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Internationalizing Media Theory

Internationalizing Media Theory
Transition, Power, Culture

October 1996 | 288 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
In this provocative book John Downing explores the many roles of the media within the fundamental political, economic and cultural changes that took place during the turbulence in Eastern Europe between 1980 and 1995. He examines the central elements underlying these changes: power, the state, societal change, the economy, institutionalized racism, ethnic insurgency, secrecy and surveillance.

Internationalizing Media Theory critically evaluates media theories in relation to political and economic transitions, and challenges political science approaches for their failure to address vital issues in media and communication. Using a comparative and international focus, Downing analyzes the changes in Russia, Poland and Hungary and explores key aspects of the media during this period.

Political Science, Communication Research and the Transition, 1980-95
Russia, Poland, Hungary in the Soviet and Post-Soviet Era
A Preliminary Overview

Media and Communication
The Post-Stalin Era

Eastern European Transitions
The Communico-Cultural Dimension

Eastern European Transitions
The Politico-Economic Dimension

Media in Post-Sovietized Societies from 1989-91 to 1995
Mainstream Media Theory and Change in Eastern Europe
Critical Media Theory and Change in Eastern Europe


`It is, in fact, several books in one, all drawing on an extensive body of literature in different fields. On one level it can be read as an analysis fo the process of political and economic transformation over the last 15 years in Russia, Hungary or Poland... and this analysis is informed by the author's first-hand observation, compassionate understanding and insight into the history of the region. A special feature of this aspect of the book point the comparative analytical framework provided by frequent reference to processes of transformation elsewhere - in Latin America and other regions evolving from totalitarian or authoritarian systems towards democratic ones. On another level, it is a careful and detailed examination of the communico-cultural dimension of this process of change, too often given short shrift by students of change in post-Communist countries, whereas in fact, as Downing rightly puts it, "the major regime transitions in Eastern Europe are only to be understood fully with the aid of a communication focus".

But... the book is really about ways to "internationalize" media theory.... Downing's objective is also to "reconfigure media communication theories in the conviction that communication research should be an intergrative exercise" and that what needs to be done is to "recombine history, political economy, the sociology and geography of culture, the technologies of communication and philosophy".

Clearly, then, this is a very ambitious wide-ranging project, successful enough in execution to make it a very important book and give the approach it advocates a deservedly high place among schools of "transitology".... it is a very important, trail-blazing beginning, opening up many directions for future research. Let us hope that Downing's advice and suggestions are followed, as they certainly should be. If that is indeed the case, his book will have marked a turning point in concrete studies and in theory making relating to social change and media transformation in the region and in "internationalizing American media theory"' - European Journal of Communication

`John Downing's book makes an invaluable contribution to the study of media in Russia, Poland, and Hungary.... He provides a clear and descriptive examination of the complex interrelationships that underlie the transformation of the state... and the media... in these countries' - Vladimir Padunov, Pittsburgh University

`John Downing has made a richly nuanced analysis of what the transition in Eastern and Central Europe means for the discipline of media studies and media theory... offering a comprehensive context for understanding a wide range of phenomena from political slogans on late-period Soviet T-shirts to the Hungarian "media wars" of the erly 90s' - Brian Winston, University of Wales, Cardiff

`A richly detailed comparative analysis that adeptly merges communication theories and political science concepts to analyze the evolving, often tumultuous role of mass media and communications in the late Soviet and post-Soviet region' - Michael Hanchard, Northwestern University

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