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CMN2160 (25)

Laughey Ch 7 (Political Economy)

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Patrick Mc Curdy

Laughey Chapter 7: Political  economy and postcolonial theory • Both fields of inquiry are concerned with media power and issues of media  ownership and control • Political economy o Focus on the politics and economics of media institutions and the texts  they produce o Consider how capitalist politics and economics exert themselves on media  audiences o Associated with classical Marxist theory and Marx’s statement that social  consciousness is determined not by the collective will of individuals but by  the ruling classes who own the means of capitalist production o Not the only tradition of media theory influenced by Marxism o Differ from structuralist approaches to Marxism by analyzing the  economic structures that characterize media institutions rather than  considering how these structures are articulated in the language and  ideology of media texts o Place emphasis on economic and political processes of media ownership  and control, while structuralist perspectives – aligned to cultural studies –  emphasized social and cultural processes of ideological and hegemonic  power in media texts, both produced and consumed • Postcolonial theory o Field of inquiry that considers a shift from military and political  occupation of foreign lands (colonialism) to cultural and media dominance  of international markets (postcolonialism) o Power of media representations to determine our conceptions of the world o Cites white, Western capitalism as the dominant framework for global  media power  Anglo­American media productions are exported around the world  and set the standard for local media production • Media and cultural imperialism  Western media productions that represent non­white, non­Western  cultures have the power to generate stereotypical conceptions of  “the Other” that become accepted as true representations by the  Western world • Postcolonial theory Adorno: culture or cultural industries? • Theodor Adorno’s Cultural pessimism o Concerned with issues of ownership and consumption rather than creative  personnel, whom he sees as victims of the culture industry • Culture industry (ex: manufacture of popular music) o Synonymous with the capitalist­driven entertainment industry and its mass  production of commodities such as films and music o Produces “rubbish”  Consumers are forced to accept what the culture industry provides  Products possess ulterior motives to repress imagination and render  the masses socially and politically inactive o Owned and controlled by the capitalist classes who enjoy the prerequisite  economic and technological power that enables them to spread their ideas  and values – their advertising­driven ideology – through the popular  consciousness • Standardization: o Refers not only to the products of the culture industry but to its consumers  too o Accounts for both “almighty production” and consumer demand for such  production o Results in the liquidation of individuals – like commodities – to mere  statistics and classificatory labels o Pursuit of consumer demand generates superficial differences between  mass­produced commodities based on stylistic quirks, as opposed to  substantial variations in quality  Adorno argues that during consumption the masses become  characterized by the commodities which they use and exchange  among themselves • Consumers’ needs are therefore produced and controlled by the absolute power of  capitalism, both at and outside of work o The culture industry serves the ideological interests of economic and  political powers by producing music, films and other sentimental novelties  designed to make people cathartic, amused, etc. o Commercial popular music is the ultimate medium of social control o The social and psychological functions of popular music act like a social  cement to keep people obedient and subservient to the status quo of  existing power structures  The overthrow of capitalism predicted by Marx cannot be realized  precisely because mass culture – music in particular – appeals to  people’s instinctive emotions and obstructs their reasoning  If the masses were able to escape the culture industry’s  manipulative power and for one moment think independently and  collectively, they would see the mass of misery which they endure  every day and would activate their energies to rise up against the  ruling capitalist elite • Popular music not only destroys the trained musical ear; it also ‘commands its  own listening habits’ o Serious music achieves excellence when its whole is greater than the sum  of its part o In popular music, by contrast, ‘The detail has no bearing on a whole’ – the  whole is merely a standard song structure common to all ‘well­made’  commercial hits. The individual parts of a popular song are  interchangeable with endless other parts of other songs because each part  has no bearing on the music as a whole. • Pseudo­individualization o The pretense that music is made by individual genius for individual  pleasure when, in fact, it is made by a few highly trained, profit­seeking  producers and packaged for mass consumption • Two types of music consumers emerge from the culture industry o Emotional  Becomes the discoverer of just those industrial products which are  interested in being discovered by him o Rhythmically obedient  Engages in an ecstatic ritual which