Monday, 4 June 2012

Cultural Studies and Figurational Studies: Towards a Synthesis

This is the first part of three in the serialisation of the dissertation I wrote in 1996 for my MA entitled: 'Shock! Horror! England in the Tabloid Press: An Investigation Into the Tabloid Press, the England Football Team and the Processes Which Have Led to Sensationalisation'. As I re-read it a few weeks ago it struck me that 16 years on, not much has changed and so after a little bit of persuasion from Greg Theoharis of Dispatches From a Football Sofa fame I've decided to publish it as a starting point for a series of posts on how the tabloid Press cover the England team during this year's European Championships. This part introduces the topic and provides a theoretical context, to that end it is the most technical of the three. For those interested a bibliography will be provided at the end. I have made a few minor alterations, mainly to remove obvious errors, but otherwise this is the text as submitted in September 1996.

Most of those involved in the study of sport, whatever their discipline and no matter what paradigm they adhere to would agree that the most common involvement people have with sport today is via the mass media. There has, however, been a distinct lack of cross-fertilization between sports sociology and cultural studies, despite the facts that, in the west, sport and the media due to various socio-economic, political and cultural factors have become increasingly interdependent and that they are taking up more and more of people’s time.

Wenner (1989:16) has been moved to argue that only “a few unrelated exist [on this subject] and no ongoing research programmes have been established”.  Whilst research shows that those who watch sport on television also listen to it on the radio and read about it in newspapers and magazines (Wenner, 1989: 16), the little academic work that has been done tends to focus either on the relationship between sport and television or to pay lip services to the importance of radio and the press.  In part this is due to television’s technological sophistication and advancement which has led to its ability to dominate and excel as “the medium through which the vast majority of people now have access to their favourite sports” (Barnett, 1990: page unknown).

Television is undoubtedly important, it’s estimated that two thirds of the world’s population watched this year’s Atlanta Olympic Games’ opening ceremony on television (Miller, 1996). In Britain the combined BBC and ITV television audience for the semi-final between England and Germany in Euro ’96 was 23.8million  (Henderson, 1996).

However one must not overlook the importance of the Press (nor for that matter radio).  During the domestic football season both the Sun and the Mirror have 12-page, full-colour pull-outs on Mondays (called Goals and Score respectively).  Many of the so-called ‘broadsheets’ have also begun to market their sports sections.  The Times has cut its cover price on Mondays and is running an advertising campaign based on a ‘Summer of Sport’.  The Daily Telegraph has also launched a television advertising campaign based on its sports coverage and it claims to have the biggest sports supplement of any daily national at 16 pages.

It is my intention in this dissertation to make a modest attempt to overcome what I believe to be two inadequacies.  Firstly I will attempt to overcome the problems Dunning (1992: 221) sees as inherent in sports sociology or what Rojeck refers to as the “gladiatorial paradigm” (1992: 13).  This currently leads academics to “misconstrue and perhaps even parody the work of others [and] see their own work as misunderstood and caricatured by ‘outsiders’” (Dunning, 1992: 221).  Thus I will attempt to search for synthesis between what are essentially two similar (but different) ‘processual’ approaches – that is to say figurational sociology and cultural studies.

Secondly, it is my intention to look at what I see as an under-researched area – the relationship between press and sports.  More specifically, I will focus on the coverage given by English newspapers the Sun and the Daily Mirror to the England team’s performances in the European Football Championships of this year (Euro ’96).  I will also look at the discourses, both sporting and political built around the behaviour of individual players both on and off the field of play.  The Sun and the Mirror have been chosen for analysis since they are currently England’s biggest selling daily national newspapers.  These two papers are also perceived by many to be at different ends of the political spectrum (the Mirror being a left wing, Labour supporting paper and the Sun being a right wing, Conservative supporting paper).  Looking at this tournament will enable me to discover what discourses are attached to a football tournament held on ‘home soil’.
Figure 1: National newspaper circulation in June and July 1996. (Source: The Guardian).
I am aware that this study will neither give attention to coverage of women’s sport nor foreign teams (except when they played against England).  However, I hope to offer a hypothesis that can be utilised in these areas.

