Stuart Hall RIP

Posted: 10 February 2014 in Uncategorized
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Stuart-Hall-The-Unfinished-Conversation-Ceasefire-Magazine

Stuart Hall, former direct of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University and professor of sociology at the Open University, has died at the age of 82.

Hall may have been known as the “godfather of multiculturalism” but, to my mind, he was much more than that. Drawing inspiration from Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony and Louis Althusser’s concept of ideology, Hall was one of the most creative Marxist intellectuals of the postwar period. He joined others in breaking with both economic determinism and theoretical humanism, put a materialist cultural studies on the map, and carried out a thorough-going critique of neoliberalism (which I have written about here and here).

He was also always concerned about the current political conjuncture, as in this interview:

it’s the state of the left that strikes him as the most problematic. “The left is in trouble. It’s not got any ideas, it’s not got any independent analysis of its own, and therefore it’s got no vision. It just takes the temperature: ‘Whoa, that’s no good, let’s move to the right.’ It has no sense of politics being educative, of politics changing the way people see things.”

The examples of this are everywhere, but take as the most pressing the case of the NHS. “How can millions of people have benefited from the NHS and not be on the streets to defend it? Come on. The NHS is one of the most humanitarian acts that has ever been undertaken in peace time. The principle that someone shouldn’t profit from someone else’s ill health has been lost. If someone says an American health company will run the NHS efficiently, nobody can think of the principle to refute that. The guiding principles have been lost.” There was a study recently investigating why America, which spends more per capita on health, has worse outcomes, and the answer was quite clear: when there is a profit motive, the rich are overinvestigated, and the poor are undertreated. People die needlessly.

So there’s quite a sound pragmatic argument against private involvement in health, but Hall’s is a blistering moral statement – who would profit from someone’s ill health? What sort of person would that be? Would you trust them with your budget, let alone your health, or the health of a loved one? The moral case is not being forcefully enough put; indeed, it is not being put at all.

Update

Here’s a link [ht: ms] to Robin Blackburn’s obituary, as well as a list of other obituaries, commentaries, and work by Stuart Hall.

Comments
  1. […] with, of course, many others, including Stuart Hall and Edward Said) redefined the meaning of culture, which provided “a record of change, and of […]

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