The Crisis-Ridden Capitalist Mode of Production as Driving Force for Restructurations and Transformations in and of the Media Industry: Explanatory Theoretical Elements of a Critique of the Political Economy of the Media

  • Manfred Knoche University of Salzburg
Keywords: critique of the political economy of the media, structural transformation of the media industry, capitalist mode of production, capitalist crisis, real subsumption of labour under capital, formal subsumption, digital media, digitisation, informatisation, universal medium, universalisation, productive forces, computer, computing


The goal of this article is to explain long term restructurations and transformations of the media industry. In order to do so, the article uses theory elements of a critique of the political economy of the media. The paper is a contribution to the development of theoretical approaches that provide a theoretical analysis of the media in capitalism based on Karl Marx’s concepts. The capitalist mode of production is the primary driving force of media corporations‘ strategic action and of the media economy’s structural transformations. Factors that are of particular relevance in such structural transformations include profit orientation, capital accumulation, capitalist crises, state policies, behaviour of producers and consumers, private property, class relations, the antagonism between productive forces and relations of production, the antagonism of variable and constant capitalism, the antagonism of use-value and exchange-value, and competition.

Competition, capital’s need to survive, and capitalism’s immanent crisis potentials force corporations try to create innovations such as new digital technologies. Informatisation, which includes the use of the computer as universal machine and the Internet, is the provisionally latest stage in the development of the productive forces that has affected media technologies and the media industry. The capital-driven structural digital transformation of the media industry has resulted in the convergence of production, distribution and consumption, the creation of a variety of non-tangible digital products, digital rationalisation and automation, and the universal real subsumption of labour under capital. These developments have also created the potential potentials for overcoming the capitalist character of the media economy and advancing decommodification based on the emergence of a universal digital media system.

Author Biography

Manfred Knoche, University of Salzburg

Manfred Knoche is professor emeritus of media economics at the University of Salzburg in Austria. He studied journalism, sociology, political science and economics at the University of Mainz and the Free University of Berlin. He obtained his PhD (1978) and defended his habilitation (1981) at the Free University of Berlin. He was research assistant in the years 1974-1979 and assistant professor for communications politics in Berlin in the years 1979-1983. From 1983-1994, he was professor of media and communication studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, where he was also the director of the Centre for Mass Communications Research. From 1994-2009 he held the chair professorship in media economics at the University of Salzburg in Austria, where he was Director of the Media Economics Group at the Department of Media and Communication Studies. He chaired the German Association for Media and Communication Studies’ (DGPuK) media economics-section. He is author of many publications on the critique of the political economy of the media. His work has especially focused on the critique of the political economy of media concentration and the media industry’s structural transformations.,  
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