Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
2Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Like a Bird in Lime Twigs: Power and Authority in Communications Research

Like a Bird in Lime Twigs: Power and Authority in Communications Research

Ratings: (0)|Views: 135|Likes:
Published by Chanders1
The argument is made in the pages which follow that, for most of the history of the field, media research has concerned itself with the overt exercise of media power rather than the capacity for such an exercise; furthermore, that most structuralist exceptions to this obsession with exercised power have remained beholden to a vulgar Marxist conception of power; and finally, that recent movements in the field towards more complex notion of symbolic power and its relationship with various other forms of power mark a welcome conceptual advance. Nevertheless, even these theoretical moves neglect issues of authority in media institutions.
The argument is made in the pages which follow that, for most of the history of the field, media research has concerned itself with the overt exercise of media power rather than the capacity for such an exercise; furthermore, that most structuralist exceptions to this obsession with exercised power have remained beholden to a vulgar Marxist conception of power; and finally, that recent movements in the field towards more complex notion of symbolic power and its relationship with various other forms of power mark a welcome conceptual advance. Nevertheless, even these theoretical moves neglect issues of authority in media institutions.

More info:

Published by: Chanders1 on Jun 19, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

11/28/2013

pdf

text

original

 
'L
IKE
A B
IRD
 
IN
L
IME
T
WIGS
':O
N
 
THE
S
TRANGE
T
ANGLE
 
OF
P
OWER 
 
AND
A
UTHORITY
I
N
C
OMMUNICATIONS
ESEARCH
In the early pages of 
 Leviathan
, Thomas Hobbes (still perhaps the greatest theorist of power in theWestern political tradition) launches a linguistic tour-de-force whose combination of clarity and boldnessstill retains the ability to shock four centuries after it was written. “Seeing then that truth consisteth in theright ordering of names in our affirmations,” Hobbes writes,a man that seeketh precise truth had need to remember what every name he uses stands for, and to place it accordingly; or else he will find himself entangled in words, as a bird in lime twigs; the morehe struggles, the more belimed. And therefore in geometry (which is the only science that it hath pleased God hitherto to bestow on mankind), men begin at settling the significations of their words;which settling of significations, they call definitions, and place them in the beginning of their reckoning.Always true to his word, Hobbes then proceeds to fire off an increasingly nuanced series of conceptual definitions, culminating, in Chapter 10 with his complex analysis of power (“THE POWER of aman, to take it universally, is his present means to obtain some future apparent good.”). Power, Hobbesargues, can be natural (“the eminenceof the faculties of body, or mind”) or instrumental (“those powerswhich, acquired by these, or by fortune, are means and instruments to acquire more.”) The greatest of human powers, contends Hobbes, “is that which is compounded of the powers of most men, united byconsent, in one person, natural or civil, that has the use of all their powers depending on his will; such as isthe power of a Commonwealth: or depending on the wills of each particular; such as is the power of afaction, or of diverse factions leagued.”(Hobbes 1994)Most modern theorists of power, authority, and legitimacy-- perhaps more modest, but, at the veryleast, more easily embarrassed than Hobbes-- have neglected to make such bold claims about the potential benefits of definitional clarity. Nevertheless the conceptual consequences for our understandings of power,as Hobbes feared, have more often than not resembled the fate of the bird in the lime-twigs: “ the more he
 
struggles, the more belimed.” One can see this confusion extending to the very roots of the earliestsociological thinking on power and authority; the struggles surrounding the “proper” translation theWeberian notion of 
 Herrschaft 
are well known to most students of sociological history, while thefundamental question of whether 
 Herrschaft 
should be translated as “domination” or “authority” (and thecorresponding debates about how exactly Weber understood the relationship between “authority” and“legitimacy”) can be seen as proxy battles for deeply held disagreements about the nature of power itself.Despite these fairly profound conceptual difficulties, arguments about power, authority, and therelationship between the two-- fromthe “three faces of power debate” that dominated much of politicalscience in from the 1950's to the 1960's; to the provocative writings and interviews of Michel Foucault; toBourdieu's more empirically grounded work on symbolic power-- have been some few areas of currentresearch in which both social scientists and social theorists have felt compelled to produce voluminous andcontradictory materials in equal measure.All, that is, but in the realm of communications and mediaresearch. For while questions of 
media power 
(and related questions of media
effects
and media
influence
)have dominated the field since its inception, the theoretical relationship between these questions andquestions of 
authority
and
legitimacy
have been rarely addressed, especially on a non-normative level. Thefew scholarly investigations tackling issues of (usually specifically “journalistic”) authority have been atheoretical and definitional muddle, often doing more to obscure the concept than illuminate it. All thewhile, of course, media-marketers and political communications researchers carry on merrily with their “media effects” experiments, (still, it seems) convinced that the proof of media power is in the purchasing.How do I define power, authority, and the relationship between them? On the one hand answeringthat question is the very purpose of this essay, and the hope is that my own thinking on this complex issuewill become clearer over the course of the following pages. Knowing, however, that when it comes to power and authority many scholars are in a position similar to that of the bird in lime twigs, I will jump ahead and,in good Hobbesian fashion, place my definitional cards on the table at the beginning. Power is defined inthis essay as the
latent, not always exercised capacity
for A to influence B in a manner contrary to B’s
 
interests. Authority, on the other hand, marks the manner by which differences in power capacity are
 perceived as legitimate
by B and / or A. This question of authority can be discussed normatively (as in,“what can render differences in power capacity legitimate?”) or empirically (as in, “how is a perception of legitimate authority constructed and maintained?”).Although my primary concern is with questions of media authority, such a problematic cannot be properly understood without first coming to grips with the
 genealogy of media power 
; in other words,investigating with the manner in which the notion idea media power has been articulated bycommunications theorists and researchers. As media power has remained at the center-- either by its presence or its absence-- of most scholarship in the field of media studies, such a genealogy inevitablyforces the researcher to take a position within the currently fevered debates over the history of communications research. The argument is made in the pages which follow that, for most of the history of the field, media research has concerned itself with the
overt exercise
of media power rather than the
capacity for such an exercise
; furthermore,
 
that most structuralist exceptions to this obsession withexercised power have remained beholden to a vulgar Marxist conception of power; and finally, that recentmovements in the field towards more complex notion of symbolic power and its relationship with variousother forms of power mark a welcome conceptual advance. Nevertheless, even these theoretical movesneglect issues of authority in media institutions.If Part One explores issues of power in media studies, then, Part Two focuses instead on media andauthority. It should be obvious that the definitions of power and authority discussed earlier are generic,common to the literature of both political science and social theory. In the second section of this essay I willrefashion them, attempting to render their basic distinctions more relevant to communications research. Inthis second section, I try to tease out the conceptual distinction between power and authority in the field of media research and argue that non-normative questions of institutional media authority deserve moreattention than they have thus far received from scholars in the communications field. Iargue that whileauthority necessarily involves questions of 
legitimacy
and
right 
, scholarship in this vein need not be

Activity (2)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 thousand reads
1 hundred reads

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->