Exploring Media Theory Lecture 2 Political and Economic Marxist Approach to the Media


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Lecture 2 of Exploring Media Theory. Political Economic Marxist approaches to the media. BA Media Studies University of Winchester.

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Exploring Media Theory Lecture 2 Political and Economic Marxist Approach to the Media

  1. 1. Lecture 2:<br />Marxism and the media – Political economic approaches<br />Or<br />“The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production”<br />MS 2900 Exploring Media Theory<br />University of Winchester<br />Dr Marcus Leaning<br />
  2. 2. This week we are going to look at aspects of the most influential non-religious philosophy the world has ever known.<br />In this and the next lecture we are going to examine how Marxism has engaged with and understood the media.<br />Today we will cover:<br />A basic description of certain core tenants of Marxism – we’ll start slow with basics but move quickly;<br />An examination of the ‘political economic’ Marxist analysis of the media.<br />Introduction<br />
  3. 3. Marxism is a theory of how society functions.<br />Based upon the idea that certain groups in a society exercise power over other groups.<br />This power is used to oppress others and to keep power.<br />Marxism sees its role is to reveal how this power is maintained and exercised through different systems.<br />Marxism is both a description and analysis of the world and a prescription for its change.<br />It emerged during the C19th and reflects the perspective of the time in its vision of history.<br />Marx’s (1818-1883) work is key but vast expansion and refinement of initial ideas.<br />Marxism –what is it, what do Marxists believe and what do they want?<br />
  4. 4. While Marx’s work is intrinsic to the world wide Communist political project - most conflicts pre war on terror in the post WW2 world were proxy wars of the West vs Communism.<br />It is also a very influential academic critical position that is used in many disciplines.<br />Academic Marxism runs parallel to political Marxism – it got tarnished by fall of communism but recently has had a resurgence in its critique post credit crunch..<br />More than Communism…<br />
  5. 5. Human societies change over time, they progress.<br />There is a distinct trajectory or structure in this progression.<br />This is a ‘teleological’ (telos– end purpose) view / belief - there is a distinct direction and goal – a progression towards an eventual fixed state.<br />There is a specific engine that drives this development.<br />Basic Marxist ideas<br />
  6. 6. The groups are defined by their relationship with the system that is used to produce essentials of human life.<br />This is termed the means of production. <br />A specific system is termed a mode of production. <br />In different modes of production different groups have control over the means of production.<br />This is important because control over the means of production allows you to posses the surplus, the bit that is produced above what we absolutely need to survive.<br />Historical Materialism - the engine of change<br />
  7. 7. The engine of change is conflict between groups.<br />Marxism is a theory of conflict – it looks at how conflict brings about change.<br />It is conflict between differing groups that causes this change.<br />A system emerges – surplus is produced and appropriated;<br />Gradually inequalities become apparent; <br />Pressure builds between groups; <br />Conflict ensures <br />A new system emerges. <br />Mode music…<br />
  8. 8. Marxism sees history as divided into 9 stages.<br />Historical change<br />Primitive Communist – hunter gatherer societies – no surplus produced subsistence living. <br />Asiatic – Ancient world - Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt. Initial form of class society, groups claiming to be deities take surplus.<br />Antique world – Rome, advanced agricultural systems, slave powered societies.<br />Feudalism – medieval Europe, highly complex agriculture, ownership of land, aristocrats and serfs.<br />
  9. 9. Early capitalist– Imperialism – in Europe 1650-1950s - nation states, mercantile capitalism, wage labour, bourgeosievs proletarians<br />Mid capitalist Corporate capitalism – rise of non state powerful companies, welfare state<br />Late capitalist – finance capitalism – industry of money, global markets, consumerism, civil unrest. <br />Socialism – early communism, capitalism collapses (speed?), emergent socialist societies organisations - co-ops, <br />Communism – Ownership by all, abolition of money and private property<br />
  10. 10. The economic system that underpins each stage is distinct and different.<br />This is conceived of as the relations of production.<br />Things like:<br />property relations (relation to ownership of means of production - who owns the factories, fields and workplaces)<br />The division of labour between people (foreman, labourer, factory worker, manager)<br />Worker conditions (indentured worker, serf, slave, wage labourer, share owner)<br />Relations of production<br />
  11. 11. The relations of productions determine the type of economy.<br />This is termed the Base of society, the underlying foundations.<br />All other aspects of society:<br />culture, <br />religion, <br />legitimate forms of sexual relationship, <br />civil society systems such as:<br />education, <br />legal systems, <br />media and entertainment<br />are a consequence of the base. <br />They are the ‘superstructure’.<br />Base<br />
