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dc.contributor.advisorDe Kadt, Raphael.
dc.creatorOsborn, Peter Andrew.
dc.date.accessioned2012-10-19T07:02:58Z
dc.date.available2012-10-19T07:02:58Z
dc.date.created1997
dc.date.issued1997
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10413/7318
dc.descriptionThesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1997.en
dc.description.abstractSet against the background of public life and political practice in late capitalist mass democracies, this study presents information and communication structures as central to the formation of discursive opinion and the negotiation of social identities. Discussion and processes of exchange, that is, are conceived to be crucial to politics in the full democratic sense (as the pursuit and realization of human emancipation) . Taking the mass media to be the central institutions and a primary locus of power in the contemporary public sphere, this study seeks to explore both their semiotic, discursive natures, and the material, institutional context in which they are embedded. The concern to theorize the impact of the mass media on the public sphere 's internal processes of social, cultural and political discourse and therefore on individual and social orientation and action - is essentially a concern to come to terms with the operations of ideology and power in industrial capitalist democracies . The overall context of social communication is changing, and with it the ideological codes of power. It is therefore imperative to arrive at some understanding of the dynamics of signifying processes, the ways in which the culturally specific rhetorical lenses of the media filter and alter the wider framework of social understandings, and the possibilities for generating new social, cultural and political discourses critical of the mystifications of power. Chapter One discusses Habermas's analytical and historical account of the development of bourgeois forms of social criticism in England, France and Germany during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and their effacement in the nineteeth and twentieth centuries by the forces of mass culture and industrial capitalism . Chapter Two then proceeds to address several theoretical problems and methodological flaws in Habermas formulation. Of particular concern are his understanding of the role of the media in shaping cultural criticism, and his conceptualization of the process of communication, in which the audience is cast as passive. A critical interrogation and reconstruction of Habermas category of the public sphere to suit the changing environment of public communication is therefore called for. Chapter Three engages the pessimistic, cynical and apolitical epistemological stance of postmodernism, and rejects its unwillingness to engage in a critical hermeneutics of the structure and dynamics of ideology and power in contemporary society. Chapter Four presents Gramsci's and Althusser's reformulations of Marx's notion of ideology, points out some theoretical deficiencies in their arguments, and suggests why a semiotic understanding of the relation between meaning and reality would be of value to a theory of ideology. Chapter Five focuses on structuralist and semiotic approaches to language and society, and their understandings of the process of signification. Here the work of Saussure, Levi-Strauss and Barthes are seminal, though they are presented as not being entirely satisfactory. Voloshinov 's alternative "social semiotics" is introduced as a more appropriate conceptual framework , taking cognizance as it does of both the dynamic and (necessarily) contested nature of ideology, and the importance of the material and social elements in the signifying process. Chapter Three engages the pessimistic, cynical and apolitical epistemological stance of postmodernism, and rejects its unwillingness to engage in a critical hermeneutics of the structure and dynamics of ideology and power in contemporary society. Chapter Four presents Gramsci's and Althusser's reformulations of Marx's notion of ideology, points out some theoretical deficiencies in their arguments, and suggests why a semiotic understanding of the relation between meaning and reality would be of value to a theory of ideology. Chapter Five focuses on structuralist and semiotic approaches to language and society, and their understandings of the process of signification. Here the work of Saussure, Levi-Strauss and Barthes are seminal, though they are presented as not being entirely satisfactory. Voloshinov 's alternative "social semiotics" is introduced as a more appropriate conceptual framework , taking cognizance as it does of both the dynamic and (necessarily) contested nature of ideology, and the importance of the material and social elements in the signifying process.Chapter Six explores the political economy of late capitalism and demonstrates the need to balance semiology's textualist approach to meaning construction with an understanding of the relevance of the wider institutional context. Notwithstanding the inherent polysemy of media texts and the active role of audiences in the construction of sense and identity, this chapter argues that the character and quality of the discursive relations of advanced capitalist societies are profoundly shaped by the dynamics and principles of industrialization, commercialization, commodification and profit realization . This mediating institutional context of social communication must be taken into account by those concerned to demystify the discourses of power and their implicit agendas. Chapter Six then proceeds to address the democratic potential of new information and communication technologies. The background for this cautionary discussion is the technologization of human culture , as well as certain depoliticizing trends within the infrastructure of so-called "Information Society ", such as the growing prevalence of market principles and the increasing demands of "corporate imperatives". The chapter ends with a brief discussion of Tim Luke's argument that the participatory nature of new technologies can be exploited by counter-hegemonic groups seeking to broaden the scope of public communication in order to build a firebreak against the further colonization of the lifeworld by capital and the State. The study concludes by arguing that despite observable tendencies towards the privatization of information and the centralization of meaning, ideology remains everpresent in modern industrialized countries, and is always open to contestation. It further suggests that the ability of audiences to actively decode ideological cultural forms according to their own interests and lived experiences, together with the potential of new technologies to circulate these alternative and often counter-hegemonic meanings augurs well for democratic practice. For not only is it possible to expose and challenge the dynamics of power, but it is also increasingly possible for audiences to contribute to the agenda of political discussion, and thereby lend substance and credibility to the discursive formations of the (much maligned) contemporary public sphere.en
dc.language.isoen_ZAen
dc.subjectHabermas, Jurgen.en
dc.subjectCommunication in politics.en
dc.subjectMass media--Political aspects.en
dc.subjectMass media--Influence.en
dc.subjectTheses--Political science.en
dc.titleDemocracy, ideology and the construction of meaning in the electronic age : a critical analysis of the political implications of electronic means of communication.en
dc.typeThesisen


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