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Communication and counter hegemony in contemporary South Africa : considerations on a leftist media theory and practice.

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In South Africa the left-wing is currently in an ascendant mode. Yet it is not an unproblematic ascendancy. For one thing, because Marxism has been interwoven with so much of the South African struggle, the South African Left are now unable to disentangle themselves from the contemporary 'collapse of the Marxist dream'. And this translates into a South African socio-political issue because as the Left accumulates influence and power in South Africa so the problems and limitations of historical materialism acquire a wider social significance. This thesis will argue that a key problem with the historical materialist paradigm has been its limitations when dealing with communication and the media. However, there have been historical materialists (usually those who consciously stepped outside 'mainstream Marxist' discourse) who made considerable advances in attempting to develop historical materialism's capacity for dealing with communication, the media and the subjective. This thesis will examine some of the work which has attempted to 'reconstruct' historical materialism away from a narrow materialism. The aim will be to give some direction to the development of a New Left approach to communication. Such a reconstruction is seen as a precondition if the Left-wing is to find a formula for dealing with Information Age relations of production. A New Left communicology able to deal with the 'superstructuralism' of the Information Age offers a specific perspective on how to construct a development strategy for South Africa. This will be discussed, and the thesis will attempt to tie together the notions of communication, development and democracy. The relationship between communication and democracy will be especially important for the New Left approach that will be favoured in this thesis. So an important theme in the thesis will be the question of developing a left-hegemony based upon a democratic-pluralism. This will entail examining the role that media and an institutionalised social-dialogue can play in building a left-wing democracy. The extent to which the left-wing media in South Africa have contributed to a democratic dialogue is discussed. This will then be extended into a discussion of how media can contribute to the reconstruction, development and democratization of a leftist post-apartheid South Africa.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1991.


Communism and mass media., Marxist criticism., Government, resistance to--South Africa., South Africa--Social conditions., South Africa--Politics and government., Theses--Culture, communication and media studies., Mass media--South Africa.