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Open Access The Limits of Post-marxism: The (dis)Function of Political Theory in Film and Cultural Studies

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This article first sets out the value of the political discourse theory of Laclau and Mouffe. It argues that this work was central to the development of cultural studies, in its theorisation of social and cultural practices as being part of 'political discourse'. This confers a dignity, status, value and political importance on cultural practices of all kinds. However, the article seeks to probe the limits of this approach to cultural politics, and it does so through a necessarily unusual exploration. First, it takes an example of something ostensibly trivial from the realms of film and popular culture and explores it in terms of Laclau and Mouffe's categories, in two different ways. The 'trivial'/pop cultural example is Bruce Lee. Could Bruce Lee be regarded as 'politically' significant or consequential? He was certainly an enormously influential film and popular cultural icon of the 1970s, one who arguably ignited a global 'kung fu craze'. Moreover, Bruce Lee also had his own 'hegemonic project', seeking to transform and unify martial arts practices. In this paper, Bruce Lee's own 'project' is first examined in the terms of Laclauian categories. These are shown to be extremely useful for grasping both the project and the reasons for its failure. Then the article moves into a wider consideration of the emergence of globally popular cultural discourses of martial arts. However, Laclau and Mouffe's approach is shown to be somewhat less than satisfactory for perceiving at least some of the 'political' dimensions entailed in the spread martial arts culture and practices, from contexts of the global south into affluent contexts such as Hollywood film and Euro-American cultural practices. The paper argues that this is because Laclau and Mouffe's approach is logocentric, which leads it to look for and to perceive a very limited range of factors: specifically, political identities formed through political demands. However, to more fully perceive the political dimensions of culture, the paper argues that different kinds of perspective, paradigms and analysis are required. Adopting or developing some of these would enrich the field of political studies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 2019

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  • Global Discourse is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented journal of applied contemporary thought operating at the intersection of politics, international relations, sociology and social policy. The Journal's scope is broad, encouraging interrogation of current affairs with regard to core questions of distributive justice, wellbeing, cultural diversity, autonomy, sovereignty, security and recognition. All issues are themed and aimed at addressing pressing issues as they emerge. Rejecting the notion that publication is the final stage in the research process, Global Discourse seeks to foster discussion and debate between often artificially isolated disciplines and paradigms, with responses to articles encouraged and conversations continued across issues.

    The Journal features a mix of full-length articles, each accompanied by one or more replies, policy papers commissioned by organizations and institutions and book review symposia, typically consisting of three reviews and a reply by the author(s). With an international advisory editorial board consisting of experienced, highly-cited academics, Global Discourse publishes themed issues on topics as they emerge. Authors are encouraged to explore the international dimensions and implications of their work.

    All research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening and double-blind peer review. All submissions must be in response to a specific call for papers.

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