By Eve Stryker Munson, Catherine A. Warren

James Carey -- pupil, media critic, and instructor of reporters -- nearly single-handedly verified the significance of defining a cultural standpoint while studying communications. Interspersing Carey's significant essays with articles exploring his imperative topics and their value, this assortment offers a severe advent to the paintings of this important figure.

Long ahead of the "interpretive flip" grew to become the style within the humanities and sociology, Carey was once busily learning and mixing the tips of a powerful array of philosophers, sociologists, historians, and anthropologists, together with John Dewey, Clifford Geertz, Raymond Williams, Thomas Kuhn, Max Weber, C. Wright turbines, Richard Rorty, Jurgen Habermas, Harold Innis, and Lewis Mumford. In James Carey: A serious Reader, seven students who've been stimulated through him reflect on his paintings and the way it has affected the improvement of media studies.

Carey has validated that mass communications serve a posh functionality in society, with one relevant query reflecting his matters: How does one make democracy paintings in an unlimited nation that spans a continent? In his view, symbols, language, and those that create them are reality-creating, instead of reality-reflecting. Carey has tested the jobs the media and the academy have performed in growing and protecting a public sphere, in addition to the methods expertise is helping or hinders that undertaking. Carey's topics variety from the lines on democracy and downsides of expertise to the critique of journalism and the politics of academe.

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They differed rather considerably concerning whose standards were being eroded and who was being disabled from exercising political leadership. The conservative critique focused on the erosion of the position and standards of traditional elites in the arts, academy, and civil service as mass participation in culture and politics was mobilized through, among other things, the mass media. The radical critique, predictably, focused on just the opposite, on the demobilization of the masses, on their exposure to manipulative control, and on the intent of domineering elites to contain any movement aimed at radical change.

Others would attribute a larger role to British cultural studies, or to semiotics, hermeneutics, or postmodern literary criticism. But Carey feels no need to apologize for the Americanness of his story, nor should he. The history of culture and communication can be told in any number of places, and Carey's essays demonstrate how one might engagingly tell the tale in an American vein. After all, if a central problem of cultural studies is the social construction of meaning and identity, what better place to study that problem than in a country that incessantly and self-consciously talks about its destiny?

Now that the primary group in this sense has been pretty much destroyed, destroyed at the moment Paul Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz were rediscovering it as the anchor point in their analysis of media effects,19 Cooley might seem a little quaint. But the question he leaves behind is still on the agenda. What kind of people are we to become in the postmodern world where courts, counselors, schools, child-care centers, self-help groups, and a variety of family types (single parent, blended, hinged, seriatim) assume the social role of the primary group?

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