Media and Communication
Publication Year: 2007
Subject: Mass Communication Theory
'…a great book, exciting, and very clearly written' - Klaus Schönbach, University of Amsterdam. 'This is an excellent book that provides students with a broad series of summary outlines of key thinkers on media and communication, without conflating the two terms' - Michael Pickering, University of Loughborough. Magisterial in scope, Media and Communication traces the historical development of media and communication studies. Media Studies itself has a short history but many antecedents, and in this comprehensive and compelling book, Paddy Scannell sets out to describe and analyze its formulation in North American and Europe. Media and Communication offers an accessible and comprehensive analysis of the development of media and communication theory: Includes a summary outline of all the key thinkers; Looks at the study of ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
Part I: The Masses
- Chapter 1: Mass Communication: Lazarsfeld, Adorno, Merton, USA, 1930s and 1940s
- Chapter 2: Mass Culture: Horkheimer, Adorno, Brecht, Benjamin, Germany/USA, 1930s and 1940s
- Chapter 3: The End of the Masses: Merton, Lazarsfeld, Riesman, Katz, USA, 1940s and 1950s
Part II: Everyday Life
- Chapter 4: Culture and Communication: Leavis, Hoggart, Williams, England, 1930s-1950s
- Chapter 5: Communication and Technology: Innis, McLuhan, Canada, 1950s-1960s
- Chapter 6: Communication as Interaction: Goffman, Garfinkel, USA, 1950s-1970s
Part III: Communicative Rationality and Irrationality
© Paddy Scannell
First published 2007
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This book is based on teaching courses on media and communication over many years. I have a primary debt of gratitude then to all the students who, each time we went through some version of what follows, understood or didn't understand the point in general, or particular, of what we were talking about, agreed with it or not and by sheer dint of incremental repetition helped me to clarify, at least, what I thought we were up to. It has taken me a long time to grasp an elementary point: you only really begin to engage with what you teach and see what it's about after many returns to it. When I was younger I used to feel slightly ashamed at repeating the same course with small variations year after year. Now I enjoy finding different perspectives each year and trying out old and new material from different angles. And each time I do this I learn a little more and understand more clearly what I am trying to do and why.
A number of people have read sections of this book as I was working on it and I am grateful to Martin Montgomery, Shaun Moores, Andrew Tolson, Pete Simonson and Bill Schwarz for their comments on particular chapters. I am especially grateful to the four readers of the manuscript for their helpful, detailed responses to it. I have taken note of what all my readers had to say in the final revision of the text. My thanks too, to Maren Hartman who provided me with information about contemporary views of the Frankfurt School in Germany, and to Sarah Crymble for heroic work on the picture search.
I first began teaching the contents of this book with David Cardiff in the early 1980s. David died three years ago at the untimely age of 59. It was always a great pleasure teaching with him. I like to think we were a good double act and that between us we entertained, enthused and informed a generation of students – well, some of them at any rate. This book is for him; an affectionate token of remembrance for a deeply missed colleague, co-author and friend.Figures
Paul Lazarsfeld © Columbia University
Theodor Adorno © Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Theodor W. Adorno Archiv, Frankfurt am Main, photo by Ilse Mayer-Gehrken
[Page viii]Max Horkheimer © Universitaetsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main, Archivzentrum
Walter Benjamin © Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Walter Benjamin Archiv, Berlin, photo by Joël-Heinzelmann
Bertold Brecht © Academy of Arts/Bertolt-Brecht-Archive
Robert Merton © Columbia University
David Riesman © Jane Reed, Harvard News Office
Elihu Katz © Kyle Cassidy
Frank and Queenie Leavis © Robert Fothergill
Richard Hoggart © David Mark Radford
Harold Innis © Strategic Communication, University of Toronto, Canada
Marshall McLuhan © the Estate Of Marshall McLuhan
Erving Goffman © the American Sociological Association
Harold Garfinkel © Bernard Leach and Manchester Metropolitan University
John Austin © Jean Austin
Paul Grice © Kathleen Grice
Penelope Brown © S.C. Levinson
Stephen Levinson © Inge Doehring
Harvey Sacks © Emanuel A. Schegloff
Jurgen Habermas © Darren McCollester, Getty Images
Hannah Arendt © Jennifer Anna, American Jewish Historical Society
Ian Watt © Stanford University
Conclusion[Page 260]The Historiography of Academic Fields
In the foregoing chapters I have attempted to reconstruct the beginnings of the academic study of what we have come to think of as ‘the media’ at different times and in different places in the course of the twentieth century. I have also threaded in another narrative about the emergence of the question of communication as it began to develop in a number of different disciplines – philosophy, sociology, history and literary studies – in the second half of the past century. I turn now to a review and critique of these histories, beginning with media before turning to communication, because the former constitutes the book's point of departure. It is the first term under consideration here: media and communication, and not the other way round. Had I undertaken the study of Communication and Media, I would have begun elsewhere: not with the developments at Columbia in the 1930s, but the attention given to the question of communication somewhat earlier at Chicago or perhaps, even, the beginnings of structural linguistics in the work of Ferdinand de Saussure. So the question of the media is what anchors and defines the overall project of this book and the question of communication stands in a secondary, supplementary relationship to it, as we shall see.
I have been concerned with the formation of intellectual fields, more exactly, of academic disciplines as taught in universities, and especially those in which I work – media and cultural studies. Academic disciplines are what Foucault called ‘discursive formations’; they are institutional discourses with the nominative power to produce that of which they speak (Foucault, 1974). There is no such thing as ‘English (or any other) Literature’. I mean there is no such worldly, nonacademic thing. ‘Literature’ is a purely academic creation, the end product of an institutional process of selection that has nominated certain things as worthy of study and ruled out others as not. It begins by defining its field of study as a canon of carefully chosen texts which become, by definition, Literature, while everything outside the canon becomes, by definitional exclusion, unworthy of that name. Thus, English Literature is the product and effect of self-validating, [Page 261]self-legitimating institutional discourses with the power to nominate, define and objectify a field of enquiry as worthy to be taught and studied in universities. New disciplines seldom have an uncontested rite of passage into the already existing university curriculum. Sociology to this day is regarded with suspicion at Oxford and undergraduates are kept away from it. The study of English Literature, now well established there with a large faculty and undergraduate intake, was regarded for many years as an inferior version of Greats (the study, in their original languages, of ancient classical literatures) and English Literature graduates (when I was there) were not accepted as candidates worthy to compete for that rarest prize, a fellowship at All Souls. The odium in which Media Studies is held today is not unlike that which attached to English as it sought academic recognition a century ago. In each case, the new candidate for admission to the university was championed in some quarters and regarded with contempt in others. For its supporters, the new subject was a breath of fresh air, recognition of changing historical realities and an attempt at contemporary relevance. For its opponents, it meant not only a lowering of standards, but thereby the entry of new kinds of students from the lower orders with lower levels of educational attainment. It undermined the elite status of the university itself.
Each new discipline has its own internal history, although the narrative content and structure turn out to be pretty much the same in all cases. In every instance the discipline will first take root and achieve recognition in a particular place and time (Sociology at Chicago in the 1890s, English Literature at Cambridge in the 1920s). Naturally one starts with the concrete and the particular. Thus I tell the tale of how Paul Lazarsfeld ended up at Columbia and pioneered a social scientific approach to the study of the effects of new media on individuals; how the Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt also ended up there, its somewhat fraught relationship with Lazarsfeld and its own distinctive ‘critical’ take on mass entertainment. We have seen how Stuart Hall theorized the study of television in a small, pioneering research centre that Richard Hoggart had initiated at Birmingham. The accounts of such developments have a familiar narrative structure. There is a host institution; there are founding fathers, an emerging agenda, key texts, turf wars perhaps within the founding institution or against others that arise to challenge it. All this is the usual stuff of historical accounts of developing academic fields. But what they do not account for are the historical circumstances that summoned them into existence in the first place and that, I gradually came to think, was the crucial question with which the historiography of intellectual fields must engage.
It is never simply a question of why things happened as and when and where they did. These are partly a matter of chance. The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies was established at Birmingham because that happened to be the place where Hoggart got a chair in Literature in the early 1960s. But the [Page 262]emergence of intellectual fields of enquiry themselves is never a matter of chance. They are a determinate effect of the historical process; responses, I will argue, to the pathologies (the disorders) of modernity. They show up, in particular times and places, as one response to contemporary anxieties about the world. The form that such responses take is an effect of history in the first place, not of the founding institutions and their founders. Thus, if the two key moments in the academic study of the media in the twentieth century are at Columbia from the 1930s to the 1950s and Birmingham in the 1960s and 1970s, then what must be accounted for, in the first place, is why each moment took the form that it did: why did it appear as a social question in 1930s America and as a cultural question in 1970s Britain and why in that order (i.e. why does the social question appear, historically, before the cultural)? An immanent account of these developments cannot answer the question in either case. Thus there are two quite distinct and separate historiographies to the formation of intellectual fields: the endogenous histories of particular developments and the exogenous history to which they are a response.
