What is Political Economy?
• Definitions by prime theorists
• Origins in economic thought
• How has it been taken up in
communication studies?
• Major theoreticians
• Tensions
• Relationship between media and
communication systems and the
broader social structures of society
• How do media systems reinforce,
challenge, or influence existing class
and social relations?
• How does media ownership, support
mechanisms, and government policies
influence media behavior and content?
• What are the structural factors and
labour processes in the production,
distribution, and consumption of
• Pessimistic view of sustainability of p-e
in American universities because of
increasing corporatization
• But, passionate about p-e of
communication as being
interdisciplinary, taking risks…
• Advocate for media reform – public
Mosco (Meehan and Wasko)
• PE examines the production,
distribution, and consumption of
resources, including communication and
information resources
• History
• Social Totality
• Moral Philosophy
• Praxis
• How to understand the global political
• How has social change happened?
• What have been previous struggles and how
are they the same or different than current
• E.g., is globalization new?
• When looking at ‘new’ technologies, can the
past illuminate the present (radio: Internet)…
Social Totality
• Holistic analysis
• Relationship among commodities,
institutions, social relations, and
• What are the connections between the
economic and the political?
Commodity form
• Use of wage labour to produce goods
that are sold in the marketplace
• Media forms: television genres,
databases, PPV
• Commodification of information
• Corporatization of public space
• Those that support, sustain, subvert
public and private activities
• Tensions between public vs. private
• Globalization exacerbating nation-state,
capital, labour relationships
• Closely interpenetrated regimes of
power and control in media systems
Social Relations
• How do people engage with the media?
• Issues of race, class, gender
• Have’s and have-not’s
That H Word – Hegemony
• Process of constituting the commonsense
• Origins from Gramsci – how to
understand capitalist society
• Used in analysis of social control
• Beyond ideology – appears natural
Some examples from everyday life…
• We take for granted that…
• Voting = democratic process
• Capitalistic marketplace = productive &
fair society
• Objectivity as cornerstone of journalism
• (Now, let’s challenge these dominant
Moral Philosophical Outlooks
Social values
What are appropriate social benefits?
An ethics of information in society…
E.g., who are the winners and who are
the losers?
In essence, practice & action
Concerned with social justice
Fighting for the public interest
Public intellectual stance
Mosco and Reddick
• “…the study of control and survival in
social life”
• Social transformation, social totality,
moral philosophy, praxis
• Argues for a rethinking of p-e of
communications with entry points of
commodification, spatialization, and
• How capitalism accumulates capital and
realizes value through the
transformation of use values into
exchange values
• In short, the process of transforming
use values into exchange values
How does this relate to
• “Communication processes &
technologies contribute to the general
process of commodification in the
economy as a whole”
• Ex: just-in-time manufacturing, quickresponse systems, e-commerce,
information entrepreneurial
And, (this is from Mosco, 1996, 142)
• “Commodification processes at work in
the society as a whole penetrate
communication processes and
institutions, so that improvements and
contradictions in the societal
commodification process influence
communication as a social practice”
• E.g., deregulation, liberalization of
media industries & telecom sectors
Commodification research
Class power
Media elites
Ownership patterns
Audience commodity
Government-lobbyist liaisons
Policy Research…
• Policy – how this has contributed to
media commodification (neoliberalism)
• Tensions between public and private
• Media & democracy
• Public interest (whither the…) – ex:
Aufderheide on US Telecom Act of 1996
• Overcoming the constraints of space
and time in social life
• Coined by Henri Lefebvre
• Innis’ work on time-space
• Castell – “space of flows” in describing
network society
Spatialization related to
communication studies
• Addressed in institutional extension of
corporate power in communications
• Analysis of corporate concentration
• Horizontal and vertical integration
• Conglomerization, cross-media
• Media ownership mapping
Spatialization….and policy
• “A process by which structures are
constituted out of human agency, even
as they provide the very ‘medium’ of
that constitution” (Mosco, 1996, 212)
• Looks at agency, social relations, social
process, social practice, social
• Looks at class, gender, hegemony…

What is political economy anyway? Part 1