Political Economy

Recent Posts

Local industry should pay living wages if economy to survive

Bukkavor Foods Canada received much fanfare recently when it was given $1.3 million by Northumberland MPP Lou Rinaldi from the Rural Economic Development Fund and the Eastern Ontario Development Fund. With 15 employees and promises of up to 50 jobs by Christmas, this is music to many ears. With the recent announcement by Transcom International that it was cutting 65 to 85 full-time people, the Bukkavor story is good news. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Bennett – New Media Power

The Internet and other digital media play an important part in the contesting of power, not merely as emerging communication tools, but also in the manner in which it impacts the political, social, economic, and psychological aspects of citizens and society, according to Bennett. His optimism for the potential of these trends is mitigated by a level of uncertainty in forecasting future results of global activism and new media, but his analysis clearly outlines the historic and current trends clearly enough for the reader to appreciate the potential. This article goes beyond previous ones by identifying a number of new technologies beyond the Internet, such as mobile phones, streaming technology, wireless networks and information-sharing software. This represents a more sophisticated approach to the technology and a greater understanding of the subtle differences between technologies as compared to other readings where technology is lumped into an amorphous gray mass. Bennett ability to clearly outline how networks control and use information to communicate is beyond other critiques. Continue Reading →

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Harris Breslow – Civil Society, Political Economy and the Internet

Breslow attempts to reconceptualize social interaction and communal identity on the Internet through a detailed discussion of the role of civil society online. And, while the Internet facilitates a sense of sociability, Breslow questions whether this will translate into solidarity, resulting in meaningful political and social transformation. Building on a classic model of civil society, Breslow examines the role of it plays in determining the social, political and economic life of society. Since civil society is realized as a space where political interaction can take place in as a peaceful form of discourse between competing private interests. It is a place where both private and public interests can meet. Continue Reading →

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Hackett and Carroll – Remaking Media

As the last reading, this is a sold summary of issues related to our discussions. His introduction summarizes the predicament clearly: if the future of the world is tied into the formation, reproduction and contestation of culture, ideologies and politics in North America and Europe (political power being exercised through powerful institutions of public communication, the mass and electronic media acting as gatekeepers for the public sphere) then there is a choice between a world full of informed civic engagement or one of fear, greed and ignorance. He lays the problem at the feet of news media for its inability to sustain democratic values like participation, equality, representative diversity, civic engagement and genuine choice. Like many writers in this course, his critique includes the media’s inability to contribute to the formation of a public sphere, as first defined by Jurgen Habermas. Next, he takes on the centralization of power in the context of the new post-Fordist era of capitalism. Continue Reading →

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Dallas W. Smythe – Audience Commodity and its work

As one of the seminal writers on the political economy of communications, Dallas W. Smythe presents an interesting case for re-examining the role of audience. He wants us to view the audience as a commodity, the same as a widget, which is produced, sold, distributed and consumed; and, at the same time, see how the audience “works”. The notion of “selling eyeballs to advertisers” is not an unfamiliar concept for someone inside the industry; although, within its historic context, it is amazing to see how this case is made and how Smythe flushes it out. But, the idea of describing the audience’s work is fascinating. Smythe roots his arguments in Marxist language, but he is not a slave to the ideology. Continue Reading →

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Strinati – Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture

In his description of mass culture theory, Strinati provides both a history and critique of this approach to culture and its relationship to popular culture. Strinati also provides the foundation for a political economy of culture where we can explores issues of hegemony, the forces of production and the ideological role of popular culture on the society. The question of dominance is most clear in his presentation of mass culture when he grapples with the ideas surrounding the differences between mass culture and high culture, in particular McDonald, who creates almost two classes of people: those elitists who appreciate high culture and the masses who ingest popular culture. Blaming things like cinema, radio, television and the press, mass culture guts society by atomizing individuals socially and morally, making way for abuses by those in power. Historically, democratic and education movements, like those in America, debased culture by handing it over to the masses because everything would be reduced to the lowest common denominator. Continue Reading →

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James Carey reading – Technology and Ideology: The Case of the Telegraphy

In this reading, Carey applies Mosco’s approach to political economic analysis (commodity, spatialization, structuration) through his exploration of the introduction of the telegraph. He clearly shows how the telegraph allows information to move independently and faster than products. It also forced prices to become uniform in space and markets to no longer be bound by locality, stripping these markets of any peculiarity. It also meant commodities were separated from the physical receipt and the creation of standardized grading systems. Where communication and transportation were once synonymous, the telegraph split them as concepts. Carey extrapolates this to show how space and time become instruments of a commodity governed by impersonal standards. Continue Reading →

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Shane Gunster – From Mass to Popular Culture: From Frankfurt to Birmingham

This article focuses on the differences between cultural studies approach to the commodification of culture, as articulated by the Birmingham School versus the political economic one proposed by the Frankfurt School. For the Birmingham School, culture is separated from politics, each taking place in a separate sphere. And, while culture influences and supports hegemonic structures within society, these are bound within the political arena. As well, the economics power of this undertaking is not done within the cultural sphere, but through political activity, where economic dominance is turned into broad social and cultural leadership. This is contrasts the views of the Frankfurt School, where the cultural industry is extricable linked to capitalism and the political economy of culture is dissected in a Marxist context. Continue Reading →

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Barney – Digital Divides

Information Communications Technology (ICT) does little to resolve the issues of democracy despite the potential, according to Barney. In fact, it is necessary for those interested in resolving critical issues around democratic engagement to solve issues offline before taking them online. There is little evidence supporting any claims that ICTs have the ability to fundamentally redistribute power in Canada, instead it reinforces and reflects what is existing inequalities. Digital divides exist, not as a result of digital technology, but as a result of the political economy. Barney suggest the struggles must take place without any reliance on easy technological fixes. Continue Reading →

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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. Continue Reading →

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