If there is one book that clarified my thinking on this matter, it is The Lonely Crowd by David Riesman, a work which addressed a change taking place in contemporary America on the cusp of the mid-century and interpreted it historically. It was a most unusual text within American sociology of that time precisely because of the long historical frame it deployed to account for the contemporary social phenomena with which it was concerned. From it, I learned to see the doubled narrative in the histories I was attempting to write; their own and particular internal histories and those histories as responses to the play of external historical processes. Riesman argued that a structural transformation of the American soul was taking place in the late 1940s; a transition from the inner-directed to the other-directed individual. This restructuring of the self was not an endogenous reorganization of the American psyche but was brought about by exogenous historical forces working through contemporary American society, most fundamentally and pervasively the transformation of the economy from the production of primary heavy industrial goods to the manufacture of secondary, light domestic products. It was the then accelerating transition from an economy of scarcity to an economy of abundance that forged a new kind of individual in its own image and likeness. The life-circumstances of individuals were changing from work-defined patterns of existence to new leisure-defined ways of living. The coercive time of work and the workplace no longer dominated individual life and experience which now were oriented towards free time. The pendulum was swinging from production to consumption. It was a decisive change of gear in the long, still continuing world-historical process of societal modernization in which subsistence economies, and the forms of life developed in adjustment to them, gave way to unprecedented surplus economies of abundance and new forms of life defined, for the first time, by economic choice and freedom.
[Page 263]The crucial thing I learnt from this was the historical specificity of the moment in which the book was written, the moment that produced it as its symptom and diagnosis. From Riesman, I came to see the 1940s as the pivot of the last century. The world going into that decade and the world coming out of it was different. One has only to compare Britain and the USA in the 1930s and the 1950s, as I suggested in Chapter 4, to see the general force of this claim. In both countries, poverty defined the decade before the Second World War, whereas increasing prosperity for the majority of the population defined the decade that followed it. In Britain, the Conservatives won an election in 1959 with the campaign slogan ‘You've never had it so good!’ The Second World War was the historical hinge of the last century. It is a bitter historical irony that a war in which 50 million people perished resolved the politics of poverty that had precipitated it. In Britain and America, the outbreak of war brought about full employment within months and the working population experienced a real rise in its general standard of living which continued through the next decade and has been sustained ever since. The world we inhabit today is the product of the last world war whose lineaments began to appear in the 1950s. If it was, as we now can see, a victory for capitalism and democracy, it must now be remembered that neither had, up to that moment, seemed particularly compelling, necessary or even desirable in most if not all European countries (Dunn, 2005). Now it seems ‘there is no alternative’ to either.
Taking this as my template – the structural transformation of the world taking place across a pivotal 30-year span in the mid-twentieth century – I will try to account for the formation of the sociology of mass communication in 1930s America and of media studies in 1970s England as, in each case, a contemporary response to this fundamental historical process. I will try to show how and why it should be that America before the war produces a sociological response to what is happening and why it should be that England going into the 1970s produces a cultural response to contemporary social change. I will interpret each of these two historical moments in which the question of the media becomes the focus of academic attention as effects of the sea-change taking place in the world brought about by movement in the tectonic plates of the world economy as it shifted from an economy of scarcity to an economy of abundance. The basis of the argument is pretty orthodox. I do take the economy –the economy as a world-historical, world-defining phenomenon – as having a determinate effect on contemporary forms of social, political and cultural life everywhere.1 Thus, as the economy changes gear from scarcity to abundance, [Page 264]it gives rise to new kinds of politics, new ways of life and a new kind of individual, as Riesman argued. These interlocking historical changes show up in and as the contemporary world for those who live in it, and all must come to terms with it somehow or other and manage and cope with it as best they can – at individual and institutional levels. At an individual level, for instance, we have seen how intellectuals from the old world of Europe managed and dealt with their experience of the new world when they arrived as political or ethnic refugees in America of the 1930s. Lazarsfeld and Adorno are exemplary in their individual differences. At an institutional level we have seen the same individuals, working in the same university that took them in and gave them shelter, produce markedly divergent ways of engaging with and accounting for the same contemporary social phenomena – the rise of mass communication and entertainment: radio, cinema and music.
1 This of course, is the interpretative frame developed by Marx in his later life as he moved ‘towards a more and more profound attempt to grasp the logic of the process of global economic change which he had already long decided to be the fulcrum of the history of the modern world and which the history of the world ever since has increasingly confirmed to be indeed such’ (Dunn, 1993: 87. See pp. 82–120 for a magisterial review of Marx's economic and political thought.)
In what follows I try to interpret from our own and present times the politics of the present2 in the past as played out in two historical moments which each produced an academic engagement with then very new media of communication; radio in America of the 1930s and 1940s, and television in Britain of the 1960s and 1970s. The focus throughout the book has been on formative moments, the time-spans within which a new domain of academic enquiry comes into existence and defines itself. Thus it is of some importance as to where the line is drawn between the innovation of a field and its subsequent routinization and normalization. In line with the preceding narratives I will take the formative moment of the sociology of mass communication to be located in Columbia and defined by the formation of the Bureau of Applied Social Research and Lazarsfeld's commitment to the investigation of the effects and uses of the media. The work that is the culmination of this moment and at the same time brings a degree of closure to it is, I have already argued, Personal Influence published in 1955 by Katz and Lazarsfeld. Thereafter, the field settles down to the work mostly of consolidation and diffusion. Likewise the formative moment of Media Studies is located in Birmingham, defined by the establishment of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) and Hall's work on ideology and television. That ends with his departure for the Open University in 1980 and the then emerging field of Media Studies, again, settles down to consolidation and diffusion; the normalization of an agenda worked out in the 1970s at CCCS. I turn now to a consideration of what shaped and defined the working agendas of these two formative moments.
2 The term is from Boltanski (1999). It is a core concept in my own thinking and the meaning and significance of the politics of the present is discussed in detail in Television and the Meaning of ‘Live’ (Scannell, 2007, forthcoming).[Page 265]The Rise of ‘the Social’
In respect of developments in Columbia before the Second World War, the question must be why sociology in the first place and, within that, why a sociology of mass communication? If sociology came into being to deal with the question of the social, then what is that question and how did it arise, and where and when? An answer to such questions is provided in yet another key text from the 1950s, The Human Condition, by Hannah Arendt. This wonderful book should be read in conjunction with those by Riesman, Williams and Habermas (who was directly influenced by it) as one more contemporary attempt, in the aftermath of the war, at a critical analysis of the meaning of modernity and its historical formation. Arendt was yet another European political and ethnic refugee from the horrors of Nazism who found a new life in the United States. She was a contemporary of Adorno (whom she disliked) and of Walter Benjamin whom she liked and admired. Her intellectual formation was shaped by the study of Greek and Roman civilizations, their politics and literature. She was Martin Heidegger's most gifted student (and lover) at the University of Marburg in the 1920s. She settled well into the life of an East Coast intellectual, living in New York and moving between university life and the milieu of the metropolitan literary intelligentsia, writing regularly for the New Yorker. Her thinking, a kind of political phenomenology that fuses her deep love and understanding of the ancient world with Heidegger's contemporary Existenz philosophy, is quite distinctive and original. It enables us to see and understand the historical formation of sociology's object domain, society.
For Arendt, ‘the rise of the social’ is a key to understanding the modern world (Arendt,  1989: 38–49). It is a complex argument that has generated much critical debate and hinges on a reading of the structure of Greek life in the era of Athenian democracy over 2000 years ago. Arendt reads the everyday life of free men (the male citizens of Athens) as split between the private life of the household and the public life of the polis. The former is for them the realm of necessity, the latter the realm of freedom. The household, as the space of privacy, is privative – a place of deprivation from which men escape as they enter the ‘great and glorious public realm’ to participate in the political life of the city – state. This, for us today, is an extraordinarily counter-intuitive reading of the relationship between the private and the public. We take private life as the realm of freedom, of intimacy and authenticity and leave the management of public life to the professionals – politicians and the permanent bureaucracy – while occasionally [Page 266]performing our civic duties in turning out to vote. We value the former and despise the latter. But Arendt thinks it is (or should be) quite the reverse.
The household is the realm of necessity in a double sense. It is the locus of sexual reproduction and the sheltering provider for the bodily subsistence, maintenance and care of its members. Domestic life is in this double sense concerned with meeting and managing basic material human needs. Our modern word economy has two Greek roots; oikos (the household) and nomos (law) and once meant the management of the household, domestic economy. The ‘law of the household’ (its oikonomia, or economy) did not only refer to patriarchal authority and the regulation of household affairs. It meant more fundamentally that all household members were subject to its implacable law, the law of sexual and bodily necessity and need:
[Today we] see the body of peoples and political communities in the image of a family whose everyday affairs have to be taken care of by a gigantic, nation-wide administration of housekeeping … The collective of families economically organised into the facsimile of one super-human family is what we call ‘society’, and its political form of organisation is called ‘nation’. We therefore find it difficult to realise that according to ancient thought on these matters, the very term ‘political economy’ would have been a contradiction in terms: whatever was ‘economic’, related to the life of the individual and the survival of the species, was a non-political, household affair by definition. (Arendt,  1989: 28–9)
For Arendt, the rise of the social realm is ‘a relatively new phenomenon whose origin coincides with the emergence of the modern age’ (ibid.). It was an effect, as Habermas argued in developing her thesis, of the long historic process whereby, in Europe, the modern capitalist economy was gradually formed as the management of subsistence needs (the provision of food, shelter, clothing, etc.) passed out of the immediate, private environment of individual households and slowly fused, over centuries, into larger ‘economic’ units of production that came to supply the material needs of households. Modern societies are inextricably linked with the formation of the modern economy which, from the start, has operated within while always transcending the bounded authority of modern nation-states. The tensions generated by the economy in modern societies were what hailed or summoned into existence the modern academic discipline of sociology to engage with the question of the social.
