Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hardt, Hanno. "Cruising on the Left: Notes on a Genealogy of 'Left' Communication Research." FAST CAPITALISM 2.2 (2007).

This essay traces the idea of "left" communication research in the United States, with references to the writings and practices of American authors and critics of mass communication and in the context of historical developments from nineteenth century philosophical and theoretical influences to the rise of the New Left in the 1960s. Not unlike the Old Left, which never achieved holding political power and realizing its political goals—but whose ideas have made a difference in reforming American society—"left" communication research never dominated the research culture in the United States, but its contributions continue to enrich the landscape of communication studies. The idea of "left" communication research is typically contained in the notion of "critical" communication research. Although potentially different (in terms of ideology), both share an understanding of communication as relations of power, which they address in their critique of the relations of media and society, for instance. There is a tolerance of inclusion (of left perspectives) among those writing about "critical" communication research, like Leslie T. Good, who sees even a moral imperative at work in "critical" communication research on the demystification of power relations with the goal of creating a climate of interrogation among "critical" researchers (or theorists). While Sue Curry Jansen writes about the implementation of a "media-critical" theory to suggest a broad based critique of media practices, W. J. T. Mitchell's ideas about "dialectical pluralism," with its notion of "pushing divergent theories and practices toward confrontation and dialogue" become the inspiration for the mission of a new journal, Critical Studies in Mass Communication. The work in a Marxist tradition of communication research, one thinks of Herbert Schiller or Dalles Smythe, for instance, remains isolated in its critique of society and reappears later with the rise of a Marxist tradition in a new and perhaps more hospitable environment of Cultural Studies, inspired by the work of Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall, in particular, and legitimized by their intellectual standing. Mainstream—or traditional—communication research, on the other hand, represents a different understanding of communication, one that is compatible with the ruling ideology. The latter embraces relations of power for the purpose of creating and maintaining community or democracy by preserving a pluralism of shared responsibilities, or consensus in a Deweyan sense. Under these conditions of existence, communication studies describes representative relations of power among social, economic, and political or cultural institutions in pursuit of a common good. Its research practices are embedded in the positivism of the traditional social sciences and provide empirical evidence, whose decontextualized and ahistorical nature invites a growing critique during the 1980s, in particular. All the while "left" communication research is marginalized in the disciplinary discourse; it is either considered a foreign product—based on European philosophical or theoretical propositions regarding democracy and society—or a Marxist project, which occupies only a fleeting moment in the American experience, when leftist ideas influenced the cultural and intellectual life of some communities before repression and the McCarthyism of the 1950s destroyed the sense of a collective mission. . . . Read the rest here:

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