Christian Fuchs. 2023. A Marxist-Humanist Perspective on Stuart Hall’s Communication Theory. Theory and Society. Online First, DOI:
At the end of his life, Stuart Hall called for the reengagement of Cultural Studies and Marxism. This paper contributes to this task. It analyses Stuart Hall’s works on communication and the media.
The goal of the paper is to read Stuart Hall in a manner that can inform the renewal of Marxist Humanism and the development of a Marxist-Humanist theory of communication. This involves reconstructing elements of Hall’s approach, criticising certain aspects of his work, and through this engagement developing new theory elements.
The article’s analysis of Stuart Hall’s theory of communication and the media is conducted in four steps. First, the paper reengages and re-evaluates what Hall called the two paradigms of Cultural Studies: Structuralism and “Culturalism”/Humanism. It discusses the role of human agency in society. Second, the paper engages with Hall’s and Althusser’s notions of articulation and sets the notion of articulation in relation to the concept of communication. Third, it discusses the relationship between communication and work in the context of Hall’s works. Fourth, the article revisits and engages with Hall’s encoding/decoding-model in the context of digitalisation.
This paper grounds a dialectical concept of communication that is based on the dialectic of articulating and articulatedness, the dialectic of work and communication, as well as the dialectic of communication in the public sphere and society’s power forcefields. It shows how a critical, dialectical theory of communication benefits from engagement with Stuart Hall’s works. The present work argues with, for, against, and beyond Stuart Hall in order or productively draw on ideas that emerge from this engagement.