Those tensions were the central theme of Arendt's next book, a comparative study of the American and French Revolutions and the birth of modern politics. Here she analysed the emergence of ‘the social question’ in the nineteenth century as formed by the politics of poverty and the rise of the masses (Arendt,  1990: 59–114). There is a tendency nowadays to claim that the masses never existed. In his robustly enjoyable broadside against The Intellectuals and the Masses, 1875–1939, John Carey begins by briskly dismissing ‘the masses’ of the [Page 267]late nineteenth and early twentieth century as a fiction; the product of the rancid, class-ridden snobbery of the European bourgeois literary intelligentsia of that time who nearly all, to a man and a women, despised the uneducated, unwashed urban working classes (Carey, 1992: 1). But, while I have some sympathy with Carey's knockabout treatment of the intellectuals, it has to be said that the masses were no fiction.3 They were the defining political and economic reality of those times, in Europe and North America. The question of ‘the masses’ became the social question ever since the French Revolution; it was more exactly to do with the politicization of poverty.
That, Arendt argued, was the conclusion that Karl Marx drew from it:
He interpreted the compelling needs of mass poverty in political terms as an uprising not only for the sake of bread or wealth, but for the sake of freedom as well. What he learned from the French Revolution was that poverty could be a political force of the first order. (Arendt, 1963/1990: 62)
It ceased to be a natural fact and became an historical fact that entered into, indeed determined, the politics of Europe and North America from the nineteenth century through to the mid-twentieth century. It was the driver of history because the labour of an immiserized urban working class was the essential wealth creator [Page 268]for the mass-produced goods of factory capitalism. The structural economic antagonism between capital and labour, so clearly and presciently analysed by Marx, gave rise to continuing industrial unrest and conflict whose resolution required the increasing intervention of the state: the length of the working day and week, the appalling abuse of child labour, health and safety in the workplace, wage bargaining, the unionization of labour and the rights of unions … a host of issues requiring continuous political management in order to keep the economy going and defuse the fear (always in the background) of insurrection from below. All this was ‘the social question’, as Raymond Williams understood and showed so clearly in the exemplary case of British ‘society’ from the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century. And in all this the nature of the state itself was gradually reformed and redefined in the long revolution towards mass representative democracy, a new kind of politics that only came to fruition in Europe in the early twentieth century.
3 What provokes Carey's wrath was a widespread view amongst the European literary intelligentsia of the masses as sub-human vermin, fit to be exterminated – an attitude which, he argues, found definitive expression in Hitler's Mein Kampf. Carey has no difficulty in showing the vileness of the views of many very well-known authors, but fails to acknowledge that the conditions of life for millions were, in fact, vile. I have shown how the BBC documented the widespread poverty in inter-war Britain and the impact of unemployment and bad housing on individuals and their families (Scannell and Cardiff, 1991: 57–71, 333–55). When slum-dwellers and the unemployed spoke at the microphone or on film of what their life was like, they appeared naturally as ordinary, decent people and not the members of some sub-human race of Morlocks. But they were people forced, through brute poverty, to lead an undifferentiated existence in which they had no access to the ordinary luxuries of daily life which others took for granted (and they knew this of course). To speak of ‘the masses’ is to acknowledge the undifferentiated life to which millions were condemned: a life of ‘mere’ subsistence, of constant struggle and anxiety to meet basic everyday needs, of wretched housing, meagre diet, gnawing hunger, ragged clothing (shoes an unaffordable luxury), ill health (itself an effect of poor diet and housing) and a shortened life-span. Such misery was endured by many millions in Europe and North America throughout the nineteenth century and the first half of the last century. Such an existence has, in the course of the second half of the twentieth century, receded. To be sure, poverty stubbornly persists in the advanced economies of Europe and North America, but not so pervasively and not at such a brutal, primary level. It is no longer a defining political issue as it was throughout the classic era of urban, industrial capitalism which lasted from the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Primary poverty now presents itself to ‘us’ as existing in other parts of the world, most notably and visibly on our television screens, in Africa.
The question of the masses, then, defined and determined economic and political life in the first decades of the last century. It acquired new significance and urgency in two key moments: the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1918 which coincided with fierce industrial unrest in all the advanced economies, and the Wall Street crash of 1929 whose consequences defined the next decade. This – the inter-war period – was the moment of ‘mass communication’ and ‘mass culture’. In the writings of those years ‘mass’ and ‘masses’ were taken for granted, unmarked terms, used as natural descriptors of natural facts. To be sure, the words meant different things in Europe and North America. The masses in Europe were the urban proletariat. In America, they were the atomized individual components of the lonely urban crowd. But in neither case could they be regarded as the imaginary constructs of contemporary intellectuals looking at social phenomena through the wrong end of a telescope. They were real, insistent social facts. The politics of poverty returned to haunt the 1930s and to drive the world into war. It was called, lest we forget, the hungry 1930s.The Sociology of Mass Communication
This then is the world-historical frame within which to consider the formation of a sociology of mass communication in the USA in the 1930s. It enables us to understand why the emphasis fell on the first and not the second term. The concern at the time was not with the communicative character of the new technologies of communication but their impact and effect on the mass of the population. The inter-war sociology of mass communication was hailed into existence by current concerns of the elite with the vulnerability of the urban masses to manipulation by advertising, newspapers and radio. But the inter-war period was also the moment when new, modern forms of entertainment that [Page 269]would define the rest of the century (radio, cinema, television and the music industry) were established. While millions endured hunger, unemployment and squalid living conditions in Europe and North America, millions more were beginning to enjoy a marginal surplus of disposable time and money which they spent on the newly emerging culture of consumption and entertainment. The post-war culture of everyday life was formed in the inter-war period. The new mass media showed the consequences of poverty to contemporary audiences but were themselves part of a new culture of leisure and consumption underpinned by the rapidly developing economy of abundance. The sociology of mass communication across a 20-year span from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s tracks this transition taking place in American society.
It was driven initially not so much by fear of the revolutionary potential of the masses as anxiety about their well-being. What was the effect of powerful new communication technologies on the ordinary man? Was he not vulnerable to manipulation because he was ill-informed through lack of education and psychologically suggestible through economic insecurity? Such were the underlying assumptions of the first important case-study of the impact of the first great and then very new technology of broadcast communication, radio. Hadley Cantril's study of The Invasion from Mars was sub-titled ‘A study in the psychology of panic’. The fact that large numbers of people were so frightened by a spoof scary play for Halloween – an adaptation of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells – that they fled their homes and took to the road seemed to confirm the power of radio and the vulnerability of ‘the common man’. It was the task of intellectuals ‘to spread knowledge and scepticism more widely among common men’ so that they might be ‘less harassed by the emotional insecurities which stem from underprivileged environments’ (Cantril et al., 1940: 205). That important task was addressed in Paul Lazarsfeld's key study of Radio and the Printed Page, published in the same year, whose aim was to answer the question ‘uppermost in the minds of many citizens: what will radio do to society?’ and to provide those concerned with mass education with an analysis of the conditions in which the ‘masses’ would or would not expose themselves to education by radio (Lazarsfeld, 1940: 133). The theme of Mass Persuasion was addressed a little later, in Robert Merton's elegant study of audience responses to Kate Smith's marathon radio broadcast to promote the purchase of government war bonds (Merton  2004).
All these studies of the impact of radio in the late 1930s and early 1940s presupposed its direct and powerful impact on powerless masses. It did make people flee in fear. It did make them buy $40 million worth of war bonds in a single day. But at the same time this concern with the top-down impact of radio on individuals starts to change. On closer inspection the question begins to transform from what the media do to individuals into what individuals do with the media. Herta Herzog's study in the late 1930s of what women got from [Page 270]listening to daytime radio serials opened up what came to be called ‘uses and gratifications’ studies. It began as an attempt to study the influence of radio on women's lives but became a study of what it meant to them. Two contrasting themes are threaded through the study: the loneliness of many listeners and the compensatory ‘use’ of radio as a source of company and friendship – isolated individuals warmed by the sociable aura of the new mass medium of radio (Herzog, 1941). The same picture emerges in studies of newspapers and, a little later, of television. Bernard Berelson's charming investigation of what ‘missing the newspaper’ meant to New Yorkers during a two-week strike in 1945 was another early, classic ‘uses and gratifications’ study. Like Herzog's study it deployed psychoanalytic concepts to get below the surface and find what missing the daily paper ‘really’ meant for individuals (Berelson,  2004). Its findings were similar: the newspaper was a small daily life-support system that gave meaning and structure to otherwise empty days and lives. Without it people did not know what to do with themselves. They felt lonely and isolated. With it they had access to a fuller, richer and more exciting social world. The enduringly influential study of early television by Donald Horton and Richard Wohl is the fullest exploration of the sociable character of television output and ‘the bond of intimacy’ (‘the ‘para-social’ relationship) it created especially with ‘the socially isolated, the socially inept, the aged and invalid, the timid and rejected’ (Horton and Wohl,  2004: 380).
We must acknowledge the truth of these testimonies to the alienated experience of contemporary American life for city dwellers, particularly those whose lives were economically and emotionally insecure. The findings of Herzog and Berelson capture an authentic ‘structure of feeling’, as does the title of Riesman's book (chosen by his publisher) – the loneliness of the isolated members of the lonely crowd.4 In pre-war Britain, Leavis saw both the traditional and the new mass arts as substitutes for real life and experience. Contemporary American social science research also saw radio, movies and newspapers as offering a kind of inauthentic, pseudo-social substitute for authentic existence. Shorn of value judgements about ‘the masses’, the data point to the loss of the very possibility of experience for the mass of the population condemned by economic deprivation to an undifferentiated existence. That is, the meaning of mass society and mass culture. For the masses under the yoke of dull economic compulsion, music, film, radio and the morning newspaper might indeed offer a momentary respite from daily care. If desire and longing spring from lack, then escapism as their (in)authentic promptings may be the realest expression of the experience of [Page 271]modernity in mass society. The fundamental ambiguity at the heart of this experience (real or not; authentic or not?) is the enigmatic critical question in any assessment of the role of the new culture industries. The uses and gratifications literature suggests that the mass media had (as interpreted by the researchers) an uneasy compensatory function; they filled a gap in daily lives shorn of meaningful experience. They created a culture of dependency for lonely individuals. This is a deeply equivocal picture which is partly true to historical reality and partly a misreading of it, for in all the literature the audience is treated as an aggregated mass of isolated individuals. This is a sociology that has yet to discover the meaning of sociality. It is partly an effect of the premises and the methodology of a sociology under the sway of positivism; partly of the social position of intellectuals and their distance from the lives of ‘the masses’; partly an effect, as Lukács argued, of the reification of modern thought, but ultimately of the experience of the world itself for those who lived in those times – not only the subjects of research but also their researchers.