Chapter 1: Cultural Studies and Figurational Sociology: Towards a Synthesis

As stated in the introduction, despite being generally overlooked in academic research the relationship between the English Press, sportsmen and women, and their individual or collective performances is a phenomenon in need of attention.

Wagg (1986, 1990) is the only author who, at the time of writing, has focused upon such relationships (although he looks only at football and concentrates on the manager).  In Naming the Guilty Men: Managers and the Media (1986) Wagg looks at Press coverage of the England team until the end of Ron Greenwood’s tenure (after the World Cup in 1982).  He also briefly looks at the coverage given to Scotland’s Ali McLeod during the 1978 World Cup – when England failed to qualify.  In his second essay on the subject, Playing the Past: the Media and the English Football Team (1990), Wagg looks at the management of Bobby Robson (1982-1990) as well as the capacity for the Press to set the agenda for other media such as television.

Essentially his work is framed within the cultural studies paradigm.  There is a keen sense of history the relationship is explored as a deeply rooted social process.  To a lesser extent he looks at the power relationships involved, thus emphasising the role of both the state and the economy.  However while showing how the ‘manager’ has risen to prominence as a figure within contemporary soccer he does not adequately explain the motivations behind the use of the discources employed by the papers studied.  Wagg (1990: 232) is however aware:

[…] that neither audience understanding nor reaction can be straightforwardly ‘read-off’ from the context of media products […] these texts are negotiated.

Despite utilising the strengths of the cultural studies paradigm, his work also falls prey to its weaknesses.  Rojeck argues that cultural studies writers’ “concerns […] to be relevant often boil down to nothing more than the recording of contemporary events” (1992: 8).  Wagg’s essays are nothing if not entertaining and they show some interesting insights into the subject.  However, the greater part of the essays consists of Wagg simply relaying sensationalist headlines and the essence of articles or television programmes.  In short, as Rojeck (1992: 9) argues, this sort of approach “[…] hardly amounts to a theory.  Cultural studies offer hardly any testable propositions or hypothesis”.  Rojeck (1992: 10) also argues that whilst cultural studies authors “pay lip service to the importance of global capitalism in organising choices and participation in sport and leisure activity,” such work is often characterised by a “little Englander mentality”.

To be fair to Wagg, he is focusing on a particularly English relationship and he does briefly look at a Scottish manager (1986: 48-51).  However, he continually blurs the distinction between ‘English’ and ‘British’.  In a matter of sentences he states both that “the British invented the game [soccer]” and that it was “England’s gift to the world”, (1992: 222).  Equally, by offering no testable hypothesis he offers no explanation as to how the relationship between the Press, sportsmen and women and their coaches may be approached in other parts of the world.  In short, Wagg makes a start on the subject upon which I hope to build in the following chapters.

Figurational sociology
Figurational sociology or, as it is sometimes called process sociology, has developed from the work of Norbert Ellias and his disciples.  This ‘sociogenetic’ method represents a re-orientation in sociological theory – an attempt to eschew what Elias saw as inadequacies in more ‘conventional’ sociological theories and their terms of reference.

Elias’ magnum opus, Über den Prozeß der Zivilisation (The Civilizing Process) represents to many the cornerstone of the figurational approach:

To which figurational sociologists cling to stubbornly [in] the belief that it is a fruitful […] co-ordinating guide to and stimulato of research in a wide number of fields, (Dunning 1992: 257)

As Dunning (date unknown: 117) summarises, it is:

a strict empirical study of an observable process of development that occurred between the Middle Ages and the end of the nineteenth century.  It analyses a long-run change of behaviour in the major Western European countries in the direction of increasing elaboration and refinement of manners and greater restraint, particularly with respect to physical functions.  This process was closely interwoven with a development on the level of social structure, of which the control of violence – pacification under state control – was the most important component.

Figurationalists are at pains to emphasise that Elias did not use the concept of a civilising process in an evaluative way.  He was not trying to say that those who could be considered more ‘civilised’ were also morally superior.  This is a point upon which there has been considerable debate and to which I shall return.

