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

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21

The Political Economy of Political Ignorance

Sophia Kaitatzi-Whitlock

Introduction

In this study I focus on the phenomenon of “political ignorance,” which is on the increase even though we ostensibly live in “knowledge societies” and in an age of momentous scientific advances. I claim that ignorance will continue to grow, since its production is inherent in the prevailing political economy, notably, that of symbolic goods. Indeed, this is a media-induced affliction, since commercial channels, notably television, compete fiercely for the control and exploitation of the human commodity in leisure time-bound economies. The problem is that political knowledge is constitutive for democratic regimes and, as such, ought self-evidently to be guaranteed in democracies. Given this status, political ignorance should be extinct. I argue that this situation cannot be reversed under the premises of a capitalism that commodifies not only contents, communication processes, and systems, but also citizens themselves, that is, a system which makes the acquisition of sine qua non knowledge conditional to competition between market forces, which inescapably results in what I would term “market censorship.” My aim, therefore, is to analyze prevalent economic and power relations that result in the phenomenon of civic ignorance. I start by conceptualizing the notions of knowledge and ignorance and, subsequently, by exposing instances of political ignorance and its growth – in Europe – over the last decades. ...

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