4 Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper (1942), is the iconic American painting that captures this structure of feeling to which the pulp fiction and movies of the period also bear eloquent witness.
And yet a different picture peeps through the data. Almost all the women who listen to radio soaps talk about them with others and 41 per cent discuss their favourite programme with friends. Herzog tells of one woman who phones her friend in New Jersey every day to talk about what she's just heard in the latest episode.5 Berelson's data also show how newspapers function as a sociable resource for conversations with others, and Horton and Wohl's analysis, stripped of its emphasis on vulnerable, isolated viewers, in fact emphasizes the sociability of television as interacting with viewers' own sociable existence. An alternative reading becomes possible. The sociable character of social life is about to be discovered in the sociology of mass communication. This discovery is latent in the long gestation and manifest in the published findings and analysis of Personal Influence by Katz and Lazarsfeld. The inner and outer history of this book exemplifies the historical transformation taking place in America from the 1930s to the 1950s as diagnosed by David Riesman: the transition from the prewar to the post-war world, from scarcity to abundance, from the time of the masses to the time of everyday life.
The book, it will be recalled, is a fusion of two different fields of enquiry: an investigation of the ‘two-step flow’ hypothesis formulated by Lazarsfeld from a study of voting behaviours in 1940 and, welded onto this, the later doctoral research of Katz into small group dynamics. It should be emphasized that the Decatur data had been on the shelves for some time until Katz came along. This was due in particular to ructions between C. Wright Mills and Lazarsfeld, but more generally it was because mass communication sociology could not make [Page 272]sense of it. It needed someone from outside the field to unlock its significance. Mass communication sociology, as Katz points out, regarded interpersonal communication either as non-existent or irrelevant to its concerns (Katz and Lazarsfeld, 1955: 34). But Lazarsfeld saw that it might help to explain the role of what he thought of as ‘opinion leaders’ in his two-step flow hypothesis and so he recruited Katz's aid in another attempt to make something of the Decatur material. Katz begins with a robust criticism of ‘the traditional image of the mass persuasion process’. It took no account of ‘people’. It was no use thinking of ‘opinion leaders’ as if they were a group apart and as if leadership was a trait that some possessed but others did not. It was essential to begin to think of opinion leaders as ‘an integral part of the give-and-take of everyday interpersonal relationships’ (ibid.: 33. Emphasis added). The new field of interpersonal communication, if we consider it exogenously, can be seen as a precise response to the historicization of everyday life which, so to speak, summoned it into existence as its sociological interlocutor. I do not mean, of course, to suggest that everyday life did not exist until this moment – that would be absurd – but rather that hitherto it lacked any historical and sociological significance. Previously it was beneath history and below the radar of sociology. Now, in 1950s America and elsewhere in Europe as we shall see, everyday life begins to achieve visibility and recognition as something distinctive and meaningful in its own terms and for its own sake.
5 ‘In a world which offers so few chances for real experiences any happening must be made immediately into something owned’, Herzog comments. Her famous study of women listening to radio serial dramas is tellingly entitled ‘On borrowed experience’.
This is the emerging world explored by Personal Influence which, in this exogenous reading, is a pioneering study of the sociable character of everyday life in mid-twentieth-century America. A richly patterned network of relations within and between younger and older, married and unmarried women of differing socioeconomic status emerges from the data. The role of personal influence in the formation of tastes, attitudes, opinions, shopping choices and media usage is convincingly established: it is an ‘almost invisible, certainly inconspicuous, form of leadership at the person-to-person level of ordinary, intimate, informal, everyday contact’ (ibid.: 138). It is ‘casually exercised, sometimes unwittingly and unbeknown, within the smallest grouping of friends, family members and neighbours’ (ibid.). This is a very different picture to that described and analysed in the earlier classic study of Mass Persuasion in which urban Americans are seen as living in a climate of reciprocal distrust. In Personal Influence everyday life is an end in itself. In Mass Persuasion, it had a marginalized role in the work-defined lives of the masses under the dull economic compulsion of factory capitalism.
The war, I have argued, resolved the prolonged economic crisis of the 1930s. In America and Britain unemployment disappeared overnight. More and more people were recruited to the labour force. All those in work achieved an absolute rise in their standard of living and, for the first time, blue-collar workers saw theirs rise faster than that of white-collar workers. For women, especially, it was a moment when they were massively recruited into work and, as Rosie the[Page 273]Riveter showed so charmingly and poignantly, ordinary working-class American women (black and white) briefly achieved a new economic independence and greater purchasing power than had ever previously been possible for them (Frank et al., 1982). It did not last. When the war ended, they were told to get back home and breed while the men, returning from the far-flung fighting fronts, replaced them in the workplace. This was the moment of the Decatur study, undertaken in the final stages of the war. Coming out of the war the American economy entered into a long period of continuous growth and expansion, in which life for many if not most Americans was better than ever before and the hungry 1930s became no more than a rapidly receding trace memory.
The transition to an economy of abundance, increasingly evident in the inter-war period, is decisively established by the mid-1950s and is everywhere apparent. That is why, to grasp the full significance of Personal Influence we must attend to the inner history of its long gestation. If we attend only to the text-as-published, we will miss its real crux: the fact that the sociology of mass communication could not, in its own terms, make sense of the question it had raised and the data it had gathered. It was a sociology without a conception of what connected people to each other. It is precisely across this period, from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, that the sociality of the social manifested itself as a historical phenomenon. A new sub-branch of sociology in America was formed in response to this – the first recorded instance of the usage of ‘inter-personal’ is in 1938.6 The fusion of the two sub-branches resolves a riddle within the field and that is why Personal Influence, on publication, was recognized as a key text that had an immediate and lasting significance within sociology.
The exogenous historical reading that I have essayed necessarily starts from the internal history of the text and its position (at the time and since) within the field, both of which are crucial to its understanding. But moving outwards from this we must think of it as embedded in the economic, political, social and cultural determinants of its own and present times as these impinged upon and shaped the concerns of sociological work-in-progress. In attending to the historical gestation of Personal Influence, I have offered a symptomatic reading of it as a response to a profound sea-change in the world with which it engages – the passing of the time of the politics and culture of the masses and the emergence of the politics and culture of everyday life. Thus what the book discloses both in its internal history and as a response to the historical process of its own time (its inner and outer dialectic, so to speak) is the passage from modernity to post-modernity, if by that is meant the structural transformation of the global economy from scarcity to abundance and the corresponding reconfiguration of contemporary political, social and cultural forms of life.
6 I am indebted to John Durham Peters who told me this.[Page 274]The Culture of Everyday Life
Thus far I have been concerned with the question of ‘the social’ and the discipline to which it gave rise, sociology. I turn now to the question of ‘the cultural’ and the discipline it summoned into existence. The when and where of this development are central to the understanding of its formation. It will also shed light on the historically emerging relationship between ‘culture’ and ‘society’. The academic discipline created in response to both those historical pressures is the study of literature and, paradigmatically, English Literature (hereafter Eng Lit). The ‘literature’ addressed by this new academic field of study is itself a significant element in the long historic process that elicited it, for it is modern, not ancient, literature that is the focal object of study in the new discipline. Its two object domains were poetry and the novel. The study of poetry established one continuing strand in Eng Lit's approach to its subject matter: a hermeneutics that treated the poem as a thing-in-itself, a text to be read as if nothing existed outside of it. The close reading of texts for their immanent meaning was part of the tradition from the start, but the unasked question was what warranted (justified) the readings produced. Where was the meaning of the object: in the mind of its creator, in the poetic text itself or in the mind of the reader? These questions returned to haunt later generations. The other object of study, the novel, more insistently posed questions outside itself for its formal realism posed unavoidable questions about the relationship between fictional narrative and the actual world in which and about which it appeared to have been written.
The question of literature and society appears as a focal concern in three key academic texts of the 1950s: one published in America, one in Britain and one in Germany. The first two have a common source in the Leavises and Cambridge and both informed the historical narrative of the third and last. They are, in order of appearance, The Rise of the Novel by Ian Watt (Stanford University Press, 1956), Culture and Society by Raymond Williams (Chatto and Windus, 1958) and The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere by Jurgen Habermas (Hermann Luchterhand Verlag, 1962).7 Between them, they provide an engaging account of the historical formation of the literary culture of modernity that gives rise eventually to an academic field of enquiry inhabited by two of them (Watt and Williams). It is not for nothing that these texts are essentially products of the 1950s though all have their roots in the two preceding decades, for the 1950s is the historic ‘moment’ in which the question of culture achieves renewed historical salience and recognition and is found to be inseparable from ‘literature’ and ‘everyday life’.
7 In the end references, the most recent edition of each of these three works is cited, not the original. Habermas had read Watt and Williams and his concept of the ‘literary public sphere’ is a synthesis of their work and that of Altick (1957). Adorno is acknowledged (along with Talcott Parsons) by Watt in his introduction.
