Why Cultural Studies is the End of Thinking

Martin McQuillan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This article begins from a consideration of this issue's contention that 'central to politicized academic projects... is a critique of the cultural power of institutions' and in particular pedagogical institutions. It argues that is clear enough what the Editor is thinking of here: he names 'cultural studies' as his prime suspect and from here it is not too far a leap to imagine that the pedagogical institution at which his 'politicized academic projects' take aim is the university. The article concedes that this might all appear to be superficially true, and that much of what is argued in it will up hold this hypothesis. However, the article does not wish to rush too quickly towards an unproblematic equation of cultural studies, or the 'politicized academic project' of a critical study of culture with something like a pedagogy of the popular. Equally, it proposes, we must distinguish rigorously between 'a pedagogy of the popular', pedagogy able to treat the popular, popular pedagogy, and popular culture as such. In this respect it argues that we would not wish to foreclose the impertinent question of 'what is cultural studies?' too early in an understanding of what it might mean to offer an institutional critique that takes the form of pedagogy. Much will depend upon what we mean by these vaguest of terms 'culture', 'education', 'power' and 'pedagogy' itself, none of which is at all straightforward even though a certain normative discourse renders such terms the cornerstone of national policy debates through which billions of human and financial capital are routed. The stakes in fact could not be higher in a 'critique of the cultural power of [pedagogical] institutions'. Therefore, it is crucial that we make the effort to understand, or at least begin to unpack, a conjunction such as the one Bowman offers here that amalgamates 'politicized academic projects such as cultural studies and politicized work in cultural theory and philosophy'. It argues that we will not be able to progress to a wider schema until we have some leverage on this relation. And this is what this article seeks to provide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-704
Number of pages12
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2013


  • cultural studies
  • deconstruction
  • pedagogy
  • philosophy


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