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Marxism and the Media

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Mr. Stewart

on 25 September 2015

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Transcript of Marxism and the Media

Marxist Ideologies : Social Classes
Social Class
Gramsci came up with the concept of hegemony. This is where the ideas and the beliefs of the ruling class become dominant: and accepted by society as 'common sense' and become taken for granted.
By maintaining these ideologies in the media, the ruling classes can ensure that they retain hegemonic control.

Marx's Critique of Capitalism
- capitalism has led men to see work as purely for survival
- it has made them "estranged" or disconnected from work,
and from the products of their work which now no longer belong
to them.
- this breeds discontent and a endless desire to procure "things"
which will in the end never be especially satisfying as they are not self produced.
- Capitalism also requires a dichotomy between rich and poor.
- In a capitalist society power differentials are considerable
- society becomes aimed towards maintaining power/wealth for those in charge.

Karl Marx
Karl Marx was a 19th century...
Marxism and the Media
The culture industries constantly seek greater audiences because of the profit motive . Therefore they will construct texts intended to generate mass audiences, hence dumbing down their output.
Marxism and the Media
Learning Objectives:

1. To understand the history and connotations of Marxism

2. To understand the basic pieces of Marxist Philosophy

Consider what these words mean
and contemplate what type of
man Marx must be.

Why is he famous?
Marx (with partners) wrote two key texts that influenced significant historical events in the 19th century.
1. The Communist Manifesto
2. Das Capital
- a prescriptive (instructional) explanation of socialism and a critique of the current class structure that was founded around commerce.
- an in depth and detailed critique of capitalism
which suggested that the inherent contradictions
in the system would lead to an inevitable
revolution by the working class.
Marx argued that Capitalism is based on the profit motive and profits under Capitalism are got by exploiting the worker (i.e. something costs more to buy than the cost of making it and paying the workers.) Hmmm...

+They sell their labour and do not own the means of production.
+ started in the feudal system but the worker became more marginalised as industrialization took hold
They own the means of production and employ the working classes.

They can be further dividided:
wealthy bourgeoisie
who don't need to work themselves
petty bourgeoisie
who employ others, but also work
Socialism is a class of ideologies
favoring an economic system in which
resources are the property of the government.
The production and distribution of
goods and services are administered
primarily by the government rather than
by private enterprises, and in which any remaining private production and distribution is heavily regulated by the government rather than by market
Mass media is seen as a way of entertaining the workers while drip feeding them ideologies and beliefs- creating false consciousness.
The East / Orientalism
Capitalist Hegemony
Synergy Across Media : Supporting Capitalism
Magazine Industry
Music Videos
Brand Ambassadors
Pimp my ride
Song Lyrics


Capitalism relies on the voluntary exchange of labour in return for wages or capital. This is a mutual beneficial agreement. Individuals pursue their own self-interest. In a sense, capitalism is based on greed and self-interest. People who support the idea of capitalism are known as capitalists. The capitalists believe that governments should not interfere with the economy and should regulate economic practices instead. The free market will distribute goods to people in the more efficient and cheap way. Language, scientific knowledge and law all grew out of free exchange and voluntary production.
+ free distribution of wealth encourages the existence of social classes.

+ these social classes are of varying levels of social and economic power- this can result in the more privileged classes exploiting the less wealthy or powerful class.

+ this will essentially lead to resentment and increased tension between classes of people- building towards a class war or conflict.
The Inevitable Revolution
Marx believed in the idea of ‘permanent revolution’ or
‘uninterrupted revolution’ - a series of revolutionary
stages in which, after one stage had been achieved, the next class struggle would begin immediately. He believed that change could only happen through revolution led by the people.
+ End of WW2 West and East Germany
+ The Cold War
+ Ideological Imperialism
+ The Red Scare
+ Fall of the Berlin Wall
Social Structures
Marx felt that there were repressive and ideological structures built into society which helped to support the power difference in capitalist society.
Legal System
The Media
act with force if rules are not followed
construct the values and rules that people follow
False Consciousness
The belief in values and ideas as truths while they are in fact constructed ideologies that support the power base.
It is our duty to be critical of the media and it's role in creating a hegemonic view point that supports current power structures.
The Apprentice
Building from the social history of WW2/The Cold War, etc- the media often frames socialism or anything deviating from capitalism as an "Eastern" point of view. This is linked to of course many of these eastern nations subscribing to a communist style of government. We can see that there is some overlap in framing the east as an enemy as well as framing socialism as the enemy. Both of these representations support the narrative that the western capitalist system is good.
reality shows
- The Apprentice is a prolonged job interview where the contestants compete against each other to be chosen for a job working for entrepreneur Lord Alan Sugar.

