Marxist theory, and in particular its use in media analysis, is outmoded in a world where a capitalist consumer culture holds sway. Explain why you agree or disagree with this statement.
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Journalism Media Industries Marxist theory, and in particular its use in media analysis, is outmoded in a world where a capitalist consumer culture holds sway. Explain why you agree or disagree with this statement. For Karl Marx, the mass media was simply an instrument of bourgeois control over the proletariat, a part of the overall superstructure of society, along with religion, the family and education. Marxist theory has been very influential since he started writing about developed capitalist society in the mid-Victorian era. His basic premise - that the oppressed proletariat (workers) should emancipate themselves and take control of society away from the bourgeoisie (the ruling classes) - has spawned political movements, academic theories and hundreds of different interpretations and analyses. Marxist and 'neo-Marxist' approaches to the study of mass media have been common in academic circles since the late 1960s, but of late Marxism has been shunned as 'unfashionable', partly due to the rise of the New Right in the 1980s, but mainly because its practical application as seen in so-called Communist states in China, Russia and so on has been abhorrent. Also, alternative theories such as postmodernism are seen by many as a more pragmatic way of studying today's dynamic media.
When workers voiced their opinion on TV, it was within the noisy environment of strike action, so that they appeared to be reactionary and over-opinionated. Politicians and management, however, were interviewed in the placid surroundings of an office or TV studio, thus presenting them as far more articulate and, by default, more intelligent. According to Marxist theory, this is the ideological dissemination of false consciousness in action: the dominant ideology - that of the bourgeois - is one the 'masses' come to accept and to think of as 'natural'. Workers are assured of their 'place' in the world, and they should not think about changing thinks. This can be termed "hegemony", an idea which was developed from Marx by the Italian sociologist Antonio Gramsci. So long as the means of production of the media are in the hands of a bourgeois elite and not under the collective ownership and control of the working classes, then these dominant ideologies will prevail. However, there has been much criticism of Marxist media theory over the years, and not just from those who have obvious vested interests in criticizing it (capitalist media owners). Ian Nicholls Page 4 The main school of thought which opposes the Marxist world-view is that of the Pluralists.
Postmodernist theory is one which has started to take a central role in media studies over Marxism. It has several advantages: the postmodern ideas arise out of a society where the media - and particularly electronic media - play an even more important role, more so than when Marx was writing. Dominic Strinati outlines five characteristics of postmodern society: ? The breakdown of the distinction between culture and society ? An emphasis on style at the expense of substance and content ? Breakdown of the distinction between high culture (art) and popular culture ? Confusions over time and space ? Decline of 'meta-narratives' (Strinati, 1992) In today's world of high-technology, one can view web sites produced in China, watch TV signals beamed in from Australia, and see a film with an actor in it from fifty years ago on one channel, only see the same actor being interviewed in colour on another, Ian Nicholls Page 6 "It has been suggested that TV itself is a postmodern medium since, in its regular daily and night-time flows of images and information, it merely splices together bits and pieces from elsewhere, constructing itself on the basis of collage techniques and surface simulations." (Strinati, 1992) Postmodernism has affected advertising and consumer society itself: "Once upon a time advertisements were supposed to be about telling us how how good, useful and essential a product was.
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