?

“Of course it does. I would say it leaves me with a much more contingent notion of history, because ideology is never the necessary expression of a class interest. It is the way certain class interests and other social forces attempt to intervene in the sphere of signification,
to articulate or harness it to a particular project, to hegemonize.”

You canʼt reduce it to the things you do with your body and you canʼt reduce it to the things you say. So why say ʻdiscursiveʼ? To resist the notion that there is a materialism which is outside of meaning. Everything is within the discursive, but nothing is only discourse or only discursive. Itʼs a convenience, really. Rather than battle on with ʻideologyʼ, always adding, although not in the classical Marxist sense, in a world saturated by the question of discourse, I find it more convenient to conduct that argument in polemical relation to the linguistic appropriation of Foucault; instead of going on doing it within the Gramscian–Althusserian–Marxist frame, which is not how people are talking about it any longer. Itʼs a strategy of theorizing – to insist on the constitutive nature of the symbolic-cultural level.”

Stuart Hall

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