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Marxist Media Theory. Essay

4310 words - 17 pages

Marxist Media TheoryDaniel Chandler"XIntroduction"XBase and superstructure"XMedia as means of production"XIdeology"XMedia as amplifiers"XThe constitution of the subject"XDifferences within Marxism"XThe Frankfurt School"XAlthusser"XGramsci and hegemony"XStuart Hall"XLimitations of Marxist analysis"XStrengths of Marxist analysis"XReferencesIntroductionIn Britain and Europe, neo-Marxist approaches were common amongst media theorists from the late '60s until around the early '80s, and Marxist influences, though less dominant, remain widespread. So it is important to be aware of key Marxist concepts in analysing the mass media. However, there is no single Marxist school of thought, and the jargon often seems impenetrable to the uninitiated. These notes are intended to provide a guide to some key concepts.Marxist theorists tend to emphasize the role of the mass media in the reproduction of the status quo, in contrast to liberal pluralists who emphasize the role of the media in promoting freedom of speech.The rise of neo-Marxism in social science represented in part a reaction against 'functionalist' models of society. Functionalists seek to explain social institutions in terms of their cohesive functions within an inter-connected, socio-cultural system. Functionalism did not account for social conflict, whereas Marxism offered useful insights into class conflict.As the time of the European ascendancy of neo-Marxism in media theory (primarily in the 1970s and early 1980s), the main non-Marxist tradition was that of liberal pluralism (which had been the dominant perspective in the United States since the 1940s) (see Hall 1982: 56-65). As Gurevitch et al. put it:Pluralists see society as a complex of competing groups and interests, none of them predominant all of the time. Media organizations are seen as bounded organizational systems, enjoying an important degree of autonomy from the state, political parties and institutionalized pressure groups. Control of the media is said to be in the hands of an autonomous managerial elite who allow a considerable degree of flexibility to media professionals. A basic symmetry is seen to exist between media institutions and their audiences, since in McQuail's words the 'relationship is generally entered into voluntarily and on apparently equal terms'... and audiences are seen as capable of manipulating the media in an infinite variety of ways according to their prior needs and dispositions, and as having access to what Halloran calls 'the plural values of society' enabling them to 'conform, accommodate, challenge or reject'. (Gurevitch et al. 1982: 1)In contrast, they continue:Marxists view capitalist society as being one of class domination; the media are seen as part of an ideological arena in which various class views are fought out, although within the context of the dominance of certain classes; ultimate control is increasingly concentrated in monopoly capital; media professionals, while enjoying the illusion of...

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