n Communicatio : South African Journal of Communication Theory and Research - Popular art, the image, the subject and subverting hegemony : communication, cultural and media studies

Volume 32, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0250-0167


How should one address the present hegemony of capitalism with a view to subverting it? Or is even this question hopelessly optimistic, given the fact that late capitalism, in its union with liberal democracy and neoliberal economics, is ostensibly all powerful in the extant, early twenty-firstcentury world? While not underestimating capitalism's pervasive power, this article is predicated on the belief that it is indeed possible to delineate a strategy for its subversion, although - given that this belief presupposes the critical-intellectual receptivity of a sufficiently large number of individuals to make a decisive difference to the status quo, albeit gradually, incrementally - there is no reason for optimism. Building further on previous work on the critical differences between (especially written) language and images regarding the subject, and drawing on the work of several thinkers - including Freud, Lacan, Lyotard, Hardt and Negri, Kovel, Silverman, Copjec, and Deleuze and Guattari - it attempts to show that, in the age of the ubiquity of images as sites of identification and libidinal investment on the part of consumers, especially in popular art ranging from television soaps to mainstream cinema and advertising, a critical strategy made possible by recognising the structural relations involved in acts of identification via images is required. This strategy has to operate at all levels of cultural activity crucially focusing on and producing images (e.g., in the form of cinematic works) representing alternative subject positions, subverting those promoted by and underpinning capitalism - to dislodge the hegemony of capital and its agencies. Attention is given to various cinematic works that provide such alternative sites of identification by means of iconic configurations inscribed with values resistant to, and subversive of, capitalism.

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