Market ‘Realities’: Decoding Economic Ideology in the Press – Paschal Preston & Henry Silke DCU

[T]he superstructure depends on its economic foundations.  But it is necessary to emphasise the fact that the superstructure operates retroactively on its base.  The retroactive superstructual influence in no less important than the influence of the base itself.  The historical process can only be explained by observing the interaction of the two.  They do not affect each other mechanically or as externally independent factors; they are inseparable moments of a unity.

(Franz Jakubowski 1976 p. 57)

Introduction

In the current economic and political crises the mass media continue to play an important role in both political and economic discourse. Therefore how the news media treats the economic crises and its political aftermath is of some importance. The authors maintain that current neo-liberal ideological assumptions have an influential effect on contemporary news and financial journalism and that the latter, in turn, serve to shape the course of economic and financial processes. They maintain this is important as neo-liberal ideologies are not separate from the material world but can have real effects in terms of state policies and business strategies. Moreover, neo-liberal assumptions may have blinded journalism to potential crises related to market contradictions and bubbles.

Ideology and Ideologies, Concepts and Definitions

The concept of ideology is a difficult and controversial concept but one which is important when considering the current economic and political crisis. The popular concept of ideology is that of a ‘world view’ of ideological political practitioners or parties. Capitalism for many ‘just is’, and is non-ideological. Martin Seigler (1976 p. 11) defines ideology as ‘a set of ideas by which men [sic] posit, explain and justify ends and means of organised social action, and specifically political action, irrespective of whether such action aims to preserve, amend, uproot or rebuild a given social order’. Terry Eagleton (1991 p. 28, 29) offers a number of definitions for the concept of ideology. Firstly ideology is the ‘general material process of production of ideas, values and beliefs in social life’; secondly ideology can also be defined as the ideas and beliefs (whether true or false) which symbolises the conditions and life experiences of a specific socially significant group or class; thirdly ideology is said to be ‘the promotion and legitimation’ of the interests of specific socially significant group or class in the face of opposing interests; and finally, drawing from Marx’s concept of the commodity fetish, ideology is the false or deceptive beliefs arising not from the interests of the ruling group but arising from the material structure of society as a whole.

Jorge Larrain suggests (1979 p. 12, 13) that ideology can have both a positive and negative meaning.  On the one hand ideology can be conceived as concept of either false consciousness or deception which acts to distort peoples understanding of social reality; alternatively, as a positive term, ideology can represent the world view of a class. In this sense Larrain maintains we must speak of ideologies rather than ideology.

Here we may talk of numerous ideologies in competition for ‘hearts and minds’ though generally with one acting as the dominant ideology. In this way we may have a dominant ideology which may indeed represent a distortion of social consciousness for one group while at the same time being the correct ideology for the material benefit of another. In this sense ideology will have both a subjective and objective element. While there may be an objective reality, one cannot escape the subjective element of how that reality will affect a person or group depending on their relationship to the material reality.

Whether the dominant classes themselves are aware of this is entirely another question. For Abercrombie and Turner (Abercrombie, Turner 1978) the functional role of ‘dominant ideology’ is to socialise the dominant classes themselves rather than the subservient classes who they maintain do not straightforwardly ( p. 58) adopt to the dominant ideology but rather accommodate to it. Purvis and Hunt (1993 p. 474) suggest that ideology is most closely related to the broad problematic of modern western Marxism, namely the attempt to understand how relations of domination and subordination are reproduced with only minimal resort to direct coercion. Stuart Hall, drawing on Gramsci and Althusser, defined ideology as ‘the mental frameworks – the languages, the concepts, categories, imagery of thought, and the systems of representation – which different classes and social groups deploy in order to make sense of, define, figure out and render intelligible the way society works’.  John B. Thompson (1990 p. 330) proposed that critical ideology can be integrated into a theoretical framework which focuses on the nature of symbolic forms, social context and the organisation and reproduction of power and domination. This conception of ideology can be particularly useful when investigating ideological assumptions in the press.

