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James Carey: A Critical Reader

Eve Stryker Munson
Catherine A. Warren
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    James Carey
    Book Description:

    Interspersing Carey’s major essays with articles exploring his central themes and their importance, this collection provides a critical introduction to the work of this significant figure in media and cultural studies. “James Carey is among the nation’s leading cultural historians.” --Esquire Contributors: G. Stuart Adam, James Carey, Carolyn Marvin, John Pauly, Jay Rosen, and Michael Schudson.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8693-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Eve Munson and Cat Warren
  2. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xx)
    Eve Stryker Munson and Catherine A. Warren

    James Carey called us one afternoon, late in the process of compiling this volume. He had just finished reading the introductions to the several sections and was disturbed. “We’ll talk about this,” he said, in his typically delicate sally into a conversation, “but maybe you can look at it and do some editing.” The problem was simple to state—though not so easy to solve. The scholars’ introductions that open each of the five sections, he said, were too flattering.

    One of us slyly informed him that our introduction might correct that. But that’s not really possible. We admire him....

  3. PART I

    • Introduction On the Origins of Media Studies (and Media Scholars)
      (pp. 3-13)
      John Pauly

      “How is society possible?” With that disarmingly simple question James Carey began his first lecture in a communication systems class I took with him over twenty years ago. The question is anything but simple, as I have learned in the years since. That question, which Carey borrowed from the philosopher Thomas Hobbes through Talcott Parsons, has vexed liberal thought since the Enlightenment. If we consider ourselves individuals, how do we understand our relation to others? If the goal of human life is freedom, what do we owe others in whose lives we are implicated? If we set our sights on...

    • 1 The Chicago School and the History of Mass Communication Research
      (pp. 14-33)

      Strictly speaking, there is no history of mass communication research. From the seventeenth century forward one finds scholars, scientists, lawyers, clerics, men of letters, journalists, politicians, and freelance intellectuals writing about the printing press, broadsides, penny dreadfuls, censorship, the Star Chamber, the urban public, freedom of speech and press, and a host of related topics and issues. Similarly, as the nineteenth century progressed, an increasing number of essays appeared on the telegraph, the rise of advertising, the economic power of newspapers, the growth of the national magazine, and the emergence of the “press baron.” However, this motley collection of books,...

    • 2 The Roots of Modern Media Analysis: Lewis Mumford and Marshall McLuhan
      (pp. 34-59)

      Scholars live by fictions. It is a belief among them that scholarship is governed by its own inner logic of development, that it proceeds by inexorable sequences of advances on the truth, compelled along by hypotheses, evidence, and confirmation. Intellectual historians often compound this view by demonstrating the inevitable path of theoretical development in the work of Marx, Weber, or Durkheim. Such historians also attempt to demonstrate how scholarly work is addressed to the members of a professional body, the general public, or the readers of a particular journal. While I do not want to dismiss such a view, I...

    • 3 Communications and Economics
      (pp. 60-76)

      The heroic efforts, under way for at least four decades now, to create a rapprochement between communications and economics, to create an economics of communications (or, for the more committed, a political economy of communications), to find one frame of reference within which to contain these two social practices and disciplines, has yielded substantial results but not as yet general satisfaction. That is the paradox I want to explore in this essay.

      There is no mystery concerning the renewed urgency of the inquiry into the economics of communications. We live in a new phase of the political economy of the...

  4. PART II

    • Introduction The Problem of Journalism History, 1996
      (pp. 79-85)
      Michael Schudson

      “The Problem of Journalism History,” published in 1974, marked a turn in the writing of journalism history. It prefaced by a few years a critical reaction to standard accounts of the American news media. In the next decade, “objectivity” as the celebrated ideal of professional journalists would be recast as nothing more than a “strategic ritual.” The rise of journalism as an independent profession would be reframed in a manner unflattering to journalists; journalism’s professional norms and values would be seen as the sociohistorical constructions of a commercializing culture rather than as transcendent ideals to which mortals were drawing ever...

    • 4 The Problem of Journalism History
      (pp. 86-94)

      The study of journalism history remains something of an embarrassment. Can it be justified as a form of knowledge, an entry into the curriculum, an activity to which one can usefully devote one’s professional life? By our behavior we answer the question affirmatively and yet a doubt remains. Each generation of journalism historians has been dissatisfied with the nature of our knowledge and the forms of our presentation. Writing in a short-lived newsletter,Coronto, about 1950, Ted Peterson argued:

      In many schools and departments of journalism, history of journalism is the least rewarding course in the curriculum. The reasons are...

    • 5 “Putting the World at Peril”: A Conversation with James W. Carey
      (pp. 95-116)

      James W. Carey’s influence on journalism historians can be traced in part through the pages ofJournalism History, for he wrote the first article appearing in the first volume ofJournalism History. That article, “The Problem of Journalism History,” has been taken as the starting point by more than a dozen authors of laterJournalism Historyarticles on methods and interpretive approaches, while it has been cited as a key source by numerous additional writers in this and other journals.

      Tom Reilly,Journalism History’s founding editor, interviewed Carey in August 1985 at the annual convention of the Association for Education...


    • Introduction Famed Psychic’s Head Explodes: James Carey on the Technology of Journalism
      (pp. 119-127)
      Carolyn Marvin

      How communications technologies structure ways of thinking and feeling in common is a lifelong concern of James Carey’s work. Along the way, he has acknowledged a debt to Harold Innis, the economic historian for whom differences in message transportability among media make all the social and cultural difference in the world. When Carey began his career as a media analyst, the staple devices for examining media in society were biographies of media figures and histories of media entities. Innis’s work was different. He offered a powerful analytic framework that connected changes in the history of transportation and communications technology to...

