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James W. Carey and Communication Research

Reputation at the University’s Margins

Jefferson D. Pooley

Winner of the 2017 James W. Carey Media Research Award

James W. Carey, by the time of his death in 2006, was a towering figure in communication research in the U.S. In this book, Pooley provides a critical introduction to Carey’s work, tracing the evolution of his media theorizing from his graduate school years through to the publication in 1989, of his landmark Communication as Culture. The book is an attempt to understand the unusual if also undeniable significance that Carey holds for so many communication scholars, as well as making his work accessible to advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students.

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Chapter 5. The Return of the Repressed


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Carey’s main villain in the 1982 essay was the field’s mainstream “effects” tradition, sifted through Rorty’s critique of nature-mirroring epistemology and the figure of Lippmann. Almost immediately, however, he was forced to contend with a resurgent left. In the early 1980s communication scholars finally registered the uptake of cultural Marxism that had been underway in the U.S. and Britain since the early 1970s. The main conduit, for American media researchers, was the British cultural studies out of Birmingham—an awkward fact due to the shared name and Carey’s regular praise for Richard Hoggart and the early Raymond Williams.1 Carey, at the height of his writing powers, worked through this awkwardness in a series of talks and essays over the next few years, culminating in the 1985 “Overcoming Resistance to Cultural Studies”.2 That essay—a delicate critique of Hall—would stand as the fourth and final core chapter in Communication as Culture. Carey’s old quarrel with Marxism had resumed—but this time he was arguing with his cultural studies allies.

The new interest in cultural Marxism was announced in 1983 by a thick special issue of the Journal of Communication, titled “Ferment in the Field”.3 Indeed the issue, and the “ferment” noun, became metonyms for the U.S. field’s new and newly visible pluralism. The journal’s official editor was ← 167 | 168 → George Gerbner, Carey’s former dissertation reader and then-dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication.4...

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