Describe the Marxist approach to the media and discuss its strengths and weaknesses
(In modern society the main influence over the population comes from the state, which forms its understandings and beliefs.)Nowadays society is influenced by the state which forms its understandings and beliefs. However, a few decades ago the state was more insignificant and the control of people's ideas and perceptions belonged to the so-called capitalists (or dominant class) who exercised their power over a subordinate class (or proletariat). The idea that society was developed through the struggle between two classes belongs to an ideology called Marxism.
In general, Marxism is a combination of social, political and economic theories developed in the 19th century (Chandler,D. And Munday,R. , 2011, p.252). It is mainly based on the work of Karl Marx who plays a very significant role in social science. Marx discovered the principle of the development of human society in history like Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature (WWW document, Engels, 1883). Marxist approach can serve as a basis of understanding the relationship between society and media. As in every ideology we have to look in the very foundation of the theory in order to see its strengths and weaknesses.
Marxist approach explains that society consists of two classes, two main layers, namely, the higher class and the lower class. The higher class, or also called bourgeoisie, are the people with power, the people who own enterprises, i.e. banks, factories, etc., people who have wealth, people who employ, people who are worked for. On the contrary, the lower class, the proletariat, are those who have to work for the owners of the enterprises, those who are employed. According to Marx, the ruling class oppresses the working class and he calls this conflict 'the motor of history' (The Media Student's Book, Branston and Stafford, p.174). The capitalists have the wealth and power but they need the proletariat's labour, so they simply buy it. The existence of the capitalists is considered inevitable, which leads to the inevitability of the proletariat as well. Marx says that 'capital is stored-up labour' (WWW document, Marx, 1844). (Hence, the ruling class has the power to control the means of production that is also a way of making money.) Class, he states, is fundamental since he regards labour and production as the very basis of social existence and development. (Wayne, M., 2003, p.6) Therefore, the commodity production has become the major function of society. ‘If you doubt the fundamental character of labour, then just consider how much you were dependent on it in your first waking hour this morning.’ (Marxism and Media Studies, Wayne, M., p.6) Not only does the ruling class control the material but it also controls the mental means of production. It runs the political system, the religion, the law and the educational system. On the whole, Marxist theory explains that the ruling class creates a world according to their taste and makes the masses think this way of living is natural and there is no alternative. Nevertheless, capitalists need a means of impose their ideas and thoughts and this means is media. Media is also considered 'means of production' and acts as a tool of promoting the ideology of the bourgeoisie.
In terms of media institutions, Marx suggests that it acts in tandem with the higher class and claims that media is somehow obliged to serve the dominant(Gurevitch, Bennett, Curran, Woollacott, 1982, p.21). 'Common sense' is what Marx calls the ideas that people believe in, the ideas that are in the interest of the capitalists. Even in periods of unrests these ideas are successfully suggested (Branston and Stafford, 2010, p. 176). People are being deceived that media, i.e. newspapers, television, are a reflection of reality. Media journalism appears to be a 'kind of megaphone' which gets the ruling class' ideas across the masses....
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