Table of Contents

Towards a Cultural Political Economy

Towards a Cultural Political Economy

Putting Culture in its Place in Political Economy

Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop

This fascinating volume offers a critique of recent institutional and cultural turns in heterodox economics and political economy. Using seven case studies as examples, the authors explore how research on sense- and meaning-making can deepen critical studies in political economy, illuminating its role in critiquing the specific categories, contradictions and crisis-tendencies of capitalism.

Chapter 3: Semiotics for cultural political economy

Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop

Subjects: economics and finance, cultural economics, institutional economics, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


This chapter switches entry-point to evaluate the potential of semiotic analysis in developing the CPE agenda. It addresses two questions. First, how can we ground the cultural turn in political economy ontologically in sense-and meaning-making? This matters because we criticized other work on cultural aspects of political economy for (1) being limited to a thematic cultural turn; (2) adopting discourse-analytical methods in an ad hoc way regardless of their consistency with other features of the theoretical approach or the substantive analysis in question; or (3) having an underdeveloped set of concepts to explore sense-and meaning-making and their effects. The last problem is especially challenging. For, where semiosis is undertheorized relative to structuration, analyses may be asymmetrical, unless the analysis of structuration is also diluted. This can lead to overemphasis on a few simple semiotic concepts, to the marginalization of semiotic factors because of descriptive and explanatory overkill from structural analysis – with semiotic factors sometimes being residual (and also) elements in an explanation – or to semiotic factors becoming exogenous variables that merely supplement the structural analysis.

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