Introduction: The Political Economy of Communications
Core Concerns and Issues
What is Critical Political Economy?
Running through the revolution in European thought that came to be known as the Enlightenment were three central ambitions. The first was to develop new accounts of the natural and social worlds that were empirically grounded and expressed in rationally informed theoretical systems. The second was to replace the arbitrary power of kings and despots with a system of government in which every adult participated in political debates and decision as a free and equal citizen. And the third was to provide a nonreligious basis for moral action that would balance the pursuit of personal interests against the demands of the common good.
Political economy was, from the outset, caught up in all three projects. For its early practitioners, like Adam Smith, theoretical and empirical questions about how to organize economic life and balance markets against state intervention were inextricably bound up with questions about the constitution of the good society. Marx, who presented his magnum opus, Capital, as a critique of political economy, shared this ethical concern, but argued forcefully that it could only be pursued by abolishing capitalism. Other socialists opted for a more gradualist approach in which the negative impacts of capitalist dynamics would be disciplined by strong public regulation and countered by substantial investment in ...