Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Manufacture of Consent

In a previous post we recommended the documentary "Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Politics" based on the work of political scientist and economist, Tom Ferguson. In the film the relationship of banks, financial firms and multinationals to the policies implemented by U.S. governments is examined via the contributions these institutions make to political campaigns. This particlar approach helps in understanding why President Obama is far off from being the agent of "change" that his campaign announced.

The Ferguson analysis in some ways is an updated version of Adam Smith's observation that in the England of his time, merchants and manufacturers guided policy making in their own interests irrespective of the "grievous" effect such policies might have on the general population.

A more general and related work is Noam Chomsky's and Edward Herman's "Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media" (1988) which was also adapted to documentary form (2002). In it, the role of corporations as "agenda setters" via their ownership and control of the media takes center stage in a story in which the drive for profits is connected to hegemony, struggle and democracy. Various case studies are used to drive home the general point that knowledge is always mediated, and the specific conclusion that in lots of occasions it is shaped in such a way as to give the impression that capitalism and democracy are two sides of the coin that celebrates individual liberty. This is highly recommended!

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