[Page 275]I have thus far discussed ‘the social’ in relation to the rise of the urban masses in the nineteenth century, the problem of poverty and its politics. But the rise of ‘society’ preceded these convulsive developments. Industrialization accelerated the global development of the transport and communications infrastructure and commodity production and in so doing universalised the material basis of modern societies upon which their way of life depends. The universalization of this ‘way of life’ (its extension through all sectors of society) was finally accomplished in the advanced economies only in the 1950s. But the essential characteristics of modernity's ‘way of life’ were created long beforehand: the culture of everyday life as we know and experience it today was in all essentials set in place and worked through in the eighteenth century. That historic development was masked by the enormous convulsions of factory capitalism and the immiseration of the workforce it created, and only recovered in the mid-twentieth century when continuing economic growth made a way of life created by the eighteenth-century bourgeoisie finally available to the majority of the peoples of North America and Northern Europe.
It was a way of life focused on the home and family in which the relations between household members had been radically transformed. As the household's oekonomia was no longer driven by necessity, relations between men, women and children gradually became less impersonal and instrumental. The new relationships, no longer determined by the needs of survival, now became substantive ends and goods in themselves. Lawrence Stone, the great historian of the family, sex and marriage, has traced with remarkable diligence and subtlety the emergence in England between 1500 and 1800 of this basic social unit of modernity. He calls it the ‘companionate marriage’ based on love and affection between the sexes, in which children too are objects of affection, loved in themselves and no longer small unruly brutes to be whipped into submission (Stone, 1979). Sociologists call this the nuclear [two-generation] family. It is the fundamental social unit, the bedrock of modern societies everywhere. The companionate marriage presupposes real equality between the sexes, the domestification of feral males and the reigning in of masculine violence that the older ‘honour’ code had demanded. As distinct from the older dispensation, which it gradually replaced across all social classes, modern marriage was based on a relationship between the sexes rather than on pre-assigned duties and responsibilities hitherto determined by the immemorial sexual division of labour when Adam delved and Eve span and they and their offspring, throughout the life-course, led largely unconnected lives within their separate gendered communities. The new relationship was grounded, so Stone argues, on the rise of ‘affective individualism’: not the isolated, inner-directed individualism of homo economicus8 but an other-directed individualism in which women and men acknowledged each other in their difference but recognized common emotional [Page 276]needs, desired each other's continued presence as a comfort, support and pleasure and treated the marriage as a life-long developing, shared and negotiated relationship between them. This is the ideal-typical ethical foundation of the modern family in which the goodness of the relationship is confirmed by the couple's discovery of the good in each other. It is based on the politics of eros, incarnate human love dependent on reciprocity and mutuality. Its communicative medium is continuing, life-long dialogue. All problems can be solved in modern relationships so long as the partners continue to communicate with each other. In American movies and television series about family life and relationships today the moment of crisis will inevitably come in which someone says – usually the woman (or Frasier) – ‘We need to talk’.
8 See Watt ( 2000: 60–92), for a discussion of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe as Homo Economicus, the prototype of modern economic individualism.
It is evident that such a relationship presupposes a dwelling-place fit to live in, and hence the long historic development, across all sectors of society, of ‘the home’ as something more than a mere shelter from the elements and otherwise to be escaped from, but as a place capable of sustaining non-instrumental relationships, to which one would turn and return for relaxation, leisure, ease and enjoyment, a comfortable place in which parents and children would wish to spend their time together. This development was greatly accelerated in the early twentieth century after the First World War with renewed programmes of slum clearance, the provision of council housing by local authorities, and the rise of suburbia and affordable privately owned small dwellings with inner sanitation, cooking and washing facilities and separate bedrooms.9 The universalization of [Page 277]these developments was not finally sealed until the 1950s when the wired home and a whole clutch of electrically powered domestic appliances at last established the material and technological basis of the way of life first enjoyed in the advanced economies of Europe and North America and, in the past 20 years or so, now rapidly spreading through almost all parts of the world except Africa. The fundamental importance of the new labour-saving domestic appliances of the mid-twentieth century can scarcely be exaggerated. Before the Second World War, the largest single source of employment in Britain was domestic service. The middle and upper classes sustained a (more or less) leisured life-style because they employed other human beings to cook and clean and wash and iron and wait on them hand and foot. Servants were the wage-slaves of the better off. After the war, domestic service noiselessly faded while the new domestic appliances – electric cookers, clothes and dish wash-and-drying machines, fridge-freezers and vacuum-cleaners – took the manual toil out of basic domestic tasks.10 This culture of everyday life, based on the companionate marriage and the small self-sustaining domestic household goes back several centuries but is finally available to the majority of whole populations only after the Second World War. It was a long, uneven revolution, this transformation of the day-to-day conditions of existence for whole populations. Only when such circumstances were generally achieved could the culture of everyday life appear as the common culture of post-modernity, as it did at last in the 1950s. That is why the reconnection with the emerging bourgeois culture of the eighteenth century is made in this decade.
9 This transformation is charted in Seebohm Rowntree's two pioneering social surveys of working-class life in York: Poverty: A Study of Town Life (1901) and Poverty and Progress (1941). It is a unique, meticulous longitudinal study of social change by a Quaker pioneer of the ethnography of daily life. By the end of the 1930s the old slums had begun to be replaced by council housing and affordable private homes, described in detail by Rowntree and based on his own observations. He notes a decline in drinking across this 40-year period which he attributes to the new attractions of the home itself, of ‘staying in’ and, for instance, listening to the radio rather than, as in the 1890s, thronging the streets, brawling and filling the public houses. Both surveys are powerful, detailed, closely observed accounts of (1) the prevalence of ‘primary poverty’ in an old English city at the end of the nineteenth century, and (2) of the emergence of a new culture of daily life as a result of rising wages and better housing and hence better health and an incremental increase in the marginal surplus of time and money for leisure and relaxation. Introducing his final conclusions on ‘leisure time activities’ in the late 1930s, Rowntree observes:
A community ill-fed and worn out with hard work will have little time or energy for anything except ‘work and bed’. But with a growth in the amount of leisure and an improvement in economic conditions not only will people have more time in which to express themselves through their leisure pursuits, but they will have more energy to indulge in forms of recreation which would make no appeal to tired and ill-fed men. (1941: 468)
This may stand as a succinct and vivid summary of the passage from the politics of poverty to an emergent culture and politics of everyday life. Note that his final study of post-war Britain is called English Life and Leisure (Rowntree and Lavers, 1951): thus over a 50-year span the shift from poverty to leisure is tracked in three case studies.Literature, Culture and Politics
A culture of everyday life presupposes that people have time, money and health for its enjoyment. That is why the question of culture comes after the question of the social. To say that the masses lack culture is not to wag a finger at them but to identify a primary lack; the lack of the very conditions that make possible the enjoyments of what we have come to think of as ‘culture’. In modernity culture requires money and leisure, a surplus (however small) of [Page 278]disposable income and time freed from unavoidable and necessary concerns. That surplus is the tantalizing gift of the modern economy, the creation of the modern bourgeoisie who first experienced its benefits in a new home-and-family-centred way of life and the new forms of leisure and enjoyment that accompany it. This is the modern culture of everyday life that finally becomes generally available through all sectors of society in the post-war world of the last century. It is what the enormities of the ‘industrial revolution’ finally delivered. Having at last begun to surpass the politics of poverty – the legacy of the nineteenth century – it became possible to see that what mass production promised, when applied to the manufacture of domestic appliances, was in fact the universalization of the way of life created by the eighteenth-century bourgeoisie. That is, the re-connection made in the historically informed work of Watt, Williams and Habermas, all of whom take eighteenth-century England as the classic site of this historic socio-cultural formation.
10 ‘I do not know’, E. P. Thompson wrote in the 1950s, ‘what moral and cultural values are attached to the kitchen sink, a washboard and the week's wash for a family of five. But if we are getting more washing machines, we should recognize in that fact at least the potential of greater emancipation for working women’ (quoted in Woodhams, 2001: 179). Diaries kept by working-class women in York for Rowntree's second social survey show that the family wash took four days in the 1930s. Clothes were washed, rinsed and rung dry by hand on Mondays, hung out to dry indoors on Tuesdays and ironed on Wednesdays and Thursdays (Rowntree, 1941: 441). See Arendt  1989: 79–93) on ‘The labour of our body and the work of our hands’.
Watt's indispensable study makes clear the new economic and social conditions in the early eighteenth century that make possible ‘the rise of the novel’ as a novel and popular genre of entertainment especially for women. The novel is, after all, the first truly modern cultural commodity that presupposes a surplus of individual disposable money and time for its purchase and consumption. It is a key consumable for a new ‘taste public’ that reads not for spiritual edification nor for information and knowledge, but for pleasure and enjoyment. The novel bespeaks a new leisured class for whom reading is an agreeable pastime. Its readers are mainly the female members of the new mercantile bourgeoisie. Its concerns are with families, power, sex and money for these are the concerns of the new social class whose self-understanding is explored in the new genre of writing.11 Notably the novel, in its classic formation, overlooks the public world of politics. It is pre-occupied by the [Page 279]intense intimate politics of love and sexuality, of the power relations between men, women and children as played out in families. The novel was the first genre of writing that women could produce and consume and literature became, as Watt remarks, ‘a primarily feminine pursuit’ ( 2000: 45).