betrays itself as a pseudo­ activity by the moment of mimicry o Critique:  Reduces a complex social process into a simple psychological  effect  Simon Frith favours Benjamin’s theory about the increasing  accessibility of mechanically­reproducible art intensifying a  political struggle between production and consumption rather than  – as Adorno would have it – a psychological warfare in which  producers call the shots • Hesmondhalgh argues that owners in the cultural industries are not in complete  control of what gets produced. Symbol creators are given a voice in decisions  about which texts are produced and this measure of artistic licence is comparably  greater than the freedom afforded to workers in other industries. • Contrary to Adorno’s conception of the culture industry versus the creative artist,  within the cultural industries approach ‘Attention is redirected from how  capitalism impacts upon creative work to how capitalism manages, organizes and  provides the conditions within which creativity can be realised’.  • Capitalist economics certainly threaten but do not entirely stifle the creativity of  workers in the cultural industries. Media and cultural imperialism • Argue that one nation can dominate and control the economic and cultural values of another in the same way that one nation can invade and colonize another through political and military power • Media imperialism is therefore not an inevitable outcome of cultural imperialism. The reverse scenario is also true. One nation cannot impose its media upon another until it has spread its broader cultural values – its language, customs, religion, history, and so on – across the colonized land. Media imperialism cannot succeed without cultural imperialism. • Cultural dependency implies a more willing acceptance to follow the example of dominant media and cultural powers, while media and cultural imperialism implies a greater degree of force that is exerted by powerful upon weaker regimes. • American media invasion on a global scale: o US economic values are propagated around the world via media-cultural exports such as television programmes that other countries readily schedule on their broadcasting networks because US exports are cheaper than locally produced television. o US-exported media fit well into the scheduling of overseas commercial broadcasters influenced, in turn, by US broadcasting values. o Moreover,American television shows and films exported around the world help to sell goods produced by US-owned multinational companies, some of whom may manufacture their goods in overseas markets where media are also distributed. • American media and cultural imperialism is also evident when non-American products are nonetheless made in almost identical ways toAmerican ones. • The most significant impact ofAmerican media and cultural imperialism, though, has been global recognition of English as the ‘international language’ given that it is the second language in most non-English-speaking countries • Cultural resistance thesis: o Tamar Liebes and Elihu Katz (1990) examined cross-cultural reception of Dallas o Israeli Russian focus groups, far from embracing theAmerican cultural values represented in Dallas, felt that they served ‘the hegemonic interests of the producers or ofAmerican society’  Oppositional readings like this were the norm o Failure of show in Japan  Japanese focus groups dismissed the image ofAmerica which the serial portrayed because it was unrepresentative of the contemporary West o Supports cultural resistance and dismisses cultural imperialism:  To prove that Dallas is an imperialistic imposition, one would have to show (1) that there is a message incorporated in the programme that is designed to profitAmerican interests overseas, (2) that the message is decoded by the reader in the way it is encoded by the sender, and (3) that it is accepted uncritically by the viewers and allowed to seep into their culture. Herman and Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent • Propaganda model o Mass media serve the dominant hegemonic interests of powerful groups such as governments and global corporations o Media do not overtly disseminate propaganda unless they are state- controlled or controlled by powerful economic interests • Endorse Gramsci’s theory of hegemony by claiming that mass media are usually sympathetic to government policies and corporate decisions, and tend to marginalize dissenting voices o Media produce consent among ‘the public’ by reporting government concerns at face value but neglecting to examine wider economic, social and historical factors that shape international affairs o Self­censorship • Five news filters: 1. Size, ownership and profit orientation of mass media institutions 2. Advertising licence to do business a. Forces mass media institutions to tailor their material to an affluent audience b. ‘The idea that the drive for large audiences makes the mass media ‘‘democratic’’thus suffers from the initial weakness that its political analogue is a voting system weighted by income!’ i. The ‘mass audience’ as defined by advertising-led mass media is therefore a distinctly middle-class or even upper middle-class one 3. Sourcing of mass media news a. Taking information from sources that may be presumed credible reduces investigative expense, whereas material from sources that are not prima facie credible, or that will elicit criticism and threats,
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