Stirring Words, Ruling Ideas, and the Price of Bread: Reflections o a Gramsican-Thompsonian Approach to Cultural History

Peter Rogers


This paper undertakes to examine and criticize one or two analytical categories which have acquired currency among historians and social scientists working within a paradigm that derives, broadly speaking, from Marx. Specifically. I shall be concerned with questions of consciousness, agency, and determination: with the extent to which a "popular" culture can be distinguished from a "dominant" one; with the kinds of intercourse that may or may not occur between the two; and with the more general interplay between cultural processes and political and economic ones, out of which, it will be argued, emerge such quotidian facts as the price of bread. Still more specifically, I wish to consider the pertinence of the notions of "hegemony" and "the moral economy of the poor," as elaborated in the work of Antonio Gramsci and Edward Thompson, respectively, in investigating these matters.

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