- Sugar has all the power- reinforcing the superior position of capitalist elite.

- he is an example of a capitalist who has used the system to create wealth and can now provide livelihood- reward- and meaning for the winner of the competition.

- all the contestants are dependent on him for their survival on the show or beyond.

- the prize is a well-paid job and the winner must display classic capitalist ideals
Through the tasks and the judgements offered afterwards some clear values are identified:
Successful people need to be outgoing but not too extroverted. They must be adventurous in business terms but not reckless; confident but not arrogant and be both good leaders and team players.

These qualities are the ones that are rewarded by success within the show and can be seen as a part of the construction of a false consciousness regarding the personality types of people who are valued within the capitalist system. The creative, individual or introverted types are not seen as acceptable, neither are those who challenge authority or who work outside team structures. These non-conformists are "fired".
Title: Marxism and the Media
LO: To consolidate knowledge of Marxist philosophy and apply this to Media Analysis
Starter: Consider these questions about the Communist Manifesto

1. What do you think of the language used in the manifesto? Who do we think is being targeted? Why and how?

2. Determine the 4 most important pieces of information to take from your section of the manifesto and explain your reasoning.

3. How far do you agree with the philosophy explained by the manifesto? Are there areas you strongly disagree with? Strongly agree with?
- semic codes
- cultural codes
- ideologies reflected
- representation of classes
- reinforcement of hegemony

Together let's write an analysis of Marxist critique of the opening sequence for Suits.

Look For:
- power differences
- class representations
- representations of commerce:
money, wealth, luxury, material items
- representations of: work, school, physical labour
- hegemonic norms - consider how they reinforce the power of capitalism
- what false consciousness is cultivated in the audience
The Suits title sequence begins with a high angle establishing shot of a city. It is represented as a bustling metropolis, filled with cars, and people who are seen from a great distance reflecting their insignificance. Interestingly, the frames per minute have been edited to speed up, giving the figures represented an erratic feeling, and emphasizing the high tension of the city, and the business world- where expediency is king.
: - the tiling effect used for transitions // blue tint // tie, cuff links, suit close up // the american flag, the empire state building // transition of blue to sepia tone //
Further Suggestions
: - Representation of the working class // low angle shot on buildings // Subway, Bike // Driver, towncar // Harvey+Mike together// Narrative of the piece // Ideologies represented // Soundtrack
Consider this news article from the Yorkshire Post
Read and annotate this article. Consider how it could be critiqued from a Marxist perspective.

Answer these questions:

What hegemonic views is it reinforcing.
What false consciousness does it attempt to create?
Is there an oppressed? An oppressor? What power differences are represented?
What purpose does this have?
- Sort through these magazines and find 2 great media texts that are ripe for Marxist critique.
- Quickly , write down point form notes that would be easily explainable to your peers as to how you would apply Marxist critique to these ads, or articles, or photoshoots, etc)
10 minutes
In your Groups
- Each of you share your finds with the group. After sharing (all of you), as a group you must decide on 2 examples that are the richest subjects for critique.
In Groups
Once you have picked your two examples, as a group use the paper provided to generate as many points (can be in point form) to critique as possible. Go through your Marxist checklist and leave no stone unturned.
You must address:

Hegemony , Capitalism , Power , Audience , Audience Theories , Ideology , Values, Encoded Messages, Representations (positive, negative, stereotypes, etc),
Pick one of your two examples- write a Marxist critique of this media text. Focus on Marxism and the checklist we have created- but do not be afraid to deviate and consider other theories and critiques as well. Often times feminist or post colonialist critique can go hand in hand with Marxism. Your critique should be 1.5 pages minimum. The final product should be typed for next Tuesday.
10 minutes
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