Did Somebody Say Neoliberalism? On the Uses and Limitations of a Critical Concept in Media and Communication Studies

  • Christian Garland University of Warwick
  • Stephen Harper University of Portsmouth
Keywords: Neoliberalism, Marxism, Critical Theory, Critical Media and Communication Studies, Hackgate


This paper explores the political-economic basis and ideological effects of talk about neoliberalism with respect to media and communication studies. In response to the supposed ascendancy of the neoliberal order since the 1980s, many media and communication scholars have redirected their critical attentions from capitalism to neoliberalism. This paper tries to clarify the significance of the relatively new emphasis on neoliberalism in the discourse of media and communication studies, with particular reference to the 2011 phone hacking scandal at The News of the World. Questioning whether the discursive substitution of ‘neoliberalism’ for ‘capitalism’ offers any advances in critical purchase or explanatory power to critics of capitalist society and its media, the paper proposes that critics substitute a Marxist class analysis in place of the neoliberalism-versus-democracy framework that currently dominates in the field.

Author Biographies

Christian Garland, University of Warwick
Christian Garland is a writer and theorist; he is also a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick and Fellow of the Institut für Kritische Theorie, Freie Universität Berlin. He has research interests that include the original Frankfurt School and Critical Media Theory.
Stephen Harper, University of Portsmouth
Stephen Harper is Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Portsmouth, UK. His research interests span political and social issues in British television, critical theory and cultural geopolitics. He has written academic articles on a wide range of subjects including British television drama and documentary, dramatic representations of war and media representations of mental distress. He is also the author of Madness, Power and the Media (Palgrave, 2009) and Beyond the Left: The Communist Critique of the Media (Zer0 Books, 2012).
Marx is Back-The Importance of Marxist Theory and Research for Critical Comm. Studies Today, ed C. Fuchs & Vincent Mosco