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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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25

Communication and Democracy

The Roots of Media Studies

Hanno Hardt

ABSTRACT

This chapter focuses on the contribution of social and economic thought to media studies in the United States. It details the migration of ideas from Germany and their creative application regarding the press to social and political conditions unique to the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. An evolving mass medium warranted theorizing its role and function in a democratic society and produced a critical literature of its performance. This chapter proposes that US media studies are partially the result of a realization in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century social thought that communication is an essential, binding force in a democratic society and partially the result of a turn to communication research void of larger philosophical concerns that had characterized the Chicago School in its consideration of communication and US democracy.

Media studies in the United States evolved with the rise of modern communication technologies, which had provided opportunities for creating cultural and political homogeneity and demonstrated their potential as instruments of social control. This chapter suggests that media studies are an outgrowth of developing social theories emerging in the nineteenth century, when an increasingly literate European civil society began to think freely about the necessary conditions of a modern world while a new social dynamic materialized in technologies of ...

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