Online Journalism & Marxian Perspective


Probably the limitations of technology in the past might have helped to survive Marxian principles based on class conflict. But the rise of web science delivered a massive blow to the relevance of class conflict in today’s world as far as Marxian perspective of Media is concerned. This does not mean that class conflict and the related aspects are outdated. But science and technology has reached to the level where the technology can be operated and own by anyone irrespective of class, caste & gender. In the field of online journalism, one can re-examine Marxian perspectives and its validity whether it still has some influence.

According to Marx, Class conflict is the determining aspect of any historical period. It can be feudal & serfs or proletariat and bourgeoisie. But there are always the two classes opposite to each other; having continues struggle and this will eventually lead to overthrow the capitalism and bring classless society. Let’s not go to the outcome here but it will be interesting to understand if today’s media, particularly online journalism fulfills Marxian criteria of being influenced by dominant class.

The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. (Marx & Engels: The German Ideology)

Marxian perspective would stand for false consciousness that is produced and propagated by the media into dominated class. This false consciousness is actually the ideology and the world view of dominant class which is injected through media into common people. But to achieve this one must own means of production first. Do the dominant class owns the means of production? Can they control the means of production? Is science and technology of Online Journalism is still out of reach of common people? And can they totally ban the rise of online Journals if they challenge the dominant ideas.. that’s the real question.

It’s essential to understand the cost of production when we talk about online journalism. In Marxism, the ideology which is influential in the society is always a dominant ideology. And the reason for this is the ownership of the means of the production. Let’s take a scenario of big production house that publishes a newspaper. This newspaper runs on the advertisement. So may be the first policy of the newspaper house is not to criticize their advertisers. Secondly it will support and propagate the ideology of the class which they belong to.

Before the emergence of internet, publishing counter ideology was a difficult task. It was not easy to get the publisher and at the same time the reach of the printed world was limited. But internet has changed the condition. The cost of producing a blog is almost free. If a person is computer and net literate and he is willing to publish his work which goes against the dominant ideology he can do this within few minutes. He can remain anonymous. The cost of production includes electricity bill, internet connection fare and the fees that person might have paid to learn internet and computer.

One of the biggest advantage of net is its global reach. One doesn’t have to rely on the local or domestic readers to propagate his/her philosophy. With few click the publisher becomes global. The link of the blog can be passed through the mail. And it can be published on the social sites which are again free. The tools to spread the work of your publication, articles or write up are quick. Through the sites like Facebook one can immediately reach to global audience.

Another very important feature of web journalism is its autonomy. It is very difficult to ban particular website or a portal. There were futile attempts carried out by different countries to blanket ban certain sites. News or the article or the publication is available and circulated over the internet irrespective of the regressive measures taken. So in sum, the technology has reached to the level where a common man can talk about his stance, easily publish it on the net and his publication cannot be destroyed easily.

According to Marx, in the history of world, in different periods, societies were operating with different modes of production. In case of production based upon slavery, slave owner was responsible for the slave. Whether the slave is needed for the work at given time or not, he had to feed his slave. In the feudal mode of production, farmers had to share their production with the land owners. In the capitalist mode of production, the owner pays wages to workers to make profit. They are not responsible for the welfare of workers. Since workers do not own the means of production, they don’t have any choice in the process of production.

Online journalism is different in many ways as compared to mode of production described in Marxism. Since the person owns the means of production, they have say in the process of production. There may be the case with some production houses where the advertisers are protected and thus the dominant class in the society. But with online journalism, the advertisers are global and hence have very little to do with the content as long as it is visited by lots of visitors around the world.

The global aspect of online journalism makes lot of different in the mode of production. It cannot be controlled by any company or even a dominant class for that matter. Since the means of production are cheap it is always within the reach of a common man. A person running popular blog is a worker as well as owner of the production. He can even control the advertisers since they can be from any part of the world and in large numbers. He will decide to run or shut down the production. He may or may not produce his product to make profit. And the content can be reproduced with the single click and can be multiplied in endless copies. It can be transferred over the net to any part of the world in virtually no time. And it may not cost any transportation charges.

Hence, web mode of production of online journalism is essentially different as compared to other modes of production. Mostly the owners and workers are same. There are very few chances of exploiting any class in this mode because it’s difficult to find two distinct classes in this mode of production.

Atul Thakur

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