11 These concerns, in their final, purest form, are the subject matter of the novels of Ivy Compton-Burnett. A Family and a Fortune, A House and its Head, Parents and Children, Brothers and Sisters – these and other similar titles are indicative of Compton-Burnett's subject matter. Their deliberate blandness belies the merciless and occasionally hilarious relationships between husbands and wives, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, maidservants and men-servants all trapped in a strange, timeless and utterly inescapable small world that is her unique fictional creation. Her novels, written in the mid-twentieth century (between 1929 and 1963) are usually set in the late nineteenth century and take place in an eighteenth-century country house (A House and its Head is exemplary). They are quite astonishing to read and expose the latent violence, masked by wit and civility, generated by male sexuality and unbridled patriarchal power in the closed relations of the nuclear family. They are a dark counterpoint to the novels of Jane Austen, read over and over again by Compton-Burnett (Spurlingm, 1984), which stand as definitive explorations of the new feminine culture of everyday life that comes into being in the eighteenth century. The enormous popularity of Jane Austen's works, in umpteen film and television versions, testifies to the continuing power and vitality of her world for us today.
The Rise of the Novel stands out as a classic in the sociology of literature, a study in the relationships between a particular historical society and the culture it created and through which it articulated its own understanding of itself. Culture and Society is a longer study in the politics of a process stretched over three centuries in which those two words – ‘culture’ and ‘society’ – entered into the historical consciousness of modernity as crucial interpretative terms for the long revolution taking place in the world. That it was indeed not a revolution but the long revolution was the claim made explicit by the volume that immediately followed on from Culture and Society as an extended gloss on its central concerns. The Long Revolution goes over the same period and deepens and enriches the historical analysis; its final chapter, ‘Britain in the 1960s’, makes explicit that it was a slow, uneven journey, with set-backs and checks at every point, in the direction of a democratic society, whose human energy springs ‘from a conviction that men can direct their own lives by breaking through the pressures and restrictions of older forms of society and by discovering new common institutions’ (Williams,  1965: 375). Both books read as a study of social change in a single country but it is not difficult today to read the analysis as a case study in the world-historical process of societal modernization driven by factory capitalism and the mass-production of commodities. Our strong sense today of the world-as-a-whole, a knowable common world that all of us inhabit, is an effect of the extraordinary rate of technical innovation in the transport and communications infrastructure, driven as ever by economic globalization, that was as yet over the hills and far away in the 1950s. There was then no mass air travel; no colour television; no satellite technologies in place to provide instant global linkups for live television feeds; no video cameras or recorders, no digital technologies, no computers, no Internet, no mobile phones, pod-casts, blogospheres and the rest. The world, in the experience of people everywhere 50 years ago, was much more immediately defined. The ‘local’ now is thought in relation to the global; then it was thought in relation to the national as the natural horizon of experience for most people. It is part of the enduring power of Williams' historical analysis that it remains robustly serviceable in terms of its narrative sweep [Page 280]and the conceptual analytical framework within which it was developed. Culture and Society is this book's inspiration and model and its author is its ‘hidden king’.
Jürgen Habermas had read Watts and Williams and his historical analysis is in part a synthesis of theirs, although he treats the structural transformation of publicness as a European phenomenon taking place in Germany and France as well as England. Still the British case is taken as the classic site of the working through of the struggle for public opinion as the normative basis of democratic politics. Habermas's analysis of this development appears to differ significantly from that advanced by Williams who has been criticized for his gradualist account of seemingly inevitable progress towards a democratic society. There is no such progression in Habermas's account. The moment of democratic awakening is taken as the late eighteenth century; by the mid-twentieth century politics is regressing to pre-modern forms of publicness in which critical discussion is suborned and public life is stage-managed through the media as a theatre of power. Williams and Habermas repay the most careful critical comparison (Nieminen, 1997) since they remain the two most important authors on the historical development of the interlocking connections between politics, democracy and communication. Hannu Nieminen's judiciously balanced study tends to favour Habermas's analysis of these developments. I share his view of the fundamental similarity of their concerns but for my part I swerve more toward Williams in the end. It is a question, as Williams would say, of where the emphasis falls. For me, as for him, it falls on the ordinary culture of everyday life. The original and primary public sphere was not the political public sphere of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, but the literary public sphere that took shape earlier in the first half of the eighteenth century. Habermas's overriding concern with politics means that he fails to give due recognition to the enduring significance of the new reading public of the early eighteenth century which he acknowledges as the precursor of the political public sphere. That was formed in response to a gathering and prolonged moment of political crisis which Habermas takes as a rule rather than the exception and thereby overlooks the fact that in normal times the literary public sphere is the norm.
We are all political in critical political moments. But in normal times we are not. One reason for this misrecognition of the significance of the two public spheres has to do with enduring male prejudices and presumptions (in and out of academia) about what is important, weighty and serious and what is not. The lineaments of our world-wide public culture of entertainment today first took shape in the popular fictions and life-style magazines of a new reading public three centuries ago. It was then, and remains to this day, a gendered culture. In the eighteenth century as now, it was focused on the sphere of privacy and its immediate concerns – family life, sex, gossip, everyday matters. It was not solemn or serious, earnest or demanding. It bespoke a comfortable existence of leisure and relaxation, enjoyment and entertainment. If there is (as it now appears) no alternative to capitalism and democracy, we must also add that there is no apparent alternative to the ‘way of life’ that the economic and political determinants of [Page 281]modernity created as their raison d'etre. It is all we have and, perhaps, all we deserve. It is certainly a deeply enigmatic legacy – a blessing and a curse, as educated, white middle-class American women began to realize in the 1950s.The Politics of Everyday Life
The academic discovery of everyday life is one indication of its quite new importance in post-war North America and Europe. It first appears from the rubble of war-torn France in Henri Lefebvre's quite remarkable Critique of Everyday Life ( 1992). In America it achieves definitive recognition in Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) which takes for granted that the self in question is indeed the new ‘other-directed’ type identified by Riesman. In Britain, along with the work of Hoggart and Williams, I want to emphasize the quite different, but no less important work of J.L. Austin and H.P. Grice who pioneered the philosophy of ordinary language on the stony soil of Oxford philosophy in the 1950s. Their work was fundamental to establishing ordinary language and its everyday (non-academic) usage as a valid object of academic enquiry, thereby making possible the beginnings of an adequate understanding of human communication. Finally at the end of the decade Jurgen Habermas published in Germany The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere – a key work which argued for the political opinions of ordinary people and the ways in which these were arrived at as the historical and normative basis of modern democracy.
All these works and more testify to the renewed significance of a culture of everyday life across all social classes. But it shows up in all sorts of ways in the 1950s. It is there in the theatre, novels and films of the decade but nowhere more than television, which now becomes the new looking-glass of everyday life. And most significantly of all it begins to show up as a new kind of politics, as the politics of the masses gives way to the politics of everyday life. The first stirrings of the new politics show up in the United States: the civil rights movement, the women's movement and, a little later, the student movement. This was not a politics produced or led by established organizations and their representatives or delegates. It came from ordinary people and what they wanted was something other than what traditional mass politics offered. Foucault has distinguished between three forms of oppression: exploitation, domination and subjection. The first is economic and concerns the struggle over the means of subsistence; the second is ideological and concerns the struggles over imposed political and religious authority, and the third is social and cultural and concerns the struggle to be allowed to be oneself (Foucault, 1982). The new social movements, as they began to articulate their own self-understanding, were concerned with this third claim. The politics of recognition, as it was aptly called by Charles Taylor (1994), has grown in global significance in the past half century. In many ways its defining moment was the refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat to a white passenger [Page 282]on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama on 1 December 1955: an act which in itself perfectly encapsulates the then new politics of everyday life.
This politics is no longer concerned with distributive justice (the politics of poverty) and its demand for freedom from want. The riddle of post-modernity and the politics of plenty concerns what comes after that. As the corrosive fear of poverty fades and as most people find they have some control over their life choices and circumstances, the question of freedom ceases to be about freedom from something (from the five giants of want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness, for instance, that the Beveridge Report of 1942 was designed to overcome)12 and poses a new, quite different question – freedom for something … but what? Amartya Sen has posed this issue most forcefully. The greatest of the evils of poverty is its denial of the right of individuals to discover and develop their human capabilities; their entitlement to a full, fulfilled existence (Sen, 2000). That is, the new condition of existence established in the advanced economies in the past 60 years. Working through what it means has been, and remains a core concern in post-modern democracies. It is the essence of the politics of culture and it hailed into existence a new academic field of enquiry to try and get to grips with it: Cultural Studies.The Politics of Culture
Cultural Studies takes the ordinary and the everyday as its object of enquiry. It began, in orthodox fashion, with the everyday life and culture of the English working class in the 1950s and developed in response to the new cultural politics of the 1960s. Its task was to identify and account for the significance of these developments, initially in terms of their impact on working-class life. Its difficulty, from the start, lay in recognizing and adjusting to what was happening. Cultural Studies was, from the start, concerned with contemporary culture and therein is the essence of its own internal ‘problematic’, for how are we – any of us – to make sense of the unfolding present? The play of the politics of the present – its meaning and significance – is what forever eludes the actors in the present even as they seek to grasp it. None of us can jump over our own shadow. It is our destiny and fate that we must act in our own here and now without any assurance of the success of our actions for none of us can foresee the future. Only as time goes by and the present recedes into the past does its [Page 283]once futural horizon begin to appear and we, in later generations, may be able to see what simply could not be seen at the time by those caught up in the play of the politics of their own and present times. The wisdom of hindsight means precisely that it can only come in retrospect. It does not mean that actors in the present are foolish and unwise but rather underscores the real heroism and courage of action; for all actions are a leap of faith and all contemporary efforts, in good faith, to interpret those actions are as historically contingent as what they seek to account for and justify. It is only now that the historical lineaments of the world as it was 30 or 40 years ago have begun to appear for only now has it begun to fade from the noisy present into the silent past. It is not history that is relative but we the living, who stand in an always contingent and relative relationship to it. The world endures. Those who dwell in it at any time do not.
