chapter  6
20 Pages

Race, Gender, Class and Representation

Laclau and Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy should not have come as a surprise when it appeared in 1985. The decentring of Marxist theory had been proceeding rapidly throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s, particularly in the work conducted around Screen and, interestingly enough, around History Workshop Journal and Race and Class (the journal of the Institute for Race Relations). Traces had also appeared in New Left Review, whose publishing house issued Laclau and Mouffe’s book. In many ways also the publications of the members of the National Deviancy Symposium, which operated through most of the 1970s, had staged a pre-emptive strike on behalf of decentredness by taking the ‘deviant’ and the ‘delinquent’ as the point of departure for analysing the systems of control. A series of studies by Stanley Cohen, Mary MacIntosh, Sarah Nelson, Laurie Taylor, Ian Taylor, Jock Young and others in the 1970s, drawing on segments of Marxist, symbolic interactionist, and critical phenomenology (in particular Georg Simmel) provided case studies on how everyday resistances are not just part of criminality but of all of our everyday lives. Stan Cohen and Laurie Taylor’s Escape Attempts (1978) was a singular attempt at rethinking the practice of the everyday by using the prison metaphor to

account for the framework of the society within which we all live, and to trace ways that we plan our permanent or temporary escapes:

Our heroes though are no longer criminals, outsiders, revolutionaries and cultural critics. Men [sic!] in this book are only occasionally to be found at the front of revolutionary armies, fighting in the streets or raving from their asylum cells. More often they are discovered at home with their hobbies, at the pictures with their children, or on holiday with their girlfriend. Their fights against reality are rarely frontal assaults, running battles or planned campaigns. They are more often interruptions in the flow of life, interludes, temporary breaks, skirmishes, glimpses of other realities.