In short, Elias argued that the Civilising Process was a long-term process which saw a dampening of angriflust (people’s lust for violence).  Also there was a move towards refinement of manners and an increase in the pressure on people to exercise greater self-control over behaviour instead of relying on external constraints.

There have been many critics of figurational sociology and of the Civilising Process more generally.  The major criticisms of the latter are “the apparent irreversibility of the process [and] its ‘irrefutability’” (Lasch, 1985 and Smith, 1984 cited in Horne & Jary, 1987: 100).  Debate has also centred upon Elias’ conception of civilisation.  As I already stated, Elias was not trying to attach moral superiority to those he saw as more civilised.  Indeed the first part of the Civilising Process is concerned with outlinging the changing value-contnet and different meanings given to the term ‘civilisation’.  Dunning (1992: 260) has argued that part of the problem perhaps lies in the translation from the original German title.  Dunning (1992: 260) has argued that part of the problem perhaps lies in the translation from the original German title.  Dunning (1992: 260) posits that “the modesty and much of the subtlety of Elias’ original German have been lost”.  Hence the fact that Elias saw his work as a contribution to the study of western society and not a cast-iron theory is lost.

Dunning also argues that in German the word Prozess means trial as well as process.  In using the word, Elias was attempting to show that, at a time when the Nazis were taking control in Germany, civilization was on trial.  Mennell (1992: 30) highlights a further problem:

Unfortunately, in the book [The Civilising Process], Elias does not signal clearly the point at which he stops using the word ‘civilization’ in its native or popular sense and begins to use it in a technical, social scientific, more detatched way – the point, so to speak, when he drops the quotation marks.

Concerning the apparent “irrefutability of the theory, Dunning (1992: 266) argues that it is in fact “testable on different levels and in a variety of ways”.  He cites his own work with both Sheard and Elias as well as Mennell’s work on the development of taste and eating in England and France.  Although Dunning admits he and his colleagues may not have sought contradictory evidence as much as rival a theorist might, he claims they went into their investigations with an “open mind” (1992: 266).  Indeed it is hard to see how an empirical study cannot be “irrefutable” if inadequate.  Stokvis’ (1992) critique of Elias’ work on fox hunting shows this to be true (see also Dunning 1992: 267-273).  Part of the problem is perhaps that a full critique of The Civilizing Process is yet to be undertaken due to the size and complexity of the task.

“The apparent irreversibility of the process […]” is, on the other hand, a criticism that figurationalists have not yet adequately dealt with.  Dunning (1992: 265) argues that:
[…] although Elias never dwelled on this, the theory also implies a theory of ‘decivilisation’.  That is the case because it leads to one, ceteris paribus, to anticipate that ‘counter-civilising’ developments will occur in a society which experiences (absolute?) economic decline, a shortening of interdependency chains, diminishing state monopolies over force and taxation and growing inequality in the balance of power between groups.

Part of the problem may well be that Elias himself “focused primarily on ‘progressive’ or ‘civilising’ developments […]” (Dunning, 1992: 265), and hence arguments on the subject appear to have been conceptualized in retrospect.  What is more, the arguments used to counter the contention that the Civilising Process is a “[…] value judgement, praise and celebration” (Dunning 1992: 265) of today’s society are revealing.  Elias is often quoted as speculating that today’s society will be seen as part of the ‘Middle Ages’ by future historians (Elias, 1982: 47) cited in Dunning, 1994: 146) and that even the most civilised of people in the world today will be seen as “late barbarians” in the future (Elias, 1991: 147 cited in Dunning, 1994: 147).  Implicit in both these arguments is the assumption that ,sooner or later, future generation will be able to look back on history and draw such conclusions implying that:

[…] viewed from a long-term perspective, upsurges in the rate and intensity of violence can be seen as temporary aberrations in the ‘civilising curve’ (Rojeck, 1992: 26).

However, as Murphy (date unknown) argues many people’s understanding of figurational sociology is too closely tied to the Civilising Process.  Hence attitudes to the paradigm’s central tenets are often obscured.  It must be stated that even if the theory of the Civilising Process was shown to be inadequate, (dare I say incorrect?) the basic points of the paradigm itself would still provide a fruitful framework for analysis.

