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The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications by Janet Wasko, Graham Murdock, Helena Sousa

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12

The Militarization of US Communications

Dan Schiller

Introduction

Cavernous knowledge gaps disfigure communications study. Owing to persistent efforts by resolute scholars, the long-neglected but foundational role of labor in communications now claims at least some visibility. For all the noise about globalization, on the other hand, the field continues mostly to neglect the ways in which the “space of flows” is actually organized, so that communications may be incorporated – previously around private line circuits, now also around virtual private networks – as an enabling infrastructure for the transnationalization of capitalist production. And what of the vast and continuing process of commodification, that is, the takeover of other forms of cultural-informational production and distribution by for-profit employers of waged labor? A central vector of communications history, commodification is apprehended by mainstream study as, at most, a sideshow. Taken together, these marginalized subjects would go far to constitute an alternative basis for the entire discipline. As it happens, however, still another knowledge gap is even more urgent.

At the height of the US war on Vietnam, Herbert I. Schiller (1969) pointed to the formative linkages between electronic communications and the US military; yet, nearly two decades later, Mosco (1986, 76) observed that “With few exceptions, communications research has ignored the role of the military in media and information systems.” Another 20 ...

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