Critical political economy and mainstream economics

Categories: EconomicsNewsPolitics

Discuss this statement with reference to two of the following:

  • advertising;
  • news and current affairs;
  • television;
  • radio;
  • newspapers;
  • or magazines.

To accept such a statement requires an absolute disregard for all other media studies theories and models. The word ‘only’ in the statement will play an essential part in the overall discussion of the statement, as it is the inclusion of this word which turns the question from objective to subjective.

Without the ‘only’, the statement would seem quite feasible and approachable, but with it, seems unreasonable and quite unfair.

While a critical political economy takes a comprehensive approach to understanding the media by linking various institutional aspects, it cannot account for our understanding of the entire media institution. This is where other approaches to understanding the media, such as textual analysis and content analysis help answer the questions that a critical political economy approach to media cannot.

To effectively demonstrate this point, two popular media sources, news and current affairs along with newspapers will be referenced in this paper to show how wider structures influence society’s choices and decisions as an audience, as customers and as citizens.

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A major difference between critical political economy and mainstream economics is that critical political economy is holistic, or in other words, it is concerned with wholes, rather than analysis or separation into parts.

Critical political economy

Critical political economy takes an encompassing view of the media, blurring the boundaries between social, cultural and political aspects of the media that other theories pride themselves on keeping strictly separate.

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To apply the holistic component of the critical political economy approach to news and current affairs, it could be asked for example, why some people choose different network broadcasters for news information, why some people choose to watch the news on the government owned ABC and why some choose SBS, which is primarily based on the news wire service.

This would provide a holistic outlook of news and current affairs consumption within our society, which subsequently would help explain how the news media works today. Are the choices society makes, for example, what news programs to watch, ‘free’ choices as liberal political economists suggest? Or in contrast, are critical political economists correct in following Marx and suggesting that while these consumer choices may be ‘free’, they are only free to some extent, and the choice of selecting a news program happens within a wider structure and audiences are basing their choices on subconscious influences.

Golding and Murdock’s instrumentalism

Without suggesting an instrumentalism approach, which Golding and Murdock describe as, “capitalists using their economic power with a commercial market system to ensure that the flow of public information is consonant with their interests” (Golding and Murdock, 1991: p. 18). It must be asked why a majority of audiences choose commercial network stations for their news programs, and constantly complain about lengthy advertisements, when government broadcaster the ABC offer an uninterrupted news program covering the same major headlines.

While ABC may contain more government and international based news, it is often considered an inferior news product, while Channel Nine news, which contains almost 13 minutes of advertising material per 30 minutes, is considered the premium news outlet. SBS news on the other hand, offers a product based around the wire news service, focusing largely on international headlines, yet is watched by only a small, select audience.

The Marx’s view

Perhaps it is the corporate reach and the Marx view “that everything can be eventually related directly to economic forces” (Golding and Murdock, 1991: p.19) during the commercial based news programs that draw the majority of audiences in, for example, during Channel 10 news on April 24th 2002, a story was aired just before an ad break, regarding new studies revealing that natural dietary fibre is the best way to lower cholesterol levels. This was great news for manufacturers of Metamucil who told a similar story during the advertisement immediately following the story, “Because clinical tests have proven that the soluble fibre in Metamucil can help lower cholesterol” (Advertisement, Channel 10, 24th April, 2002).

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Critical political economy and mainstream economics. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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