Materialism and the Media
DOI link for Materialism and the Media
Materialism and the Media book
In both classical and critical sociology, from Comte to Parsons, culture and the media institutions which lie at its heart have tended to be regarded in their collective functioning as a control mechanism, a stabilising device meant, as Zygmunt Bauman expresses it, ‘to keep things in a steady shape’ (2002: 27). From the perspective of mainstream American sociology, and other strands in the administrative tradition, this stabilisation has been positively evaluated as a necessary, integrative function of the media, which has contributed substantially to the prevention of disorder and social breakdown. From Niklas Luhmann’s ‘systems theoretical standpoint’ (2000: 1) the media constitute one of a society’s ‘recursively stabilised functional mechanisms’, constructing reality in terms which its individual members can know, understand and identify with. ‘Whatever we know about our society’, he notes, ‘or indeed about the world in which we live, we know through the mass media’. In so far as societies need a set of shared values and commonly agreed conventions to bind their members together, it is the media system which ensures their social circulation. In addition, as what Luhmann calls an ‘autopoetic’ system, the media are the main means by which a society talks to and regulates itself, identifying its problems, airing them for public debate, communicating the outcomes of these debates. In both respects the media are functional for social stability and order.