This chapter examines how political economy and the cultural study of technology inform media analysis and history. It addresses the divide between these two perspectives on media history as a debate between Karl Marx and Leo Marx. Political economy primarily grew from the materialist conception of Karl Marx which viewed technology as dynamic but banal. Karl's work gave rise to a materialist or political economic tradition in media studies that took up the role of communication technology in class domination, exploitation, contradiction, struggle, and resistance. Leo Marx developed an approach that focused on the sublime nature of technology. In doing so, he demonstrated how technology drew people to visions of transcending the banalities of everyday life. Leo viewed the sublime as a genuine experience of meaningful transcendence and not what materialists concluded was false consciousness. Whereas Karl provided structural explanations that drew from a philosophical anthropology based in praxis, Leo offered cultural explanations based on a vocabulary rooted in aesthetics. The chapter focuses on specific tendencies and strengths within each and suggests how to draw them together.
This chapter addresses how two approaches, political economy and the cultural study of technology, inform media analysis and history. The purpose is to explore the divide between these two distinct perspectives ...