The main concept of figurational sociology is the ‘figuration’.  In short the figuration is “a structure of mutually oriented and dependent people” (Elias 1978a: 261, quoted in Tuck 1992: 11).  In developing this Elias was attempting to overcome the dichotomies and dualisms in the work of others as well as what he called zustandsreduktion or ‘process reduction’.  In offering a critique of the concept (endemic in structuralist theories) of homoclausus – where primacy is given to the individual, seen as self-contained and separate from others – Elias argued that it was prohibitive to see ‘individual’ and ‘society’ as independent of each other (1978: 119).  Elias argued that in reality the concept of hominess aperti was more adequate as people are in fact joined via networks of interdependencies or figurations.  Such figurations whilst developing in an unplanned manner can exert both constraining and enabling influences upon those within them.  ‘Closed’ perspectives often reified ‘social forces’ which Elias argued were in fact nothing more than constraints exerted by people over themselves and others.

‘Process reduction’ or zustandsreduktion is the tendency to present as static or isolated all that is interdependent and dynamic.  Elias sought to encourage sociologists to avoid this by adopting a processual approach thereby conceptualising figurations as dynamic, developing and dependent processes.  In short, people within figurations are interconnected by numerous dynamic and polyvalent bonds.  So whilst Marxists may place primacy on economic ties, figurationalists would seek to place equal importance on “affective (emotional) and political bonds,” (Rojeck, 1985: 160).

The notion of power is central to an understanding of interdependency ties.  Power is a characteristic of all human relationships.  It is not however a property or substance owned by any one individual (Elias, 1978: 74).  A degree of power (no matter how small) will always be invested in everyone involved in a specific relationship.  It is thus fitting to talk in terms of power balance.  The balance of power may be skewed in favour of one party but it is, however, never static nor permanent but in a continual state of flux.

A major, and important, extension of this theory is marked by Elias’ work on the Problems of Involvement and Detachment.  Mennell (1992: 159) argues that this title led many to, incorrectly, view the work as simply looking at issues of ‘objectivity’ or ‘value-neutrality’ in sociology.  Contrary to previous work on the subject where there had been arguments either for ‘objectivity’ or ‘subjectivity’ Elias believed that a balance of emotional involvement and detachment is present in almost all human behaviour.  Instead of seeing the problem in absolute or dichotomic terms, Elias conceptualised in terms of degrees:

Once cannot say of a person’s outlook in any absolute sense that it is detached or involved (or if one prefers ‘irrational’ or ‘subjective’).  Only small babies, and among adults perhaps only insane people, become involved in whatever they experience with complete abandon to their feelings here and now; and again only the insane can remain totally unmoved by what goes on around them (Elias 1956: 226 quoted in Dunning 1992: 246-247).

Critics of this particular aspect of figurational sociology have therefore concluded that adherents to the paradigm are seeking to provide ‘objective’ analysis from a value-free stance.  However, Elias did not talk in terms of ‘ultimate truth’ or ‘complete detachment’ instead he spoke in terms of degrees.  The diagram overleaf, constructed by Mennell (1992: 160) highlights Elias’ viewpoint.
Figure 2: A Continuum between invovement and detatchment. Source: Mennell (1992:160)
A second criticism is that “[…] there is no manifesto for a better society in figurational sociology,” (Rojeck, 1992: 17).  Unlike adherents of critical paradigms such as cultural studies or feminism, figurationalists’ supposed desire for ‘value neutrality’ leads them away from struggle and intervention.  This is however a misreading of the argument.  For figurationalists, knowledge ranks higher on their scale of values than immediate practical or political intervention.  It does not follow, however, that they eschew intervention.  Rather they seek to intervene on the basis of knowledge (see their proposals on football hooliganism).

These key elements would seem sine qua non to any adequate sociological enquiry.  When these are coupled with the strengths of cultural studies which I shall outline below one encounters, arguably, the most refined conceptual framework currently available.

