Schiller and Mosco – Introduction: Integrating a Continent for a Transnational World

The centerpiece of this article is an argument about the use of networked computer systems to aid the process of integrating markets across three countries in North America and the resulting economic and social impact. In assessing the transnationalization of the capitalist political economy, the authors argue this is a prelude to the complete integration of telecommunication and mass media sectors that will facilitate a complete global system allowing massive expansion of business. It allows corporations to provide business-to-business services, as well as provide mass media the opportunity to sell advertising across the board and develop global markets. This threatens cultural and social structures. And, while cultural practices do not necessarily follow markets, new pressures are created on identities, cultural policy and practice. Social class relations are affected, reducing our sense of community and the potential breakdown of personal and national identity. They key sites of conflict are between community and markets; democratic states and global corporate dominance; as well as labour and capital.

This article is particularly poignant in light of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Latin America earlier this month. While the political agenda focused on Canada’s ability to provide an alternative to the United States as a leader for North America, he also celebrated the 10th anniversary of a free-trade agreement with Chile. There are also plans for tree trade agreements with Columbia. Notably one of the orchestrated press events was the opening of a ScotiaBank in Santiago and a visit to the Barrick Gold headquarters for the region. When Schiller and Mosco wrote their analysis, the focus was on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the implications. The recent Harper initiative demonstrates the manner in which these agreements are now extending into Central and South America with various other free trade agreements. What is most interesting is the ability of a bank to function in the region. Without a telecommunications network to support transactions, it would be impossible for a Canadian Bank to profit so greatly from having an office in such a remote region. With the networked computer system, the bank has the ability to move capital, particularly investment capital, into a section of the world where it can profit from business without the heavy investment of setting up a separate bank within the country. It is also important to note that a bank employs very few Chileans and it not exactly a high-paying skilled job. It would be interesting to find out how many local, high-paying jobs are created by a bank. Meanwhile, the bank is able to generate huge profits by lending money for new ventures and receiving payments from Chilean business. I bet there are no mortgages for home loans or to start micro-businesses in rural areas.

The media coverage was also vital, since the stories and images coming back from the trip provide little analysis and lots of praise for the trip. While there was plenty of information, there was little context, particularly on how these efforts assist every day citizens’ lives. Through the coverage of the mainstream press, the goals and objectives of the major corporations and the government’s existing policies are supported and barely questioned. This provides evidence of the concerns raised by the authors in the article regarding the potential for global domination of the mass media.

First posts: 7/31/07

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