The Political Economy of Labor
The Labor Blind Spot
Scholarship in the political economy of communication has tended to cluster around the exploration of three intertwined topics: media, messages, and audiences. Those who focus on media tend to look at questions of power and control, including media ownership and the social, political, and economic relations that are at play in the construction of messages and of audiences. Studies concentrating on messages tend to look at the content of the messages themselves, ranging from news to propaganda to advertising, and at the discursive and technological forms these messages take. Those concentrating on audiences tend to look at the way individuals or groups receive, make sense of, understand, act on, ignore, or incorporate messages into their daily lives. Although the field has produced rich and varied work, one aspect has received too little attention: labor.
Intellective and physical labor are required to produce messages and the technologies used to disseminate them. Receiving and acting on messages also requires labor. Yet communications scholars, including those working in the political economy tradition, insufficiently address the various forms of laboring. In addition, the organizations that represent media and information workers, and the presentation of labor in the media, also receive relatively little attention. As this chapter documents, some researchers are now working in this area. But it is probably accurate ...