The materiality of media discourse : on capitalism and journalistic modes of writing

Sammanfattning: The purpose of the study is to analyse the relationship between the capitalist hegemonic order and the mass media, with the latter restricted to two elite newspapers (Swedish DN and Slovenian Delo) and the selection of news materials from three bodies of international media coverage: NATO’s military intervention in former Yugoslavia, 1999, the political demonstrations against the IMF and the World Bank in Prague, 2000, and 9/11, 2001. There are two sub-purposes, one theoretical-methodological and one political-democratic. The first sub-purpose is to accomplish an integrative kind of media analysis (Williams 1977) in which the approaches of political economy (emphasising the economic/material) and cultural studies/discourse analysis (emphasising the symbolic/discursive) are supposed to interact. The hypothesis is that such a ‘third way’ approach is possible to achieve through the qualitative analysis of journalistic modes of writing. The second sub-purpose (the political-democratic one) takes an interest in the modes’ political dimensions. In what manners do the identified modes counter-act, or co-produce, miscellaneous political struggles? In addition, the purpose of the study also includes a more practical dimension. In the light of the results, how should one nowadays imagine an emancipating kind of journalism that tries to explain, unmask, or even counteract the mechanisms of the contemporary global capitalist system?The news media material consists of 438 items (articles, photos etc.), which are analysed by means of a cultural materialist CDA (critical discourse analysis). An identified journalistic mode is analysed as: (1) a practice with certain cognitive, discursive and linguistic characteristics, (2) a structural product (as constituted by underlying social and material structures), and (3) a dialectical force, being a potentially active part of an ongoing mode of production (the capitalist or another mode). The last analytical moment is the central one.Two categories of journalistic modes are identified. To begin with, the modes of de-permanence (The Remote control mode, Differentiation, Semiotic compression), which comprises modes that are part of the ‘new economy’, of reflexivity, individualism, consumption, mobility, and flexibility. The political dimension of these modes is that they counteract radical (leftist) politics by reducing emancipation, freedom, justice etc. to a matter of individualism and privatisation. The second category is the modes of permanence (Disconnection, Cognitive recycling), which involves an opposing structural dimension of the capitalist system: the production of reification, i.e. the repression of the complex nature of reality – how seemingly autonomous ‘things’ (spaces, objects etc.) are de facto interwoven with a ‘complex whole’ of various social, material, cultural, economic relations that are in constant motion. More precisely, the here identified modes reify and eternalise an explanatory structure (the modern division of explanatory labour), a particular power (the US) and a particular territory (the nation state), generating the impression that social reality works ‘as usual’ while repressing the complex network-like development of global capitalism and its impact on our lives. By sustaining these increasingly archaic structures, what is politically counteracted is the emergence of ‘the new’: transnational politics and democracy (Beck 1998).The analysis of modes (in total 8) furthermore demonstrates that Swedish DN is more integrated with the capitalist system than Slovenian Delo. The study emphasises the democratic importance of creating new journalistic modes endowed with a transnational journalistic epistemology that decisively include the reality of global capitalism in everyday (local) news reporting when covering and explaining social, political, cultural etc. issues.