When it comes to the study of the mass media, ideology can probably be best expressed as the ‘master framework’ under which news stories are reported, agendas are set and editorials are offered. Objectivity and subjectivity are also important issues here, are the media representing an objective reality or subjective political and social positions of a given class or group, and if so is this inevitable due to the prevailing structures in capitalist society?

Ideology and fragmented knowledge

False consciousness (or ideology) is linked to the complex division of labour in capitalist society which permits the belief that our ideas or consciousness are separate to material factors (Franz Jakubowiski p. 83). As people only see one small part of the productive process and only localised parts of the relations of production they cannot see the class relations involved and therefore may not even be aware of their own place within the process. In similar vein Stuart Hall (Hall 1986) considers the issues of true and false consciousness as one of seeing the entire picture of a process. In other words it is not that ideas in themselves are inherently false, but if they only contain a part of the picture. As he puts it: ‘One sided explanations are always a distortion. Not in the sense that they are a lie about the system, but in the sense that a “half-truth” cannot be the whole truth about anything’ (Hall 1986 p. 37). For Hall ( p. 39) the terms of ‘true’ and ‘false’ consciousness can be replaced by more accurate terms such as ‘partial’, ‘adequate’, ‘one sided’ or ‘differentiated totality’.

Ideology, Epistemology and Journalism: Ideology Matters

In terms of news media production this perspecitive is well represented best by theories of the social construction of the news (Tuchman 1978). According to constructivist theory the news rather than being a complete or objective reflection of the material world is the process where some people (journalists), report some issues, and talk to some people from a particular angle. As Anabela Carvalho (2008) puts it, ‘journalism is typically a discursive re-construction of reality. Rarely do journalists witness events or get to know reality in a way that does not involve the mediation of others’. Studies have shown how the ‘reality’ constructed by journalists may be what is more easily available or accessible to journalists (or important to journalists) rather than a reflection or mirror of reality (Tuchman 1974, 1978). Moreover journalists are increasingly constrained by the work routines and practices, resource limitations and their relationship to shareholders’ and/or managers, not to mention potential political influences of owners or managers (Preston 2009).

Notions of fragmented knowledge, expert idiocy, appear to resonate well with what we know of news making routines, the culture of professional journalism and its working practices – even if the former are rarely mobilised in recent studies. For example, as the well known herd-like features of news definition indicate, journalists operate in a highly media-centric universe and tend to relate intensively to a relatively small circle of potential sources, political, promotional and other professional milieu. These tendencies have been further amplified in recent years by declining numbers of journalists relative to media outlets, managerial systems and innovations leading to greater emphasis on throughput or quantitative productivity, speed-up in news production schedules.

Recent studies point to a much more desk-bound cohort of journalists, and a greater reliance on news stories originating in the initiative of public relations professionals, more dependent on the information subsidies provided by resource-rich interests. Reliance on In sum, the would-be ‘watchdogs’ of the public are increasingly reduced to mere ‘mouse-minders’ (Preston, 2009), –hardly the kinds of conditions that enable committed journalists to transcend ‘partial’, ‘inadequate’, or ‘one sided’ views of the world.

Besides, much of the routine practices known in journalism studies as agenda-setting, sourcing and framing can be re-described as ideological acts. A major part of this process is the ideological assumptions which may be held by journalists, sources, managers or even institutional assumptions of media companies. As Greg Philo put it when discussing the work of the Glasgow Media Group;

The key conclusion which we drew, in terms of methods, was that it was not possible to analyse individual texts in isolation from the study of wider systems of ideologies which informed them and the production processes which structured their representation (Philo 2007 p. 184).

