Research Post 6



Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and Stuart Hall are all theorist’s who proposed ideas that help to explain the hegemonic nature of ideologies within advertisements. Karl Marx came up with the term Marxism. Marx argued that, in a Capitalist society, there is a “profit motive.” These profits are earned by exploiting the worker (Stewart). For example, a product costs more to buy the the cost to make the item and pay the workers (Stewart).  He argued that in a capitalist society power differentials are considerable and society becomes aimed at maintaining power for those in charge (Stewart). He also argued that different social classes, ruling and working, are made up of varying levels of both social and economic power. In turn, this could lead the ruling class to exploit the working class. He also argued that this could essentially cause resentment and increased tensions between the classes which could lead to conflict and war (Stewart). Marx believed that certain ideological structures, such as school’s and mass media, were built into society which helped to support the power difference (Stewart). Antonio Gramsci, a follower of Marx, was a witness to the failure of Marxist theory – the working classes never overthrew the ruling classes (Dhakal). He built upon the theory of Marxism and coined the term hegemony. According to Gramsci, hegemony revolves around the “cultural and ideological means” through which the dominant, or ruling class, retain their dominance on ‘subordinate classes’ by building ‘spontaneous’ mass ‘consent’ (Dhakal). This is directly related to the ideological structures Marx spoke about. Gramsci goes even further to suggest that ideology works only when it is able to relate to the ‘common sense’ of the people and influence them for change” (Dhakal). Gramsci points out the fact that media is a powerful tool that affects society and culture; not just individuals. Elaborating off Gramsci’s theories, Stuart Hall theorized many issues pertaining to hegemony and cultural studies. He specifically looked at the way hegemony and the media are related. In todays society, we cannot ignore the part that mass media plays in shaping the “cultural sphere of our society” (Dhakal). Hall writes, “’Public information, intercommunication and exchange’ of the ‘social knowledge’ in society now solely depends upon mass media (Hall, 1977:340).  He analyzes the media through a “hegemonic framework” (Dhakal).  Hall emphasizes Gramsci’s theory of consent, saying “Military force might not always be the best possible way to gain power; in fact it is achieved not with ‘legal and legitimate compulsion’ but by ‘winning active consent’ of the subordinate class” (Hall, 1982: 85) He also stated that “public trust media because ideologically they project independence and impartiality from the political or economic interests of the state. However, media existing within a state are obliged to follow the ‘formal protocols of broadcasting’ and depend on ‘the form of state and political system which licenses them’” (Dhakal ). This brings up the debate if the media is driven by the state. While looking at both American and Chinese advertisements, keep in mind the position these theorists take and how advertisements can become an agent that the ruling class uses to instill ideals and norms within our society.

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