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1.3: Political Economy and Capitalism

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    Political economy attends to the ways that the relations of production, including the media, are influenced by the economic system in which those relations are embedded. In the U.S., the dominant economic system is capitalism. Kellner and Durham (2006) note that "... capitalist societies are organized according to a dominant mode of production that structures institutions and practices according to the logic of commodification and capital accumulation (p. xxvii). Thus, cultural production -- including the media -- is always profit- and market- driven. 

    Ultimately, the system of production -- in this case, capitalism -- determines the types of cultural artifacts that are produced. Capitalism thus affects the media industry through increased media mergers, the development of streaming services and other technologies, etc. For instance, in the U.S., capitalism is dictated by the market -- whatever sells and makes money -- but is also regulated by the state (e.g., the FCC determines ownership regulations).

    So, in order to take a political economy perspective, one would conduct empirical analyses of the cultural system of production, with a focus on the constraints and influences of capitalism and a cultural system controlled by powerful corporations. Additionally, scholars can use a political economy perspective to enhance textual analysis and/or audience analysis, which are hallmarks of critical/cultural studies.

    Kellner and Durham (2006) provide two specific examples of merging a political economy perspective with a critical/cultural studies perspective:

    First, "study of television and politics in the United States, for instance, suggests that takeover of the television networks by leading transnational corporations and communications conglomerates was part of a 'right turn' within U.S. society in the 1980s whereby powerful corporate groups won control of the state and the mainstream media" (p. xxviii).

    Second, "... during the 1980s all three networks were taken over by leading corporate conglomerates: ABC was purchased by Capital Cities, NBC merged with GE, and CBS was bought by the Tisch Financial Group. Both ABC and NBC sought corporate mergers, and this motivation, along with other benefits derived from the Reagan administration, might well have influenced them to downplay criticisms of Reagan and to generally support his conservative programs, military adventures, and simulated presidency" (p. xxviii).

    1.3: Political Economy and Capitalism is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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