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Communication Theories in a Multicultural World


Edited By Clifford G. Christians and Kaarle Nordenstreng

This volume is an up-to-date account of communication theories from around the world.
Authored by a group of eminent scholars, each chapter is a history and state-of-the-art description of the major issues in international communication theory.
While the book draws on an understanding of communication theory as a product of its socio-political and cultural context, and the challenges posed by that context, it also highlights each author’s lifetime effort to critique the existing trends in communication theory and bring out the very best in each multicultural context.
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5 Power, Inequality, and Citizenship: The Enduring Importance of the Political Economy of Communications



In his writing, as in his work, Bob White has never lost sight of the importance of power and inequality in considering questions of media and communication. Not least in his contribution to our understanding of the media’s role in evolving citizenship in former colonial societies, he has always been sensitive to the intimate links between the media and processes of political power, participation, and accountability. In this he reflects some of the core tenets of a critical political economy approach to communications, aspects of which are the focus of this chapter.

Our purpose here is to demonstrate why an understanding of the media, and their pivotal role in enduring patterns of inequality and power (or lack of it), remains central to a full understanding of social order in the twenty-first century. In setting out this case, we draw on evidence from the UK, and conceptually draw inspiration from that tradition of work in the political economy of communications that we regard as essential.

This approach to the study of communications and the media has its roots in political economy more generally, which emerged as an analytical critique of capitalism in the eighteenth century, to be displaced by the later consolidation of economics as a self-consciously scientific, and it was presumed, objective study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Political economy is associated with the work of Adam Smith, later David Ricardo, and, in the nineteenth century especially, with Karl...

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