Part Three: Production and Structures
26 Political Economies
What is Political Economy?
This section explores various ideas connected to the notion of political economies of media. Political economy (PE) is an approach to studying media whose focus is attenuated towards the ways in which media is produced, distributed and consumed, rather than on analysing the interpretations of the signs and symbols found within texts. The combination of the terms ‘political’ and ‘economy’ which make up PE is an explicit reference to the fact that media texts are produced within specific and historically contingent systems which are not merely an ideologically neutral form of exchange, but are conditioned by a range of complex interactions between nation states, international organisations, legal institutions and frameworks, cultural traditions and heritages, other organisations (such as media corporations), technologies, and economic pressures. In other words, PE focuses upon the ways in which politics and economics are not separate entities, as we often encounter them within educational contexts, but that economics and politics are fields which are best understood as being entangled – meaning that they are functionally inseparable – and that understanding elements of this entanglement is pivotal to understanding the way that any society and culture works.