Communication Political Economy
by
Vincent Mosco
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 April 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0086

Introduction

The communication scholar interested in the political economy approach starts by studying different ways to define it, then identifies its fundamental characteristics and major schools of thought. From here, it is important to consider how communication scholars have drawn on political economy theory to carry out research on communication media and information technologies. To do this, it is necessary to understand the key processes that make up the primary starting points for a political economy of communication: Commodification, Spatialization, and Structuration. It is also important to explore how the political economy of communication responds to challenges from disciplines on its borders, specifically from Cultural Studies, especially by examining efforts to build bridges across theoretical divides.

Textbooks

There are two types of textbooks that are essential for an understanding of the political economy approach to communication studies. The first type, exemplified by Clark 1998 and Heilbroner 1999, comprises books about political economic theory that cover the range of approaches, typically beginning with the contribution of the 18th-century theorist Adam Smith. The second type consists of texts that describe how communication scholars have drawn from political economic theory to establish the political economy of communication. Among these, Mosco 2009 offers an explicitly theoretical orientation, while Hardy 2014 and Noam 2008 provide a distinctly empirical focus.

  • Clark, Barry. 1998. Political economy: A comparative approach. 2d ed. Westport, CT: Praeger.

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    Clark’s book is geared to students who are new to the political economy approach. It provides thorough coverage of all of the major perspectives and makes effective use of diagrams that facilitate an understanding of their similarities and differences.

  • Hardy, Jonathan. 2014. Critical political economy of the media: An introduction. London: Routledge.

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    Hardy’s text focuses on empirical problems of the field including media ownership concentration, technological convergence, globalization of the media, and the challenges of social media.

  • Heilbroner, Robert L. 1999. The worldly philosophers: The lives, times, and ideas of the great economic thinkers. 7th ed. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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    This, the best-written book on political economy, began as a series of articles for the New Yorker magazine and mushroomed into a best-selling book that profiles leading figures in the history of political economy approaches. In a field marked by deep political divisions, Heilbroner’s work stands out for its generous approach to all leading figures.

  • Mosco, Vincent. 2009. The political economy of communication. 2d ed. London: SAGE.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781446279946E-mail Citation »

    This book maps the political economy approach and examines the history and present state of how communication scholars have used it. In addition to updating the original 1996 book, this edition contains a chapter on new developments in the field.

  • Noam, Eli M. 2008. Media ownership and concentration in America. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Noam provides an economist’s view of central problems in the political economy of the media. He focuses on empirical research about media ownership and debates about the extent and significance of corporate power over the media.

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