The dissertation is a critique of social relations and the mode of thinking through
which they have come to be interpreted. Its thesis is that culture now plays the central
role in the mediation of social relations in Britain, a role previously occupied by the
labour bureaucracy and its managerial equivalent; moreover, that between 1994 and
2001 the transition to cultural mediation was expressed in the re-branding of the
United Kingdom as Creative Britain (alongside its facetious counterpart, Cool
Britannia). Therefore Creative Britain cannot be dismissed as mere spin any more
than it should be accepted as the transformation of commodity production; rather the
episode was indicative of, and therefore a derivation from, an historically specific
shift to a new mode of mediation - the re-mediation of social relations in Britain.
The newly expanded role of culture in the substantive mediation of social relations
has had its counterpart in the proliferation of thinking about culture, thinking of social
reality in cultural terms, and thinking itself as culture. In the second part of the
dissertation, this combination of epistemological trends is identified as cultural
thinking, of which the essential characteristic is the inability to mediate between
abstract and concrete, which in turn is to obscure both. Thus if culture has recently
acquired an unprecedented presence in the substantive mediation of social relations,
contemporaneous cultural thinking has been characterised by the absence of mediation between abstract and concrete; rather it is a flattened, circuitous
epistemology which begins and ends with the cultural.
Not that the absence of such mediation in cultural thinking has prevented it from
contributing to the role of culture in the substantive mediation of social relations. In
Britain during the second half of the 1990s, the coalescence of cultural thinking with
other forms of cultural mediation culminated in the emergence of culturalism, which
is to say that in British institutions, ideology and everyday life, the dynamic of
cultural mediation became a social force.
Just as the absence of mediation between abstract and concrete is a necessary aspect
of culturalism, so its restoration is essential to the critique of the latter. The
dissertation is intended as a contribution to the task of restoration.
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