Introduction: Re-placing the Popular
Too often the rise of cultural studies is automatically linked to the rapid
growth of interest in the study of popular culture, as if cultural studies were
somehow defined by popular culture. In fact, the two discourses are not the
same nor even necessarily connected, although they have been articulated
together in at least some discourses and networks. What remains unspecified
is the precise nature of those articulations, the choices strategically made in
specific contexts and enacted in specific critical practices. I want to use this
question as an opportunity to reflect on my own work, since my project,
begun over twenty years ago,1 can be situated here: between an interest in the
social effects and logics of popular culture, especially rock music and youth
culture, and a commitment to the possibilities of cultural studies as a form of
progressive intellectual work.
2
On first glance, my work has followed four
trajectories: a concern with the specific practice of cultural studies; a philo-
sophical interest in cultural and communication theory; an exploration ofthe
popularity and effectivity of rock music; and an investigation into the appar-
ent success of the new conservative hegemony.3 In retrospect, these appear
less as separable projects than as interconnected components of a larger and
more pressing attempt to find a critical practice adequate to the challenges
of understanding "the politics of the popular" in the contemporary United
States, all the while recognizing that national contexts can no longer be so
confidently isolated from the global circulations of people, power, capital,
and culture. By the "politics of the popular," I do not mean merely the politi-
cal inflections of particular texts nor the relations of such texts to ideological
positions, subjectivities, or pleasures. Rather I mean to point to the intersec-
tions of popular culture, popular politics (or political identity), and system-
atic structures and forces of political and economic inequality and domina-
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