Cultural Studies
Cultural studies is arguably the most paradigm in the neo-Marxist tradition, a tradition. A tradition which has seen the development of various associated theoretical perspectives all shifting away from traditional Marxism.

Correspondence theory, developed by the Franfurt school (writers such as Brohm, Hoch, Adarno among others) argue that sport is a mirror image, or microcosm of modern capitalist society.  The structure of sport and the cultural messages it disseminates are determined and dominated by the interests of the ruling class and their economic interests.  Therefore it becomes, for the docile labour force a totally alienating activity (Hargreaves 1982: 104; 1985: 41-44).

Reproduction theory or Althusserian Maxism sees sport, along with a whole range of other institutions such as education; the arts and literature; the media and political parties as an ‘ideological state apparatus’.  Despite the fact both are used to reproduce the relations of economic production (that is the exploitation of ‘labour’ by ‘capital’) these are distinguished from the ‘repressive state apparatus’ in so far as the former does so on an ideological level and the latter through such institutions as the police, the army and the legal system (Hargreaves, 1982: 105; 1985: 44).

Hargreaves (1982: 105) argues that the main problems with these approaches are that:

[…] they both share […]) a one-sided, deterministic and static model of capitalist society […].  There is little or no conception of a dialectic between dominant groups attempting to control and use sport and subordinate groups with their own responses to such attempts.

Hargreaves goes on to argue that it is the use of hegemony theory developed by Antonio Gramsci and Raymond Williams that makes cultural studies more adequate than other neo-Marxist approaches.  Exponents of the paradigm are critical of agency approaches.  Whilst they adhere to the idea that the class system is of crucial importance for an adequate understanding of sport and leisure, they reject traditional Marxian interpretations of base/superstructure relationships instead placing importance on interplay and dialectics.  Crucially therefore power is seen as neither unidirectional nor one-dimensional.  So whilst the cultural studies approach does not underestimate the power of hegemonic groups, it does see there is room in society for opposition positions to be taken.  Thus sport and leisure and the media provide two important arena where capitalist values may be contested and exposed.

As already stated it was the writings of Antonio Gramsci that, late in the 1960s and early 1970s, provided an impetus for the nebulous paradigm of cultural studies.  This is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the study of culture which Raymond Williams 91977: 110 quoted in Jarvie & Maguire, 1994: 119) sees as:

[…] a whole body of practices and expectations, the whole of living; our sense and assignments of energy, our shopping perceptions of ourselves and our world.  It is a lived system of meanings and values – constitutive and constituting – which as they are expressed as practices appears as reciprocally confirming.

As Johnson (1986-7:45) points out this idea of culture extends to all social practices from those upon which the spotlight is often shone like ‘the media’ to ‘life in and around the supermarket’.

One of the central tenets of the paradigm is premised on Gramsci’s notion of ‘hegemony’.  In short this is the ability of a dominant (or hegemonic) class to employ leadership over a society.  This leadership is not simply based upon the ownership and control of the means of production, nor a state monopoly of violence.  The ideology of this dominant group is not simply ‘imposed’ and the subordinate classes do not just blindly comply.  Hegemony is never guaranteed.  Instead it is earned through achieving a balance between coercion and manipulation, thus the dominant group may make concessions in some areas to gain them in others.  They may accommodate (some) opposing views, anticipate potential rival alternatives or perhaps form alliances.

Hegemony is thus obtained via a balance between negotiation, concessions, threats and pressures before opposition can grow too big.  However, if the balance shifts, too far and for too long, in favour of force then the hegemony is likely to become unstable.  The establishment and maintenance of hegemony is also historically and nationally specific and may vary through time and across space.  When it is won hegemony operates at the level of everyday consciousness, or ‘common sense’; the ideology of the dominant groups will only be accepted if it holds some rationality.  In time a specific, historic form of domination will become naturalized so that eventually everyday activities and values will reproduce the ideology of the dominant class (Hargreaves, 1982: 114-115).

Gramsci (1971: page unknown, quoted in Tuck 1993: 5) argued that:

Hegemony works through ideology but it does not consist of false ideas, perceptions [and] definitions.  It works primarily by inserting the subordinate class into the key institutions and structures which support the power and social authority of the dominant order.  It is, above all, in these structures and relations that a subordinate class lives its subordination.

