Blowing the Roof off the Twenty-First Century

Blowing the Roof off the Twenty-First Century: Media, Politics, and the Struggle for Post-Capitalist Democracy

Robert W. McChesney
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Blowing the Roof off the Twenty-First Century
    Book Description:

    In the United States and much of the world there is a palpable depression about the prospect of overcoming the downward spiral created by the tyranny of wealth and privilege and establishing a truly democratic and sustainable society. It threatens to become self-fulfilling. In this trailblazing new book, award-winning author Robert W. McChesney argues that the weight of the present is blinding people to the changing nature and the tremendous possibilities of the historical moment we inhabit. InBlowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century, he uses a sophisticated political economic analysis to delineate the recent trajectory of capitalism and its ongoing degeneration. In exciting new research McChesney reveals how notions of democratic media are becoming central to activists around the world seeking to establish post-capitalist democracies.Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Centuryalso takes a fresh look at recent progressive political campaigns in the United States. While conveying complex ideas in a lively and accessible manner, McChesney demonstrates a very different and far superior world is not only necessary, but possible.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-480-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 9-12)
  4. 1 America, I Do Mind Dying
    (pp. 13-28)

    THESE ARE PERILOUS TIMES for capitalism, the reigning political economic system of the United States and the world. The economy is stagnating, and Mother Earth is gravely ill. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, we face widening economic inequality, plutocratic governance, endless militarism and mounting planetary ecological degradation.

    Not many years ago, this would have sounded hyperbolic to many people. But today, it is not just radicals who are sounding alarm bells. Nobel Prize–winning economist andNew York Timescolumnist Paul Krugman has been writing about secular stagnation in the past year in remarkably alarmist terms, arguing...

  5. Part One Putting the Politics Back in Political Economy
    • 2 After the Nader Campaign: The Future of U.S. Left Electoral Politics
      (pp. 30-50)

      THE UNLIKELY POST-ELECTION contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush, which ultimately led to the anointing of Bush as president by the Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court (despite the fact that Bush received fewer popular votes than Gore both in the United States as a whole and most likely in Florida, the state that gave Bush his Electoral College win), has tended to erase all other developments associated with the election. But all of this should not cause us to forget that the Ralph Nader Green Party campaign for the presidency was arguably the most extraordinary phenomenon...

    • 3 A New New Deal under Obama?
      (pp. 51-61)

      WITH U.S. CAPITALISM mired in an economic crisis of a severity that increasingly brings to mind the Great Depression of the 1930s, it should come as no surprise that there are widespread calls for a “new New Deal.”¹ Already the Obama administration has been pointing to a vast economic stimulus program of up to $850 billion over two years aimed at lifting the nation out of the deep economic slump.²

      The possibility of a new New Deal is to be welcomed by all of those on the left, promising some relief to a hard-pressed working population. Nevertheless, it raises important...

    • 4 The Wisconsin Uprising
      (pp. 62-69)

      AS ONE WHO WAS in Madison in the winter and early spring of 2011, and who participated in the historic protests against Governor Scott Walker’s attack on unions, I can assure you there was most definitely something special happening, and everyone present knew it. For much of my adult life the actual prospects for social change seemed slender, and political work was too often distasteful, with petty bickering and mindless egotism playing an outsized role—hence the common description of left-wing politics as a “circular firing squad.” I was there in the 1970s when being political went from being in...

    • 5 This Isn’t What Democracy Looks Like
      (pp. 70-100)

      THE MOST STRIKING LESSON from contemporary U.S. election campaigns is how vast and growing the distance is between the rhetoric and pronouncements of the politicians and pundits and the deepening, immense, and largely ignored problems that afflict the people of the United States. The trillion dollars spent annually on militarism and war is off-limits to public review and debate.¹ Likewise the corporate control of the economy, and the government itself, gets barely a nod. Stagnation, the class structure, growing poverty, and collapsing social services are mostly a given, except for the usual meaningless drivel candidates say to get votes. The...

  6. Part Two Money Doesn’t Talk, It Swears
    • 6 The U.S. Imperial Triangle and Military Spending
      (pp. 102-119)

      THE UNITED STATES IS unique today among major states in the degree of its reliance on military spending and its determination to stand astride the world, militarily as well as economically. No other country in the post–Second World War world has been so globally destructive or inflicted so many war fatalities. Since 2001, acknowledged U.S. national defense spending has increased by almost 60 percent in real dollar terms to a level in 2007 of $553 billion. This is higher than at any point since the Second World War (though lower than previous decades as a percentage GDP). Based on...

    • 7 The Penal State in an Age of Crisis
      (pp. 120-136)

      AS A RULE, CRIME and social protest rise in periods of economic crisis in capitalist society. During these times, the well-to-do become increasingly fearful of the general population and are more disposed to adopt harsh measures to safeguard their positions at the apex of the social pyramid. The slowdown in the economic growth rate of U.S. capitalism beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s—converging with the emergence of radical social protest around the same period—was accompanied by a rapid rise in public safety spending as a share of civilian government expenditures. So significant was this shift that...

  7. Part Three Media and Politics
    • 8 The State of Media and Media Reform
      (pp. 138-159)

      MEGAN BOLER: In your 2004 bookThe Problem of the Mediayou pose the question, “Is the media system a democratic force?” This focus frames the questions I’ll be asking today, and I’m excited to get an update from you on this crucial topic. You’re a scholar with expertise in many areas—history, policy analysis, and communications—and I’ve been indebted to your work for many years. To begin, I thought I’d ask about your intellectual and political roots—about your background, your vision of change, your thoughts on democracy and its future. Who do you recall reading in your...

    • 9 Walter Lippmann and the Crisis of Journalism
      (pp. 160-172)

      THE UNITED STATES IS now widely acknowledged to be in the midst of a stunning collapse of journalism as it has been known for the past century, if not the entire nation’s history. The number of paid working journalists per capita declined gradually over the past two decades and then fell off a cliff beginning around 2007. Advertising, which provided the vast majority of revenues to news media for a century, has many new options in the digital era and is in the process of jumping ship. The prayer that new technologies would magically create a business model for a...

    • 10 The Personal Is Political: My Career in Public Radio
      (pp. 173-186)

      IN THIS CHAPTER I look at the problems facing progressives and those on the political left in the United States in participating in political analysis and debate in mainstream journalism and the news media. I focus on radio broadcasting, as this is where much of the political discussion in the United States takes place. Radio broadcasting is the least expensive of the media for production and reception, it is ubiquitous, it has adapted itself to the Internet, and it is uniquely suited for locally based programming. I leave aside the matter of the Internet, as this is an issue I...

  8. Part Four Bringing It All Back Home
    • 11 The Cultural Apparatus of Monopoly Capital
      (pp. 188-218)

      THE PAST HALF-CENTURY has been dominated by the rise of media to a commanding position in the social life of most people and nations, to the point where it is banal to regard this as the “Information Age.” The once-dazzling ascension of television in the 1950s and 1960s now looks like the horse-and-buggy era when the Internet, smartphones, and the digital revolution are taken into consideration. For social theorists of all stripes, communication has moved to center stage. And for those on the left, addressing the potential of communication in achieving social change and then maintaining popular rule in the...

    • 12 A Sharp Left Turn for the Media Reform Movement
      (pp. 219-236)

      THE CONTEMPORARY MEDIA REFORM movement exploded into prominence in the United States in 2003 as a response to the effort by President George W. Bush’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to weaken media ownership regulations. Three million people signed petitions opposing the rules changes, many of whom were fresh from the antiwar movement and were appalled by the idea that the same media conglomerates that assisted in the propaganda campaign for the Iraq invasion might be able to gobble up what remained of independent media. The success of this popular uprising was enough to contribute to the federal court’s decision to...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 237-262)
  10. Index
    (pp. 263-272)