    • 6 The Communications Revolution and the Professional Communicator
      (pp. 128-143)

      In this essay, I would like to offer a perspective or set of terms with which to characterize and analyze the contradictory tendencies within what is commonly called the “communications revolution.” I also want to use this perspective to examine the development of a distinct social role, a role I have designated with the accurate but unfelicitous label “professional communicators.” Finally, in a more polemical mood, I would like to comment on the dilemmas facing one group of professional communicators, namely, journalists, and the implications such dilemmas present for contemporary communications policy.

      As the outset candor requires that I note...

    • 7 The Dark Continent of American Journalism
      (pp. 144-188)

      Journalists are writers of stories and, after hours, tellers of stories as well. The stories they tell are of stories they missed, stories they got, stories they scooped, and cautionary little tales that educate the apprentice to the glories, dangers, mysteries, and desires of the craft. One such story—one that might be called “the quest for the perfect lead”—features Edwin A. Lahey, a legendaryChicago Daily Newsreporter. Like most stories invoking legends, it is perhaps apocryphal, but its significance is less in its truth than in the point it attempts to make.

      The story begins with a...

  6. PART IV

    • Introduction “We’ll Have That Conversation”: Journalism and Democracy in the Thought of James W. Carey
      (pp. 191-206)
      Jay Rosen

      Stopping me in a hallway, James Carey once offered the intriguing suggestion that journalism and democracy were really “names for the same thing.” He then added—characteristically—“We’ll have that conversation.” A few months later we did, and so can you, by contemplating the two splendid essays that follow.

      Carey claims the American political tradition as one of his intellectual homes. Within that tradition, particularly its First Amendment chapter where we work these things out, democracy and the press are assumed to have a relationship of importance, but not of identity. Journalism informs democracy, journalism guards democracy, journalism serves (or,)...

    • 8 “A Republic, If You Can Keep It”: Liberty and Public Life in the Age of Glasnost
      (pp. 207-227)

      A story from the Constitutional Convention, probably apocryphal, sets the overall theme for this essay. Benjamin Franklin, then eighty-four, was the oldest delegate to the convention. A citizen of Philadelphia and a well-known public figure, Franklin was asked each day at the conclusion of deliberations by those gathered outside Independence Hall: “Mr. Franklin, do we have a government and if so what kind is it?” And each day Franklin answered, “We have no government as yet.” On the ultimate day, as he left the convention and was asked the predictable question, he answered, or so the story goes, “We have...

    • 9 The Press, Public Opinion, and Public Discourse: On the Edge of the Postmodern
      (pp. 228-258)

      At this late date in the history of the American republic it may be impossible to recover a useful and usable conception of public opinion and public discourse, despite notable attempts to do so. There is more than a whiff of the romantic in the verbrecover, so let me explain. Phrases such as “the recovery of the public sphere,” used rather often these days, do not necessarily imply that there was once, long ago, in some pristine past, an era in which the public reigned, in which our ancestors lived a free and uncoerced life of communal bliss and...

  7. PART V

    • Introduction James Carey’s Academy
      (pp. 261-269)
      G. Stuart Adam

      I have followed Jim Carey’s work and career since 1975, when I met him for the first time at the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, which was convened in Ottawa that year, and heard him talk insightfully about the theories of the Canadian economic historian Harold Adams Innis. It was a surprise and a delight for me, a Canadian, to discover an American scholar studying the work of an individual whom we regard as the father of Canadian communication studies. In due time, this American scholar would be regarded as a principal interpreter...

    • 10 Political Correctness and Cultural Studies
      (pp. 270-291)

      Among the games—in the best sense of that word, the Wittgensteinian sense—at play in the field of communications is one with which I feel particularly identified, namely, cultural studies. While cultural studies embraces an astonishing variety of people and positions (no one has a registered trademark on the name), it can be simplistically divided, if only to jump-start an argument, into two broad camps: one that draws primarily upon continental sources and regularly invokes names like Derrida, Foucault, and Althusser; and one that draws primarily upon American sources and regularly invokes names like Dewey, James, and Rorty. I...

    • 11 Salvation by Machines: Can Technology Save Education?
      (pp. 292-307)

      Among the articles of national faith few have stronger resonance than our belief in technology and education. Technology, freed from encrustation of the old world, purged of its bondage to old cities, old elites, and older ways, set down in the garden of America, has always promised us a general redemption: freedom from want and immiseration, freedom from weakness and corruption, freedom for a better life of peace, prosperity, and plenitude. The twin pillar of education reinforces the commitment to technology, for it guarantees not only the knowledge with which to carry the social and technological project forward but also...

  8. Afterword: The Culture in Question
    (pp. 308-340)
    James W. Carey

    The essays in this volume are explorations in the culture and communications of the United States in the last third of the twentieth century. This country remains, as Vargas says of Peru and as we perhaps can say of all the Creole nations of the “new world,” an indecipherable mystery. Still, in a place where ambition always seems to outrun ability, the unfulfilled aim of the work, collectively considered, is the same one that John Updike noted in speaking of novels he admires: they “give us, through the consciousness of character, a geography amplified by history, a chunk of the...

  9. Bibliography of Works by James W. Carey
    (pp. 341-346)