Sport and the media are two key ideological apparatus or institutions through which such hegemony can be obtained.

As Hargreaves goes on to argue (1985: 47-49; 1982: 117-119) hegemony theory enables us to further our understanding and studies of sport by seeing it as relatively autonomous.  Thus cultural processes are seen as no less important in social life then political or economic processes; all are vital for social existence.  However it is important, in an attempt to overcome the economic determinism of Marxism not to develop instead a cultural determinism or ‘culturalism’.  Recognising the importance of culture should not deny the importance of the mode of production and the power it gives to some and the constraints it places on others, equally importance should be given to the political.  However as Hargreaves (1985: 48-49) argues:

there would seem to be little analytical utility in defining where culture ends and politics and economics begin strictly in institutional terms, because we are dealing here with processes, that is, with forms of social life which are historical, and which are tightly interwoven.

Sport is an important area in which hegemonic messages are negotiated.  It is not, as some may see it, simply an entertaining performance or spectacle that provides an escape from reality.  Hargreaves (1982: 124) identifies the “element in ritual” which makes sport a powerful modern medium via which messages can be passed.  This however is not simply a ‘top-down’ process.  Culture is negotiated and thus due to its popularity sport offers a great deal of opportunity for people to actively participate and communicate common experiences and shared meanings.

The media, in its various forms, is principally responsible for disseminating sport to a wider audience.  It is during this ‘packaging of sport’ – the type of commentating used (be it spoken or written), the visual images presented – that the ritual element becomes enhanced.  During this process “ideologically encoded messages” (Hargreaves 1982: 127) are passed on, determining a preferred way to see sport and society.

Jhally (1989: 77-78) has argued that when one is looking at sport in a capitalist society one can only refer to the sports/media complex.  There are two justifications for this.  Firstly the majority of sports pectators do their viewing through the media thus the cultural experience that is sport becomes heavily mediated.  Secondly, Jhally argues, elite (and increasingly ‘lower’) level sport is becoming more dependent on the money the media generates (directly and indirectly) in order to survive and maintain its present form.  Certain maintenance of the current structure of sport requires such funding, however it is arguable whether sports ‘disappear’ without it.

Jhally goes on to argue that the ‘circuit of culture’ model (see figure 3) which Richard Johnson (1986-7) explains in What is Cultural Studies Anyway? provides a highly fruitful framework for the analysis of mediated sport.  Johnsonargues that his model overcomes the fact that many cultural studies approaches tend to view the same phenomena from different positions, thus they are all adequate but only in relation to what they see.  Johnson does not see the model as “a finished abstraction or theory,” but as “a guide to the desirable direction of future approaches”. 
Figure 3: The Circuit of Culture Model. Source: (Johnson 1986-7: 47)
Using diagrammatic representation Johnson (1986-7: 46-47) describes the model thus:

[it] is intended to represent a circuit of the production, circulation and consumption of cultural products.  Each box represents a moment in this circuit.  Each moment or aspect depends upon the others and is indispensable to the whole.  Each however is distinct and involves characteristic changes of form.  It follows that if we are placed at one point of the circuit, we do not necessarily see what is happening at others.

The four moments of the model are: 1) the production of cultural products; 2) the texts that are produced; 3) the reading of these texts and: 4) the audience’s use of the texts.

Crucial to the study of the increase in sensationalization within some English newspapers is the first moment – production.  As the model suggests however this cannot simply be garnered from reading them as ‘texts’, we must locate them within wider social processes, or as Johnson refers to them ‘conditions of production’.  In this regard it is important to note that sports have always been linked to economic criteria.  Prior to the advent of television, tickets were sold to fans wishing to attend an event, and the Press was concerned with the promotion of such events, indeed to a degree newspapers still serve this purpose.

