Four intellectuals established Cultural Studies, namely, Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson, and Stuart Hall. Hall (b. 1932) has had the lion's share of publicity. Scholars working in this tradition often take their cue from his articles.
Hall tells us that he grew up in Jamaica, the "blackest son" (in
his words) of a middle-class, conservative family; from an early age, Hall
says, he rejected his father's attempt to assimilate into white,
English-speaking society (his father worked his way up through the United Fruit
Company). In 1951, he won a scholarship to
During the late 1970s, Hall produced at least two papers on the
Hall’s old student David Morley evaluates Hall’s Encoding/Decoding
A famous and massively influential article by Stuart Hall
Written in 1972
when Hall was Professor in the
world famous Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the
Is the Media liberal and plural?
Is the Media structured, powerful, and controlling of the audience?
In other words do we choose between a wide range of media goods e.g. programmes?
Are we shaped and hugely influenced by what the media says both in terms of our cultural values as well as what we know of the world?
Are we active or passive viewers?
Are programme makers active shapers of us, or passive respondents to our wants?
The 1970s was a time of enormous political activism especially on the left of British politics, e.g. the impact of Marxist theory in the Universities.
Oddly the kind of Marxist theory that academics were keen on, was deried from French and Italian marxists, notably:
Louis Althusser (1915-1990)
Antonio Gramsci (died, 1937)
But there were theoretical trends other than Marxism..or rather neo-Marxism…
Marxism explains the how capitalism works…
And also works…against the interests of the working-class
It also explains the organisation of production
in terms of the means (the tools/plant e.g. cameras, studios etc.
and relations of production (organisation of the workers into a production unit)
and Marxism tends to assume that the product is determined by the ruling class and reflects their values and the values they want to distribute to the public – in others words goods as a factor of ideology.
Thus programmes become a vehicle of a set of social and cultural values that are thought good for us by the elite group(s) in society…
And these values are encoded in an attractive package called a
programme by elite group controlled workers (programme-makers) (
Who then make an audiovisual text = a programme which….
Is a constructed set of signs (semiotics)
Which is decoded by the audience
And here is the twist of Hall…….
Sometimes IN VARIOUS WAYS
i.e. not just in one way as Althusser and cruder marxists have implied.
Hall’s Encoding/Decoding Model has 3 positions:
Sometimes the audience will:
a) Accept the ideas and meanings the media dish out
b) Sometimes they will negotiate the meanings – I accept some of this but not other bits
c) And sometimes the audience will say: I know what I am being told and I reject it - a resistant approach
And here is the Encoding/Decoding model: