Karl Marx may no longer be around today to witness an interesting cultural phenomenon brought about by the latest developments in information technology. Nevertheless, his ideas continue to be upheld by many social scientists, activists, and revolutionaries until these present times…
While the so-called dogmatic Marxists continue to assert that, the economy, particularly industry, is the battleground of the working class and capitalists, the pragmatic neo-Marxists recognize the role of politics and culture in maintaining oppressive class relations. Mao Zedong, renowned leader of the Chinese revolution, was considered a neo-Marxist by the Soviets. Mao insisted that his theories were still Marxist to the core. The only difference is that he applied it to the conditions of China, something that was impossible for Marx to consider in his time.
Mao is no longer around too but his valuable contribution to the new Left, which influenced neo-Marxists today, regarding the importance of culture in introducing social change remains valid. It is from this vantage point that one of today's most potent cultural instruments, the internet, can be put into scrutiny. For neo-Marxists, it is a cultural battleground of those who desire to see the end of oppressive social structures and those who want to defend it. From this light also, the ascendance of the internet-based social media, particularly social networking, has given the opportunity for progressive forces to arm themselves with a new cultural weapon that is powerful enough to cross national borders and prevail over state restrictions.
The Neo-Marxist Theoretical Framework
The neo-Marxists consider mass media as an important part of the bourgeois state. They see it is a very powerful tool to promote and defend the interests of the wealthy few and it reflects the inequalities of a society. However, they also see it as a venue to propagate transformative and progressive ideas that can raise the political consciousness of the oppressed peoples. Many times, they have also used it for calls to action, for the mobilization of various sectors to struggle for economic and political reforms, at least, or to advance a total social overhaul with a revolution.
The framework for this theory on the media is rooted in the Marxist analysis of class society. Marxism teaches that when an economic infrastructure promotes the interests of a single class, this sector can also have the power to dominate over the political and cultural superstructure. Capitalist relations in production allow the bourgeoisie to accumulate profits enough to expand production, ensure government control, and influence or manipulate culture. The ruling class in production is necessarily the dominant class also in politics in culture. For without its leash on both, its economic interests are placed at risks. Political supremacy grants the ruling class use of state machineries, a strategic factor for its survival. The coercive apparatuses such as the police, the courts, and the armed forces are employed to instill social order that favors the status quo. The deceptive instruments, which comprise all cultural components such as religion, education, and the mass media, are meant to condition the minds of the ruled and oppressed to accept their fate and to comply to the system. In one of his writings, the German Ideology, Marx said that "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e. the class, which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The ...
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