12 Named after Sir William Beveridge, who wrote it, the Report on Social Security, published in November 1942, was a key war-time document that set out the terms for social security for all ‘from the cradle to the grave’. Its mantra was ‘Freedom from Want’ and was designed to prevent the recurrence of the conditions of primary poverty to which millions were reduced by unemployment in the preceding decade. It laid the foundations for the creation of the ‘Welfare State’ by a newly elected Labour Government in the aftermath of the war.
Hannah Arendt has noted the occasional occurrence of what she calls an ‘odd in-between period’ which sometimes inserts itself into historical time. In such moments
Not only the later historians but the actors and witnesses, the living themselves, become aware of an interval in time which is altogether determined by things that are no longer and by things that are not yet. In history these intervals have shown more than once that they may contain the moment of truth. (Arendt,  1993: 9)
The 1950s – her time of writing – was, Arendt implies, just such an interval in historical time and I think she was right. There was a palpable sense, in the intellectual engagements of that decade, of the world in a moment of transition which I have tried to capture as the passage from modernity and its politics of poverty to a postmodern world and a politics of plenty. The meaning of this transition, how it played out at the time, was what those who lived those times sought to grasp. On the one hand, there was the recognition of the ‘things that are no longer’ which was manifest in the fading of ‘the masses’ and the rediscovery of ‘people’. It was well understood in North America and Northern Europe that the 1950s was a period of unprecedented affluence across whole societies, as America's most distinguished economist made plain at the time (Galbraith, 1958). Almost everyone felt better off. There was, indeed, no return to the pre-war hungry 1930s. But ‘the things that are not yet’ were naturally the hardest to see and speak of. The difficulty of articulating what was truly felt but somehow then beyond the reach of words was most clearly expressed in the founding text of what came to be the Women's Liberation movement. In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan began with ‘the problem that has no name’ – the obscure but very real sense of the oppressive character of post-war everyday domestic life for educated, comfortably off American women (Friedan, 1963).
The gendered character of academic life in the 1950s, completely dominated by men and in which women were, at every level, marginalized and exploited [Page 284]would only become apparent in the decades that followed.13 Similarly the great fault-line of racial injustice exploded into life in this decade with the civil rights movement. And finally ‘the young’ appeared both as a new socio-economic category and a newly self-aware politicized social stratum as students became disenchanted with their ‘parent culture’. This was the new politics of everyday life and it nowadays hardly needs saying that middle-aged middle-class white male academics were not best placed to make much sense of any of this. But they of course were in charge of the academy. It was they who controlled and defined the discourse and they of course did not ‘see’ these things or, insofar as they did, saw them only as subsidiary aspects of the ways in which they sought to account for what was going on in the world. In the light of the later colonization of the politics of everyday life by Cultural Studies it bears emphasizing that the new social movements in their formative moments had little or no connection with academics or academia.14 The student movement is the exception that proves the rule for, from the perspective of student protest, it was the professors and what they taught that was their problem, not their answer.
It is crucial to acknowledge the simple fact that the politics of everyday life did in fact arise from everyday life and experience itself – from the experience of being treated as less than human if you were black, from a sense of the futility of the American dream if you were a woman trapped in the role of housewife and mother,15 from a sense of the pointlessness and irrelevance of what the older generation offered as culture and education if you were young. The politics of everyday life that emerged in 1950s America was global in its implications and reach from the start: the abuses of race, the oppression of women, the condescension of the older generation towards the young all had a common experiential basis for those on the receiving end – the palpable denial of what it was to be black or female or young. The demand to be recognized and valued as what indeed you were, to be allowed to be expressively yourself in public – this was and remains the essence of the new politics. It was a demand for the realization of the promise of democracy – the right and entitlement, the freedom to be and [Page 285]to become your self. Such demands could only arise in societies where the majorities were freed from primary poverty and the pressing exigencies of immediate want and need.
13 See the devastating report on The Status of Women in Sociology edited by Helen McGill Hughes for the American Sociological Association in 1973. Hughes produced what for me was one of the most original and exciting individual pieces of mass communication research that I came across in the pre-war literature (Hughes, 1937, 1940) on the newspaper human interest story. Yet she never held a full-time post in an American university. She was part-time editor, for many years of the American Journal of Sociology, while her husband, whom she met in graduate school at Chicago, went on to become a professor.
14 See especially Francesca Polletta's excellent study of the mid-century social movements in the USA (Polletta, 2004).
15 For a ferociously funny assault on ‘The mommy myth’, see Douglas and Michaels (2004).
We are today still working through the meaning and significance of the politics of everyday life. The present moment feels, to me, like another of Arendt's ‘intervals in time’. At the start of the twenty-first century we begin to able to see something of the overall historic impact and significance of the receding preceding century. We can now begin to glimpse its overall shape and structure. It was not so in the decades that succeeded the 1950s. From the mid-1960s to the end of the 1980s the fog banks rolled in on the politics of the present. They were fractious and ill-tempered times inside and outside academia in which the impact of historical change was deeply felt but obscurely and divisively understood. I have tried, in my account of the moment of ‘media studies’ at Birmingham in the 1970s, to do justice to its real difficulties and complexities. The initial project of CCCS – the heritage of Richard Hoggart – was to grapple with the impact of the new culture of affluence on the historic urban working class of the North of England. It was thrown off balance almost immediately by the new social movements – not only feminism and race but the student revolution of the late 1960s as well, which all combined to produce a peculiarly intense and prickly working environment in the fractious decade of the 1970s. None of these things was easily accommodated. Feminism, in Hall's memorable phrase, crapped on the table. Race was, again in his retrospective accounts, even more difficult to assimilate into the working life of the Centre. As for the student revolution, the Centre itself was conceived as an attempt – in its organization and day-to-day practices – to overcome the limitations of bourgeois university education. There was therefore much emphasis on collective work (the famous working groups) and collective writing. Individualism was a petty bourgeois notion and so not many individual PhDs got done during the long march through Theory. And in all this the English Working Class as a normative political ideal unravelled. The traditional EWC so affectionately remembered by Hoggart, and whose origins had been heroically rescued from the neglect of History by Thompson, turned out to be, under the scrutiny of race and gender studies, white and racist and male and chauvinist. Its death rattle was the ugly, futile miners strike of 1983 which finally put paid to the National Union of Miners, one of the oldest, greatest unions of workers, whose dirty dangerous industry was the very cornerstone of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism and the spearhead of organized labour politics for much of the twentieth century. Coal by the 1980s was an energy source in terminal decline and mining, as a way of life, was dead.16
16 On mining as a way of life, see the classic study by Dennis, Henriques and Slaughter (1956).
[Page 286]Stuart Hall's cogent analysis of the two paradigms in Cultural Studies classified them as their culturalist and the structuralist moments (Hall, 1980). The first generation of the 1950s and 1960s (Hoggart, Williams and Thompson) had privileged ‘lived experience’ as the authenticating, validating category of everyday existence. The new structuralisms of the 1970s undermined that claim. Lived experience could not be claimed as validating anything since what determined it was quite simply beyond its grasp. Lived experience was an effect of ideological forces that reconciled individuals to their immediate circumstances and thereby to the economic and political forces which determined those circumstances. Hall's ideology critique, with which I do not agree, nevertheless clearly and accurately identified the fundamental ‘problematic’ of the politics of the everyday; the status of human experience and the enigmatic character of daily life. That enigma, in the 1970s, showed up most clearly in the dominant communicative medium of everyday life, television, whose seeming immediacy and transparency appeared to validate the facticity (the matter-of-factness) of ordinary lived experience while mystifying the hidden forces of economic and political domination that produced it as such. The key text produced by the Media Studies group was a study of how everyday television did precisely that. Everyday Television: ‘Nationwide’ by Charlotte Brunsdon and David Morley (1978) is today quite unjustly ignored in preference for the subsequent study of the programme's audience that Morley (1980) produced. It provided a detailed, persuasive analysis of the ideological work performed by the programme, the ways in which it interpelleted its audience as a nation of families with a shared set of unexamined commonsense values and assumptions about Englishness and the English way of life. It served to demonstrate the force of Hall's ideology critique of lived experience, its evasions and concealments.Media, Society and Culture
If we now compare the two moments of ‘media studies’ we can see in what ways they were like and unlike each other. Both presume the power of the media and both are concerned with its social and cultural effects on those on their receiving end. James Curran has argued that the revived concern with audiences studies in the 1980s was, in effect, a revival of the agenda of American effects studies 30 or more years earlier (Curran et al., 1996). There is more truth in this than the defenders of new reception and ethnographic studies will allow, yet the differences are striking. In the 1930s, the question of media effects was a pre-conception for the new social science of mass communication and, as such, was treated as empirically provable or disprovable. The discovery of the two-step flow of media influence challenged and revised the [Page 287]initial working hypothesis which fell into abeyance for a time after the publication in 1955 of Personal Influence. The question of media power needed to be re-thought and the theory of ideology revived it. This time though, the assumed power of television was not an open question. That was foreclosed from the start, for its ideological effect was not a hypothesis to be tested but a theoretical a priori. The concrete task of ideology critique was to show how it worked and with what effects for media audiences. It too faded as the discovery of ‘active audiences’ begin to show (yet again) that individuals were not merely the bearers of ideological effects but used the media as aspects of their lifestyles and self-definitions. There were different premises in each case but similar outcomes in the turn to audiences and reception studies. But the politics of these two moments were different. The politics of poverty and the question of the masses which defined the 1930s have a different basis to the politics of plenty and the question of everyday life which defined the 1950s and since. Each was a response to the state of the world in its own time. The difference between them is an effect of the slow structural transformation of the world in transition from an economy of scarcity to one of abundance.
