Kaletsky, Capitalism and the Media

Photo: New York Stock Exchange 1963 (Source: http://bit.ly/amYJNo)

This afternoon, I came across an interesting passage in Anatole Kaletsky’s “Capitalism 4.0” (2010):

“The media, influential academics, and the political establishment usually hold the same view. These powerful opinion-formers have risen to prominence under the old system. Their intellectual conservatism is often even more entrenched than lobbyists’ pragmatic economic interests” (ibid: 24).

I don’t like the book only because George Soros seems to like it (at least that’s what the cover says). I like it because Kaletsky’s theory about the evolution of capitalism is at the same time complex and straightforward.

Yet, the quoted sentence struck me.

It reminded me of Herman’s and Chomsky’s Propaganda Model (1988), which contends the view that the media in many democratic countries are part of the establishment and ‘protect’ the interests of the ‘elites’ due to the influence of several filters like ownership, profit-orientation or advertising (also the topic of my master thesis; to be published here later this year).

Hence, this sentence made me suspicious and it made me think. Is Kaletsky right when he claims that the media “usually hold the same view” as the establishment? Besides the fact that this claim was, of course, a simplification: Does journalism really not tell us something new? Are the media, in general, only a non-watchdog mirror to society?

The question is related to the never-ending theoretical discussion about whether “the media” are more some kind of an external stimulus (‘transmission view’) or a product from within society (‘ritual view’) as outlined by James Carey. Who influences whom?

I will not resolve this debate in my leisure time blog. The only thing I am trying to say is: 400 pages about the development of capitalism come along with a rather short hypothesis about the relationship between the media and society, which is taken for granted. Kaletsky is a journalist himself with a great track record and he knows the system from within. If a top-class editor of The Times, Financial Times and The Economist says that this is the way it is – why should he be wrong?

He probably is not. Yet, two questions remain in my head: Firstly, will there ever be a time when claims like this one need a minimum amount of socio-scientific backing like, for example, the economic or political claims in this book? (Answer: Probably no). Secondly, If it is true that academics, political establishment and the media do hold the same view – why do some theories still call the press the fourth estate? Will there be anyone to be aware of the next systemic crisis who can awake the rest of us because he/she is an external and balanced observer? (Answer: If Kaletsky is right – then probably no, too).

Well then, turning to page 49…