Marxist Media Theory
Limitations of Marxist analysis
Critics argue that Marxism is just another ideology (despite claims by some that
historical materialism is an objective science). Some Marxists are accused of being
'too doctrinaire' (see Berger 1982). Fundamentalist Marxism is crudely
deterministic, and also reductionist in its 'materialism', allowing little scope for
human agency and subjectivity. Marxism is often seen as 'grand theory', eschewing
empirical research. However, research in the Marxist 'political economy' tradition in
particular does employ empirical methods. And the analysis of media
representations does include close studies of particular texts.
The orthodox Marxist notion of 'false consciousness' misleadingly suggests
the existence of a reality 'undistorted' by mediation. The associated notion that such
consciousness is irresistibly induced in mass audiences does not allow for
oppositional readings. Marxist perpectives should not lead us to ignore the various
ways in which audiences use the mass media.
Neo-Marxist stances have in fact sought to avoid these pitfalls. The primary Marxist
emphasis on class needs to be (and had increasingly been) related to other divisions,
such as gender and ethnicity.