The problem of ideological assumptions is not just one of academic interest; it has a real effect in the material world. For example some commentators suggest that the recent contradictions in the world financial markets were made worse by the ideological assumptions of what Paul Krugman (2010) terms ‘market fundamentalism’. One example was the assumption of the superiority of ‘light touch’ regulation over so called ‘red tape’ or strict regulation policies. While this assumption, based on the idea of market ‘self regulation’, seems to have proven false, (in that it was proved to be incorrect), its effect on the material world through both government policy and business strategy has made it very real. In Ireland, for example, it is argued that the state specifically established a policy of light touch regulation to attract large financial corporations (Allen 2009). This lax regulation allowed extremely dubious practices which certainly played a role in Ireland’s private sector financial crises (see below).

In the contemporary market economy information, communications and media reportage have become a reflexive part of economic practice itself. That is media and communications do not simply report or reflect market decisions but have themselves become and influential dialectical and reflexive part of those decisions (Thompson 2003). Ideology is a key part of this process (Thompson 2003 p. 23) Moreover the elite media sphere (Corcoran, Fahy 2009) may act to reinforce ideological assumptions between journalists, business practitioners’ and politicians.

The Media and Economic Ideology

The mass media act as an economic ideological apparatus in a number of ways: Firstly the media may act to favour certain narratives above others when describing historical or contemporary events. It may do so by the use of sources biased in favour of officialdom or corporate business. As Herman and many others point out, economics is an intrinsically contested area ideologically, as ‘those expressing opinions favoured by ‘the market’ (i.e. the business elite) have been provided with disproportionate resources and access to influence and power through their sponsorships in grants, access to the mass media, and in influence in the political arena’ (Herman 1982) The media may also operate ideologically by ‘significant silences’, by the framing of issues in certain ways (Entman 2004) or by narrow agenda setting. Advertising too possesses a secondary, possibly unintentional, ideological aspect;

Greater dependence on advertising is likely to contribute to more positive (and less negative) coverage of business, more critical (or sparse) coverage of labour unions as well as a pro-consumerist de-politicisation and narrowing of the news (Benson 2004 p. 282)

In similar vein, even when the specialist field of communication studies was still emergent, social theorists such as C Wright Mills (1957) and Ralph Miliband (1969) argued that general advertising, including the promotion of individual products, involves the selling of values and a ‘way of life’, and so also serves to undergird the hegemony of business interests. Indeed, Miliband (1969 p. 165) argued that the process of ‘political socialisation’ or the ‘engineering of consent’ in capitalist society is largely an unofficial private enterprise rather than an overt enterprise of the political state. Moreover much of the role of the media post-crash seems to have been defensive, confirming the Gramscian view of the media as a defensive part of capitalist (civil) society resistant to the ‘catastrophic “incursions” of the immediate economic element’ (Gramsci 1971/2003 p. 235).

In a more critical vein, Christian Fuchs (2009 p. 17) has applied Marx’s theory of the commodity fetish to the capitalist mass media maintaining that ‘the forms of domination of capitalism are naturalised by the media and are portrayed as being unchangeable’. He suggests that media conceal that these social forms have a historic character or that they can be transformed by social struggles. Chakravartty and Schiller (2010 p. 680) have identified what they call the ‘speculation orientated synthesis’ which has formed the framing and agenda of much of the elite business and financial media over the last two decades. They describe this as a ‘neo-liberal newspeak’ which has acted to de-politicise extreme neo-liberal economic theories and effectively closed off perspectives from competing genres of economic journalism. This has seen the domination of financial rather than economic journalism, a financial journalism which largely appears to buy into the assumptions of neo-liberal ideology.

