Friday, November 18, 2005

Limitations of Marxist analysis

Critics argue that Marxism is just another ideology (despite claims by some that historical materialism is an objective science). Some Marxists are accused of being 'too doctrinaire' (see Berger 1982). Fundamentalist Marxism is crudely deterministic, and also reductionist in its 'materialism', allowing little scope for human agency and subjectivity. Marxism is often seen as 'grand theory', eschewing empirical research. However, research in the Marxist 'political economy' tradition in particular does employ empirical methods. And the analysis of media representations does include close studies of particular texts.

The orthodox Marxist notion of 'false consciousness' misleadingly suggests the existence of a reality 'undistorted' by mediation. The associated notion that such consciousness is irresistibly induced in mass audiences does not allow for oppositional readings. Marxist perpectives should not lead us to ignore the various ways in which audiences use the mass media.
Neo-Marxist stances have in fact sought to avoid these pitfalls. The primary Marxist emphasis on class needs to be (and had increasingly been) related to other divisions, such as gender and ethnicity


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