Friday, November 18, 2005

Strengths of Marxist analysis

Unlike many approaches to the mass media Marxism acknowledges the importance of explicit theory. Marxist 'critical theory' exposes the myth of 'value-free' social science. Marxist perspectives draw our attention to the issue of political and economic interests in the mass media and highlight social inequalities in media representations. Marxism helps to situate media texts within the larger social formation. Its focus on the nature of ideology helps us to deconstruct taken-for-granted values. Ideological analysis helps us to expose whose reality we are being offered in a media text. Whilst Althusserian Marxism helps to undermine the myth of the autonomous individual, other neo-Marxist stances see the mass media as a 'site of struggle' for ideological meaning, opening up the possibility of oppositional readings.

Marxist theory emphasizes the importance of social class in relation to both media ownership and audience interpretation of media texts: this remains an important factor in media analysis. Whilst content analysis and semiotics may shed light on media content, marxist theory highlights the material conditions of media production and reception. 'Critical political economists' study the ownership and control of the media and the influence of media ownership on media content cannot be ignored. It also remains important to consider such issues as differential access and modes of interpretation which are shaped by socio-economic groupings. Marxist media research includes the analysis of representation in the mass media (e.g. political coverage or social groups) in order to reveal underlying ideologies. We still need such analyses: however oppositional it may sometimes be, audience interpretation continues to operate in relation to such content. Because of the distribution of power in society, some versions of reality have more influence than others.


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