Neo Liberalism Theory and Practice

The prevailing, globally dominant, economic, social and political model can be described as neo-liberalism.  The ideology of neo-liberalism can be initially described as the inherent belief that the free market is the best and most rational way to organise society. And that free competition between free individuals will provide the best outcomes for society (Friedman 1953, Hayek 1998, 1982). This replaced the system of ‘embedded liberalism’ (market structures embedded in a regulatory system) which dominated during the post war boom.  Embedded liberalism attempted to control excesses of the market as well as attempt to provide full employment and provide a welfare state (Harvey 2005 p. 11, Duménil, Lévy 2004). During this period labour (in the dominant capitalist economies) received a higher share of the surplus wealth and it was hoped would therefore create demand.  This was articulated by the twin ideologies of post war Social and Christian Democracy.  However embedded liberalism was unable to solve the problems of capitalist accumulation and a crisis of ‘stagflation’ persisted throughout the 1970s (Harvey 2005 p. 12). The ideology and discourses of Neo liberalism acted as a radical passive revolution against the social contract between the state, labour and the bourgeois to attempt to ‘liberate’ the markets from discursively framed constraints such as regulation (red tape) and vested interests (trade unions and political influence). The goal of full and permanent employment was quietly dropped to be replaced by the discourse of flexibility and self reliance.  Part of the project of neo-liberalism has included the weakening of collective groups (such as communities and unions), the creation of new markets by commodifcation, the privatisation of previously public services and the opening of new markets, often forcefully by using international bodies such as the IMF and WTO. Loic Wacquant (2009 p. 36) describes neo-liberalism as transitional political project which aims to remake the nexus of market, state and citizenship from above carried out by a new global ruling class in the making.  David Harvey (Harvey 2011) argues that neo-liberalism is also a process of ‘capital accumulation through dispossession.’ Bob Jessop argues that many different forms and degrees of neo-liberalism exist and it may  in fact be no more than a continuation of liberalism with differing strategies, replacing a demand strategy of full employment with a supply strategy of innovation, competitiveness and open economies (Jessop 2002). The collapse of ‘actual existing socialism’ in Europe saw some form of neo-liberal practice and ideology adopted in much of the world and led to the pronouncement of the ‘end of history’.

Neo Liberal Media Discourse – Key Spheres and Concepts

As Marx once warned, one should never judge any era’s ideology by its own terms, an insight which applies with particular resonance to neo-liberalism, and tensions between its rhetorics and practices (Preston, 2001). This paper  is concerned with the role of discourse and ideology throughout the political crisis, focusing on neo-liberal discourses and how they are constructed, circulated or challenged in the news media. Thus, we concentrate here on the discourses of neo-liberal ideology rather than practices.  In searching out evidence of neo liberal ideology in the press, it is what the press says which is important rather than if it is either untrue or contradictory. Included in this process is what the press doesn’t say as silence can often be the strongest ideological discourse.

Neo-liberal discourse as well as having an economistic outlook contains discourses of politics, ethics and morality, as noted, inter alia, by Amable (2010) and Chopra (2003). The success of neo-liberalism as a mode of governance can only be understood with reference to the fact it has established itself as a universal credible vision,  in short a hegemonic ideology (Chopra 2003,  p. 422). Neo-liberalism’s tenets are frequently adopted by the media as default assumptions and operate as an overarching ideology and morality.  Figure one (see below) outlines our summary framework or mapping of the key philosophical concepts of neo-liberal thought as represented in the mass media.

The key concepts are divided into four inter-connected spheres. The blue area represents neo-liberal concepts around the idea of individualism.  The yellow area represents the area of competition.  The green area defines the area of the neo-liberal state, while the red area represents ‘significant silences’ or the areas ignored in neo-liberal discourses.  The model of a conceptual framework is used as the concepts are inter connected on various levels rather than being linear.

In the area of individualism the concept of ‘free’ choice, equality of opportunity (rather than outcome) and therefore individual responsibility are key concepts (Amable 2010). Social problems such as poverty and crime are seen from an individual basis rather than structural and while charity to the ‘deserving poor’ may be acceptable, social welfare in itself is seen as immoral (See Wacquant 2009 for an impressive account on the neo liberal concepts of ‘workfare’ and ‘prisonfare’ for discipling the poor). In this discourse those on top of the heap have arrived there by entrepreneurial success rather than any structural advantage.  This connects with Elitism in the state sphere (as the best become the elite) and lead to a celebration of both money and power –as manifest in the recent phenomenon of the CEO as media star (Frasher 2009 p. 81).  This too can be linked to the aspirational discourses of success and wealth.  Subaltern collective action is delegitimized as immoral or as a ‘vested interest’ especially when it can lead to either redistribution or protection from competition. At the same time problems in the capitalist system rather than being seen as structural are seen as the fault of unethical individuals rather than any systematic crisis, the discourse of ‘bad apples’. This too can lead into discourses of ‘bad’ and ‘good capitalism’ rather than systematic crises (Amable 2010 p. 12).