The dissemination of reports and results to a wider audience was also of crucial importance.  However papers cannot compete directly with television and since the latter medium’s rise in popularity, the papers have become television-led.  It is no longer reports of events that are important – television can deliver these instantaneously.  Newspapers now concentrate on the gossip surrounding the build-up and aftermath of games.  As advertising becomes an ever greater part of a tabloid paper’s budget the desire to be more sensational than potential rivals grows.

The state, or political structure, both through history as well as at the point of study is also of importance.  Although those within the political structure might not have direct involvement in the production of mediated sport they may, however, have an important role to play.  Jhally (1989: 81) argues that it is governments that decide, for example, that advertising expenditure can be tax deductible.  If such revenue was not deductible, the structure of the sports/media complex would alter as advertising revenues would go elsewhere.  Aldo governments impose (or in some cases remove) restrictions on what products can be advertised in the media and how.

This argument can be extended to include the discourses the politicians employ.  As I will argue later ‘Thatcherism’ and the shift towards and popularity of ‘new right’ politics was a key factor in the production of texts in English tabloids.

One must not forget the rest of Johnson’s circuit model.  The actual material production of newspaper sport involves a wide configuration of personnel – from editors and researchers to photographers.  Thus the texts of mediated sport are the material outcome of a combination of organisational, technical, cultural, social and economic factors.  Equally one must not forget the audience; the reader.  Neither the audience’s understanding nor the use to which this audience places cultural texts can be predicted from the sociologist’s analysis (a more in-depth study would seek to look at this).  Equally by focussing on the audience it is easy to neglect the wider issues of power.  A fine balance must be struck.

The major criticism of cultural studies which Rojeck (1992:8) highlights, and which we have touched upon before, is that as it is a relatively new paradigm it has yet to provide a cogent, compact framework.  However Johnson (1986-7:46-47) convincingly argues against this.  His ‘multi-layered’ circuit of culture model seems to overcome the problem within cultural studies of many viewpoints of the same problem.

Towards a synthesis
Tomlinson (1989:105) has outlined what he feels are the central elements of cultural studies.  These are, firstly that an adequate view of the present can only be gained by also viewing the past.  Secondly the subject under study should not be treated at face value.  Thirdl, Tomlinson argues that cultural studies writers appreciate that there is no single culture and that researchers need to address the relations between various, different cultures.  Fourthly, Tomlinson claims that cultural studies is alert to the diversity of culture.  Finally cultural studies is concerned with struggle and intervention.

In summarizing and critiquing these points Rojeck (1992:27-29) writing from an essentially figurationalist viewpoint, seems to imply that the strengths of cultural studies are also the strengths of figurational sociology, however the latter does not have the weaknesses of the former.  Of course the opposite could also be said.  Rojeck argues it is only the third and fifth points where the two theories differ.

In relation to point three Rojeck argues that figurationalists counter-pose cultural plurality against civilisation as well as the economy.  Explanations of social phenomena should be reduced purely to the ‘economic’ – a common criticism of cultural studies.  However an adequate reading of cultural studies shows that, at a theoretical level at least, the paradigm takes account of more than just the ‘economic’.  If this is no the case at the empirical level it is an inadequacy not of the theory but of those who have attempted to implement it.

The same could be said of figurationalists in relation to Tomlinson’s fifth point.  Removing political motives from research would seem to be a desirable requirement in any piece of social research.  Despite a theoretical claim that they self-consciously distance themselves as much as possible from the object of study their involvement with their theory has led to claims that they “[…] ignore well supported alternative research traditions without bothering to investigate them” (Rojeck 1992:26).  Equally despite claims that they attempt to study phenomena ‘in the round’ and thus place economic relationships on a par with other types of relationships figurationalists are, as Wilson (1992: 79-82) argues “[…] curiously silent about the business of sport”.

In short it seems more useful to focus on similarities, and thus build stronger theories, than to criticise differences.  Rojeck (1992: 29) argues that “[…] the two approaches are much closer in key respects than the received view of polarization would allow”.  This dissertation is an attempt to overcome that “view of polarization” whilst undertaking a study of sensationalization in the English tabloid Press and the type of coverage given to the England football team during Euro ’96.

Part two will look at the history of the Press in England - with a focus on the tabloids - and will be published tomorrow.

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