Understanding Accumulation: The Relevance of Marx’s Theory of Primitive Accumulation in Media and Communication Studies

  • Mattias Ekman Stockholm University
Keywords: Marx, Capitalism, Capital Accumulation, Accumulation by Dispossession, Political Economy, News Media, Commodification, Privatization, Web 2.0, Facebook


The aim of this article is to discuss and use Marx’s theory on primitive accumulation, outlined in the first volume of Capital, in relation to media and communication research. In order to develop Marx’s argument the discussion is revitalized through Harvey’s concept of accumulation by dispossession. The article focuses on two different fields within media and communication research where the concept of accumulation by dispossession is applicable. First, the role of news media content, news flows and news media systems are discussed in relation to social mobilization against capitalism, privatizations, and the financial sector. Second, Marx’s theory is used to examine how communication in Web 2.0 and the development of ICTs could advance the processes of capital accumulation by appropriating the work performed by users of Web 2.0 and by increasing the corporate surveillance of Internet users. In conclusion, by analyzing how primitive accumulation is intertwined with contemporary expanded reproduction of capital, the article shows that Marx’s theory can contribute to critical media and communication research in several ways.

Author Biography

Mattias Ekman, Stockholm University
Department of Media Studies
Journalism, Media and Communication (JMK)
Stockholm University
Marx is Back-The Importance of Marxist Theory and Research for Critical Comm. Studies Today, ed C. Fuchs & Vincent Mosco