In the competition sphere we immediately see a market orientated frame (see below) where everything is considered in relation to ‘the market’ and a privileging of future exchange value over use value this includes a concept of market infallibility and anti monopoly (especially public) which again is linked to free choice.  This is based on the liberal ideology that the self interest of individuals (rather than planning) will have the best outcomes for society overall (Smith 1976) .

These two spheres are intrinsically linked to neo-liberal discourse on the state.  While radical neo-liberal discourse can often be anti-state or anti political this is from the point of view of the social democratic re-distributive state  (or socialist appropriation) and state regulatory policies or programmes such as permanent employment or wage rates, here the state is seen to ‘interfere’ with the market. It is opposed to Keynesian demand interventionism. On the other hand an interventionist state to either defend or create markets is deemed permissible (Amble 2010 ). The role of the state therefore is to keep the market competition from either collective interests of monopolization, in that sense the neo-liberal state is regulatory.  That is to say nothing of protecting private property (and private markets) by force if necessary, up to and including from the state itself (through taxation). There is an anti democratic discourse which calls for the rule of ‘experts’ rather then those who must answer to the electorate or what is termed ‘political influence’. This is linked to elitism (Amable 2010).  When it comes to state enterprise there is an overall discourse of public sector enterprise being bad and private enterprise being good, except (so far) the repressive state apparatuses of the police and military.

The red area or ‘significant silences’ are the concepts missing from neo-liberal discourse. These include social structures (especially class) but also elements of gender and race. It includes the concept of a ‘fragmented imagination’ where differing parts of political economy are reported separately and unconnected. Herein lies the issue of reflexivity or lack of reflexivity.  The commodity fetish (Marx 1992) as discussed above disguises class struggle in commodities such as labour, food and rents which in itself is linked to the competitive sphere. Finally the slogan ‘there is no alternative’ links the individual sphere (human nature), to the competitive sphere (market fundamentalism) to the state sphere (state policies).

Media & Market Orientated Framing

In the case of the media, as elsewhere, the overt ideologies may not be the most important. Prior critique suggests that frequently, it may well be that the underlying and invisible culture and ideologies which are more insidious (Eagleton 1991).  This can be described as a market orientated frame which acts to mystify or disguise what are actually political and social decisions.  This is best understood by Marx’s definition of the ‘commodity fetish’.  For Marx (Marx 1976) the commodity fetish disguises the real social nature of society in the market or commodity.  Class relations between groups of people are disguised within individual rents, wage rates, currency rates, and mortgage interest rates. While macro political decisions are framed around international ‘competitiveness’ between states and their workforces, and in the recent crisis, international bond markets.  This can also be described as the reification of class relations into the ‘demands’ of the markets.

Money always retains the same form in the same substratum, and is therefore more readily conceived as an object. But the same thing, commodity, money, etc., can represent capital or revenue, etc. Thus even the economists recognize that money is nothing tangible, but that the same thing can be subsumed now under the heading capital, now under some other and quite contrary term, and accordingly that it is or is not capital. It is evidently a relation and can only be a relation of production.

(Karl Marx 1994)

This paper proposes that the concept of a market framing can be successfully applied to the current crises. One possible example is the question of how ‘the market’ reacts to government policies and decisions and even elections. This can be expressed as whether the market ‘likes’ or ‘dislikes’ certain decisions.  The ‘market’ in this manner is expressed as a sort of semi-deity, natural and immutable but entirely unconnected to the actual world of men and women. Generalised cuts in living standards in the working classes may be therefore expressed as being for the benefit of the god of ‘competitiveness’ rather than, for example, employers.  In other words, it is the dictates of the markets rather than classes or governments which determine contested issues. The market thus becomes the default reality, the naturalised or ‘common sense’ reality,  meanwhile non-market solutions are by definition not part of reality.