I would like to suggest, by way of tentative conclusion, that the crucial difference between these two politics can be thought of in moral and ethical terms; more exactly, that the politics of poverty is a moral question, whereas the politics of plenty raises ethical questions. Morality is concerned with the conditions of social existence; with how we live with each other. It is the normative social question. It is about the basis of a just and fair society. Poverty is an affront to any such notion and modern theories of positive justice (Rawls,  1999 and Sen, 2000) are about social fairness. Ethics is a refinement of basic moral questions. It concerns the good life and only becomes salient, as the question of how to live, for individuals and societies that have risen above the realm of necessity. That poverty is a basic social injustice to be remedied by political action is a distinctively modern concept (Fleischacker, 2005), and its elimination from the lives of the majority of its citizens is a real achievement of advanced capitalist democracies since the end of the Second World War. What these societies now face are a whole series of ethical questions that have arisen only as the earlier pandemic disease of poverty has faded. Fat is indeed a political and ethical issue today. It was not in the lean 1930s. The characteristic dilemmas of postmodernity arise from our difficulties in finding common ground about what a good and meaningful life might consist of in unprecedented conditions of economic abundance.
If we ask what the politics of plenty is about, we might agree with John Dunn's analysis of the story of democracy as the triumph of the party of egotism over the party of equality. We have settled for security and comfort, ease and amusement. That, in Dunn's view, is what contemporary democracies deliver [Page 288]for the majority of its citizens (Dunn, 2005). Is the good life no more than this – shopping, eating out, holidays abroad and the continuing banquet dished up daily and weekly by the contemporary entertainment industries? Should we not take seriously those who warn that we are amusing ourselves to death? Such questions indicate something of the ethical dilemmas we face today. They also point to our difficulties in knowing how to begin to answer them if it is the case, as Alisdair MacIntyre has so vigorously argued, that we no longer know the meaning of the virtues (MacIntyre, 1985). The critics of modernity had a clear moral basis from which to denounce the evils of poverty. We have no clear perspective on the goods and evils that prosperity has brought us. This, our postmodern dilemma, shows up in postmodern thinking which lacks any normative basis and is simply uncomfortable with moral categories (Bauman, 1993).
The original sociology of mass communication had a clear normative basis in both its key academic articulations; Lazarsfeld and Merton just as much as Adorno and Horkheimer. Merton in particular was concerned with the condition of the masses in a society characterized by cynicism and anomie. Critical Theory's devastating critique of Enlightenment was intended somehow to salvage its original emancipatory promise, but how that might happen was beyond the reach of Horkheimer and Adorno's thinking in the early 1940s. For them the Second World War was indeed the end of reason. There is a similar clear moral basis to the thought of the first generation of cultural criticism in Britain. Both Williams and Thompson write in the name of social justice and on behalf of the underprivileged. But when we get to the 1970s, the study of culture and the media has lost any normative grounding. There is no moral basis that I can see in ideology critique. One can see what is being criticized (power) but why it is being criticized and in the name of what remains quite opaque. In Foucault's grim equation (power plus knowledge equals truth), truth has lost any normative or moral basis and amounts to no more than the old saying that might is right. This lack of moral clarity is an effect of the exogenous world historical process in play at that time. One of the most striking features of Birmingham in the 1970s was the frantic pursuit of Theory in order to get some compass bearings on what the world was about and where it was heading. That pursuit led to a pervasive cultural relativism and the loss of confidence in the possibility of normative critique and judgement, for any such attempt was immediately torpedoed by the charge of Western phallogocentrism. The moral confusions of postmodernity are the effects of an economy of abundance which has brought about an increasingly diverse and pluralized world celebrated as such in multicultural identity politics. This world, our world, has no acknowledged moral basis to it and no shared ethical concerns. And it is precisely this that presses on us with increasing urgency at the start of the twenty-first century.[Page 289]Media and Communication
In the late 1970s a group of colleagues at the Polytechnic of Central London (I was one of them) decided to establish a new journal for the new field of Media Studies. We called it Media, Culture & Society. There was no big debate about the name. It simply served to acknowledge the core concerns of the study of the media as we then saw them in terms of their social and cultural impact. The journal's name confirms the historical thesis outlined above: that what started as a social critique of mass communication in the 1930s had morphed into a cultural critique of the media by the time of the journal's foundation. It is, of course, interesting to examine the play of contemporary social and cultural processes in radio and television, but they can equally well be examined in other institutions and were in the 1970s with similar results. Althusser's little shopping list of ISAs included education, religion and the family and they too were examined and found to be, like the media, ideological state apparatuses. And that is my key criticism of both moments. Neither tells us anything specific about the media. In both historical moments a special case was initially made for the special effectiveness of media on contemporary attitudes and behaviours but in each case the claim, when empirically examined, began to fade. It is certainly true that (to take notable instances) the politics of class, gender and race are pervasively implicated both in the institutional workings of the media and in their output. They are indeed important matters and worthy of serious academic attention but such studies are invariably more about the questions of race, class and gender than they are about the question of the media. The historically determined economic, political and cultural processes that play through the media at any time are not in any way particular to them. They are in play at any time (as Raymond Williams made especially clear) through all social institutions and practices.
The title of this book has, for me at least, more than a hint of irony. When you pair words together you suggest that they have some natural affinity to each other, like ‘love’ and ‘marriage’ or ‘culture’ and ‘society’. No such natural affinity between ‘media’ and ‘communication’ has yet been established in Media Studies. If we are to consider radio and television (the two media under consideration in the 1930s and the 1970s) in their own terms then I think we are bound to ask ‘What is their question?’ I take it to be the question of communication. If radio and television are properly to be thought of as new technologies of broadcast communication with a general social application – if communication is their general business – then what do we mean by that and how does it work? How do, in fact, radio and television communicate with their audiences? There was, of course, a model of communication put forward for the study of radio in the 1930s and for television in the 1970s. In the effects tradition it was posed as the question of ‘Who says what to whom with what effect?’ – a one-way transmission [Page 290]model of communication. Stuart Hall's encoding/decoding model significantly revised the earlier direct transmission model and envisaged the encoding (transmission) and decoding (reception) of the television ‘message’ as a complex, related social process. But neither historical moment focused on the question of communication for in neither case was communication a focal matter of concern.
I have not attempted here (for it is quite beyond me) anything like a full account of academic developments in the study of communication in the past century. It is a vast topic that is, in my view, pretty thoroughly confused and confusing now and in the course of its historical career as an object of academic concern.17 Instead I have offered a selective account of post-war developments in the study of communication in different academic fields; history, literature, sociology and philosophy. I have dealt with the historical work of Harold Innis on the question of communication and technology and its further exploration by Marshal McLuhan; the sociology of interaction as pioneered by Erving Goffman and Harold Garfinkel; culture and communication as explored by Raymond Williams; the ordinary language philosophy of John Austin and Paul Grice; the analysis of conversation by Harvey Sacks; and the theory of communicative rationality developed by Jurgen Habermas. There are strong thematic links and narrative connections in all this work and there is a fascinating historical thesis to be developed about it since it all began in the quite pivotal decade of the 1950s.18 It was pivotal because it was the decade in which the [Page 291]conditions and character of the world we inhabit today were decisively established in the aftermath of a global war. It was a mundane world of unprecedented affluence for the majority of people. It was a newly sociable, talkative, communicative world as Personal Influence found. And this was made visible at the time by the rise of television as it took over from its pre-war parent, radio, as the pre-eminent broadcast medium of everyday life.
17 The Journal of Communication recently produced a survey of the ‘State of the art in communication theory and research’ (December 2004, September 2005). The journal is a publication of the ICA (the International Communication Association) and the editors invited overview articles on 17 of the ICA's current divisions and special interest groups: the philosophy of communication, visual communication, public relations, mass communication, popular communication, organizational communication, health communication, language and social interaction, interpersonal communication, feminist scholarship, political communication, GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) studies, information systems, intercultural and development communication, instructional/development communication, communication law and policy, and communication and technology. All contributions bar one (on organizational communication) are by authors at universities in the United States. Every contribution is written as a purely endogenous narrative with no recognition of anything outside its immediate concerns. The editors make no attempt (how could they) to indicate any connection between any of the parts for there is none. Their special issue stands as an awesome confirmation of Lukcs's critique of technical rationality, the reification of consciousness and the loss of any possible sense of the whole.
18 The thinking of the 1950s in North America and Europe registered a sharp break with the modernist thinking of the pre-war period. The key moment of post modernity was not in the 1970s and 1980s when it was belatedly grasped by modernist thought but in the immediate post-war decade when all the conditions of the world we now inhabit first became apparent. In the final volume of this trilogy I will return to a revaluation of the structure of postmodern thinking that emerged in Europe and North America in the 1950s and a critique of the regressive late modernist thinking that rolled over it in the 1970s and 1980s.
In this book's companion I begin with two chapters on the discovery of new formats for broadcast talk – unscripted, sociable talk designed as public entertainment for others – on British wartime radio and on television in the mid-1950s. The thinking that underpins both chapters and throughout is informed by the authors of the 1950s discussed above and their pioneering work on the sociable, interactive, character of daily life and on the moral foundations and communicative logic of ordinary language and the ordinary world. And thus the final purpose of this book is disclosed as the basis of the next. Between them, I hope, they unite the torn halves of an integral whole – the question of communication as it bears upon the question of the media.References1957) The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.(1958] 1989) The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.( 1993) Between Past and Future. 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