Stuart Hall, a leading cultural and sociological theorist throughout the latter half of the 20th century has died aged 82 after suffering from illness for many years. His work on racial predjudice in the media in the 1970s was groundbreaking and had considerable influence not only upon academia but society as a whole.
Hall was born in Jamaica in 1932 and moved to the United Kingdom in 1951 when he won a scholarship to Oxford University. He went on to become involved in academia when he was invited to be a part of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in 1964, which he became director of in 1968.
Whilst at Birmingham he wrote his seminal work Policing the Crisis in 1978, which dealt with the moral panic that demonised young black males in London, portraying them as criminals. He was appointed professor of sociology in 1979 where he remained until 1997 when he retired from academia.
His works dealt with issues of race, gender, sexuality and identity, and he has since been dubbed the ‘godfather of multiculturalism.’ He was part of the New Left movement, which argued that culture and society were as important as politics and economics.
Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington said “For me he was a hero. A black man who soared above and beyond the limitations imposed by racism and one of the leading cultural theorists of his generation.”
Hall was a staunch critic of Margaret Thatcher, and is credited with coining the term ‘Thatcherism.’ He attributed the popularity of ‘Thatcherism’ to failures by the left, and urged them to embrace ideas of multiculturalism, environmentalism and gay rights, which would come to play a part in the policy of New Labour a decade later.
However, Hall was displeased with how New Labour turned out, accusing them of having similarities with Thatcherism.
In one of his final interviews, Hall criticised the modern Labour party, saying that they were a poor alternative to the right. He said: “The left is in trouble. It has not got any ideas, it has not got any independent analysis of its own, and therefore it has got no vision… It has no sense of politics being educative, of politics changing the way people see things.”