This effect is can be seen as amplified by the typical news media routines, especially as sourcing practices are particularly freighted and stilted when it comes to financial and economic news compared to other genres (Thompson, 200x; Preston, 2009). A select group of economists and market ‘analysts’ are constantly consulted and interviewed (much like ancient Grecian priests) in attempts to interpret how the markets are faring or will react to state actions. The fact that many of these ‘independent experts’ may have either vested interests or that some have long-held ‘Vienna school’ or related neoliberal  ideologies is rarely if ever attested to.  Often even those who oppose government policy invoke the gods of the market to explain their case. This entire framing acts to disguise class politics as the (supposedly impersonal)  ‘market’ generally reacts well to cuts in public spending to protect or expand the profit base of the capitalist class while generally reacting badly to any form of redistribution (tax) or regulation (red tape) that attempts to control it.  In other words the market’s interests, (even when short sighted), remain the interests of the classes which control them. In this sense the capitalist class is quite international.

  Ideology, The Press and the Irish Economic Crisis

We can fruitfully, if briefly here, apply the ideas just outlined to media practices and discursive strategies to the setting of the Irish housing sector, the property bubble and subsequent crash over the recent past.  The Irish housing and mortgage market was traditionally characterised by conservative lending criteria, significant government intervention and the dominance of non-profit mortgage providers (Norris and Coates 2010).  By the year 2000 this market was transformed radically into a liberalised and flexible market dominated by commercial interests, and awash with international credit.  After entry into the Euro zone in 1999 the Irish banks began to borrow massive funding abroad, which would in turn be used to fund speculation mainly in property. The market led approach to governance (Harvey 2005) went beyond banking financial regulation (Kitchin, Gleeson et al. 2010 p. 2).   Brendan Bartley (2007) describes a shift of Irish planning policies from the 1980s onwards from a managerial approach designed to facilitate modernisation to a results orientated entrepreneurial approach resulting in a laissez-faire approach to planning. Kitchin et al. (2010 p. 44) summaries the housing bubble from the point of view of planning quite succinctly as ‘a neo-liberal policy of free market development and market led regulation’ which was ‘driven largely by developers’, and ‘a housing market driven by consumer panic of being unable to climb on the housing ladder and speculators’.  The bursting of the international credit bubble and the exposure of the Irish property bubble had devastating effects on the Irish economy and society. House prices fell by 31.2% between 2006 and 2009 (Norris, Coates 2010 p. 4).  A fall between 55 and 60 per cent from peak to trough is forecast by stress tests performed by the Irish Central Bank (Bloomberg, Brennan 2010, The Guardian 2010). The resultant banking, economic and unemployment crisis has placed Ireland in a severe recession if not depression.

We observe that the Irish press played a crucial role in the Irish property market. Firstly, as a means of information and advertising, many Irish daily and Sunday papers include lucrative and non-critical property supplements (moreover, Irish media companies made substantial investments in property listing websites). Secondly, in an ideological manner, whereby issues of housing were seen predominantly through a market orientated frame, rather than, for example, seeing housing as a societal issue.

The primary research, has (thus far) explored the coverage of the Irish Times on issues of housing and property in the run up to the 2007 general election.  The research looked at a total of 449 articles in the property, business,  opinion and news sections in the three week lead up to the election.   Three major issues in the election revolved around the area of housing and property. One was the issue of ‘affordability’ of housing including a lack of ‘social and affordable housing’ for people unable to afford housing on the open market. Another was the issue of abolishing stamp duty taxes on the purchase of homes (a market orientated solution to the affordability crisis).   Finally a third issue was that of the Mahon Tribunal, a judicial investigation into corruption involving the then Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern TD and a number of property developers.  This period also saw the continued stalling and initial downturn of property prices which would lead to a severe crash within months. This election was probably the last chance for debate in the ‘public sphere’ on the housing bubble before the crash, and certainly the last opportunity for people to vote before the crash.  Therefore the research sees this as a ‘critical discourse moment’ (Carvalho, 2008, p. 167) where discussion on issues around housing and the property market could and should have been debated and discussed.