  12. 12. The base directly determines the superstructure.<br />This is known as ‘economism’ or economic determinism.<br />All the other stuff is society is shaped by the base. <br />Moreover this other stuff LEGITIMATES THE SYSTEMS OF THE BASE.<br />The base structures the superstructure, and the superstructure maintains the base. <br />Base and superstructure<br />
  13. 13. Superstructure maintains base<br />Superstructure<br />Mass media<br />Mass media<br />Religion<br />Religion<br />Religion<br />Music<br />Music<br />Music<br />Royalty<br />Family<br />Royalty<br />Royalty<br />Family<br />Family<br />Folklore<br />Education<br />Folklore<br />Education<br /> <br />Education<br />Base<br />Means of Production - Finance capitalism<br />Relations of Production – <br />Capital accumulation, share ownership<br />Base<br />Means of Production - Industrialism<br />Relations of Production – wage labour, bourgeosievs proletarians<br />Base<br />Means of Production - Agriculturalism<br />Relations of Production – serfdom, sharecropping<br />BASE<br />Base determines superstructure<br />Feudalism<br />Late Capitalism<br />Early Capitalism<br />Mode of Production<br />TIME<br />
  14. 14. The components of the superstructure serve to maintain and legitimate the base.<br />Aspects of culture help to maintain the relations of production by making them seem legitimate.<br />With the media this has been a topic of some discussion and the relationship between the media and economic system is complex.<br />How does the media legitimate the base?<br />Maintaining and legitimating the base…<br />
  15. 15. Marx is understood to have produced two theories for understanding the media / culture and its relationship with the economic base.<br />The political economic interpretation – this characterized his early work, taken up by Murdock and Golding.<br />An ideological interpretation - an unfinished project extensively developed – more on this view next week.<br />Marxism<br />
  16. 16. The economic system makes the social world…<br />In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political, and intellectual life. <br />…and…<br />
  17. 17. …the world makes us.<br />it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence but their social existence that determines their consciousness…<br />How we think, our identity and personality are determined by the political and economic environment.<br />
  18. 18. The media directly assist in the maintenance of the existing political system.<br />And the media directly contribute to how we think.<br />HOW?<br />Political economic view<br />
  19. 19. Tell us Karl…<br />The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production… the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas. <br />Here Marx is saying that the media supply only the values of the ruling class.<br />Values which are not our own are imposed upon us.<br />Because of this we can never be made become aware of our true class position - achieving class consciousness, we absorb values of those not of our class and cannot see the real inequality.<br />
  20. 20. Key arguments:<br />Culture, media etc. is solely determined by the economic system.<br />Our ways of thinking are determined by our position in relations of production.<br />The ideas of the ruling elite are imposed upon us.<br />Does Marx’s description fit with contemporary times?<br />Problems with this view<br />
  21. 21. Are our values ‘alien’?<br />For this to be true there would need to be only one set of values that we all share.<br />Is this accurate?<br />Conversely there do seem to be multiple value systems in contemporary Britain…<br />Is this an accurate description?<br />
  22. 22. This approach has been accused of being crude economism- the reduction of complex phenomena and behaviour to simple causes.<br />It doesn’t really fit, the media don’t simply put the values of the ruling elite across.<br />And we are far more sophisticated in our consumption of texts than this.<br />Can the theory be revised or is this interpretation of Marxism wrong?<br />Accusation of Economism<br />
  23. 23. Murdock and Golding developed a subtler interpretation.<br />They argue that the media is owned by an elite – empirical evidence clearly demonstrates the very small number of companies own the majority of media outlets.<br />Moreover this ownership equates directly with editorial control (despite James Murdoch’s protestations).<br />Revisions<br />
  24. 24. Murdock and Golding see the link between economic system, press ownership, textual production and maintenance and legitimation of the economic system as one that is indirect and mediated. <br />Indirect and mediated<br />
  25. 25. They see the interest of their media conglomerates as inherently linked with that of other areas of the financial system and the capitalist economy.<br />Not just shared ownership, though this exists but shared interests in a certain form of regulation, public perception, education system etc. <br />The media support the system that allows them to profit.<br />This additionally supports and legitimates other areas of the capitalist system.<br />Mass media have an interest is sustaining the status quo.<br />Linked<br />
  26. 26. This is contrary to the idea that the media are ‘watchdogs’ or ‘fourth estate’ challenging wrong doing.<br />The media espouse a culture that of course defends their own interests.<br />Simply put the media doesn’t bite the hand that feeds them…<br />Watch dog or lap dog?<br />
  27. 27. Marxism is critical theory for examining social life.<br />Sees a distinction between economic system (base) and culture social life (superstructure).<br />The Base determines the superstructure.<br />The superstructure is a consequence of and cannot affect the base, but it does legitimate it.<br />Interests of media and finance capital are linked.<br />The media will support the interests rather than challenging them.<br />Conclusion<br />