The following key trends were found: a predominately market-orientated frame including the privileging of exchange value over use value; a source bias by actors from the banking, mortgage, and real estate and building industries whose statements were reported uncritically; overall the research found an uncritical approach to reporting the property and housing market.  Of the sixty articles describing residential properties, and the nineteen describing commercial property not one (this at the height of the Irish bubble) considered if the properties may be overvalued. Commercial and private residential rent, were only reported in the commercial property and business sections and were only viewed from the point of view of short-term rental yields. Societal issues of cost were ignored.  For example one report of a rent increase by 40% in a Dublin shopping centre reports positively that small businesses may be driven out (Irish Times, 2/5/2007).

The Ilac has traditionally had more small independent Irish traders than any Dublin shopping centre. Inevitably, some of them will not be able to afford the new rent levels, leaving the way open for the management to amalgamate units

There was no sourcing from house buyers or renters of private residential housing (use value sources).  Especially in the finance section the paper played down warnings of the market crashing and acted in a defensive manner.  Where acknowledged the possibility of a downturn the frame of a ‘slowdown’ was almost exclusively privileged.  Moreover a slowdown in positive growth rather than a negative fall off.

In the news sections, societal framed articles on housing issues came from reports on political manifestos rather than Irish Times reportage itself. The issue of affordability (or lack of affordability) could be drawn by the parties’ manifestos rather than reportage in the paper. Even within the reportage of manifestos the framing was often on market rather than societal effects.  In the news sections politicians were also sourced including some oppositional and critical, though these were very much the minority.  Structural issues such as overproduction, excess zoning, the spiralling cost of land and housing were completely ignored.   While the issue of corruption between property developers and politicians was covered in the news section with 33 articles, none of them considered whether or how the corruption may have had an effect on policy. However, no articles on corruption in property and planning appeared in the property or business sections. There were no connections drawn between global and local economics. While the Irish Times reported housing crashes in Spain and the USA it continued to play down the possibility in Ireland.  The paper also published uncritical and positive reports of the arrival of sub-prime in Ireland after the American crash

 Conclusion

Clearly, systems of ideas, such as neoliberal ideology, play a crucial role in the unstable course of capitalist development, not least because the ‘reality of bourgeois society is made up not only of material relations but also of ideology’ (Jakubowski, 1976 p. 103). In like vein, we observe that ideological assumptions have an influential effect on news production and these in turn help shape the course of crisis and restructuring strategies. This is important for a number of reasons; firstly these ideologies serve to shape the prevailing agenda of state policies and/or business strategies; secondly these ideologies may affect news reporting by skewing news agendae and the framing of reportage in significant ways; and thirdly ideological assumptions in the media may act in a dialectical and reflexive manner on society. For example our empirical research (thus far) suggests that certain ideological assumptions of  neo-liberal economics play an active role in the creation and sustention of market bubbles through the articulation of such assumptions (or the lack of articulation of alternative ideas) by the mass media.

This article has offered a conceptual mapping of neo-liberal ideology and its discursive features based around the key areas of individualism, competition, the state and significant silences.  One key discourse or framing mechanism that this paper identified as of central importance comprises that of market orientated framing where news stories are filtered by the events’ perceived value to the market. This framing operates to mask certain key political stakes, and class relations as the views of the ‘markets’ comprises  a privileged [and highly partial] reality. The fact that the markets comprise selective sets of real people making real decisions, with real effects is effectively mystified.

Note: This is an edited version of a journal article:

Preston & Silke (2011) ‘Market ‘Realities’: Decoding the Ideology and Discourses of Neo-Liberalism’ – Australian Journal of Communications – Vol 38(2)

Preston & Silke 2011 Market Realities – in Aus Jnl of Comm Vol38

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