Characterized by their wide scope and coverage, not to mention their seemingly indestructible power and influence, it cannot be denied that media institutions are indeed instrumental in maintaining social stratification. In addition to that, it is also evident that media channels have become potent tools in ensuring power legitimacy, thus, further widening the gap between the upper and the middle class. As a tool of the elite, media systems tend to secure the social, economic, political and economic positions of those who are in power.
This is successively done via articulating the needs and demands of the upper class, which are then being imposed to individuals who are located at the bottom of the social strata. The articulation of self-vested needs and interests are efficiently pursued through the continuous creation of false needs and at the same time, through the proliferation of elite-based perspectives and orientations. In other words, for media to become a tool for social stratification and therefore protect the political and authoritative positions of the upper class, media must function as the “voice” or “mouthpiece” of the bourgeoisie.
Clearly, the upper class’ dominance cannot afford to remain within the realms of production. It must extend its reach to other vital components of the social structure. In this particular case, stratification through media utilization is readily achieved on the ideological aspect. A critical examination of Davis and Moore’s contentions clearly presents the heavy emphasis placed on the so-called “systems of positions (qtd in Ferguson256). ” These systems of positions are marked with certain degrees of value and importance that therefore create a demarcating line between the upper and lower class.
However, the venerable positions held by the ruling group cannot be possibly attained if such would only focus on the underlying operations and mechanisms of economic production. This is nonetheless expected since the laws of supply and demand may eventually topple economic dominance. Therefore, the governing party needs a reliable tool in which it can practice control, manipulation and at the same time lessen the risk of facing overt resistance. Media, under this context, prove to be the perfect instrument.
To concretely illustrate how media contribute to stratification, this discussion sees the need to examine and apply Louis Althusser’s concept of Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) (Benton 174). Althusser, specifically considered the media, together with other institutions such as the school and other party systems as examples of ISAs (Benton 174). From the term “ideological” ISAs generally try to affect or influence the ideological consciousness of individuals.
These institutions, media, in particular are readily utilized to mold and shape the reality perceptions of each and every member of the community (Benton 174). This is in stark contrast to Repressive State Apparatuses (RSA) such as the police and the military, which are highly dependent on the use of force and violence to sustain the powers of the state (Benton 174). But then again, the state cannot afford to consistently deploy violence. It needs to exert control and manipulation in a very subtle manner, thus, making ISAs as indispensable ingredients to ensure power.
Under this context, it is important to note and should never be disregarded that the state or the government, embodies positions that readily offer “things” that are characterized by their abilities to generate feelings of “sustenance and comfort;” “comfort and diversion;” and most importantly, as Davis and Moore described (qtd in Ferguson 256) “self-respect and ego expansion. Basically, Althusser’s articulation of ISAs is evidently influenced by the classical base-superstructure of Marxism (Benton 174) which therefore, does not delimit the appropriation of ISAs within the political arena.
Relatively, whether the upper class holds a significant position within the government or not, this group can still utilize ISAs, to be more specific, media to their own advantage or interests. This aspect is concretely demonstrated by Todd Gitlin who has openly expressed his sentiment regarding the tacit or subtle cultural capitalism of Hollywood and American popular culture (qtd in Ferguson 442). Hollywood and American popular culture in general possess all the necessary requirements to produce, release and distribute cultural products that range from “television programs,” “films,” “music etc (Gitlin qtd in Ferguson 442).
” As these cultural products penetrate other communities, the local scene suffers due to the high preference shown for US-marketed cultural goods. This is most especially true as for the case of young consumers. If one has to take a closer look, film, television programs and music are all media products—which, if widely distributed, also carry highly Americanized views, behaviors and attitudes. The preference, for these products, which was previously explained, thus, inevitably threatens the existence of local cultures and traditions and therefore, presents a solid evidence or manifestation of stratification and inequality.
However, this experience is not exclusive to non-US communities. The country is also beset with such kind of dilemma. Giant media conglomerates and news organizations embody the majority of the country’s media producers. From time to time, new recording artists are being shown in MTV. These artists are nonetheless being marketed as the iconic symbol of uniqueness, hip and style, when the truth of the matter is, these are no different from the others, except that they are “packaged” differently. As ISAs media producers see to it that the products they offer reflect a one of a kind interest that is different from the rest.
However, a closer examination that all the marketing attempts simply boils down to outright consumerism—something which is evidently manifested in highly capitalistic societies. The audiences are unconsciously persuaded to consumer or “buy” or “patronize” media products that they do not really need. Again, drawing from the concept of ideological state apparatuses and the base-superstructure model, the upper class has all the necessary equipment to produce media products. Then it utilizes the media to deliver and distribute these goods to the public to protect their capitalistic needs and demands.
Those who do not possess the necessary means of production continue to remain within the periphery and at the mercy of those who are in power. Media as ISAs and contributors of social stratification are also reflected in the seemingly massive overflow of advertisements. Media channels such as television, radio, newspapers and nowadays, the internet consistently witness a parade of various goods and commodities that range from food, clothing, technological gadgets and different services. These media channels become a venue or platform of many corporate endeavors to tap wide and diverse markets.
Stratification begins when business establishments resort to the creation of false needs and consciousness. In addition to that, it is pretty evident that advertising agencies, aside from using media channels as platforms and venues can also exert pressure in many media networks, to be more specific, news organizations to resort to unethical media practices. More often than not, advertisers generate a massive impact in the way news stories are created and delivered into the public. This is most especially true in cases wherein business establishments are compelled to face critical situations and scenarios.
Since advertisements proved to be reliable income sources for many media institutions, advertising pull-outs triggered by (negative) news stories are deemed detrimental. Evidently, the upper class’ economic capabilities have placed them in systemic positions that can control the lower class. Media due to its ubiquitous nature and wide reach have successfully proven that it is indeed, very much capable of changing the behaviors of various viewers or audiences. This argument therefore, further proves that media is an efficient tool of the ruling party to instigate social stratification.
Likewise, the presence of press releases has also prevented media systems from their noble intention of informing and educating the public. Rather, it has become more attuned to the articulation of the upper class’ interests. Press releases are one of the upper class’ weapons to ensure their prominence. If Davis and Moore identified the notion of “self-respect and ego expansion” as one of stratification’s irresistible rewards (qtd in Ferguson 256), then distributing press releases is one sure way of attaining or reaping such rewards.
Unfortunately, it cannot be denied that press releases are one of the most important sources of news stories by many media organizations. This therefore leave the latter dependent on what the upper class can offer, rather than get out of their comfort zones and look for more newsworthy items. The sad part, however, is when press releases are being presented as news items. This scenario is highly reflected in Domhoff’s analysis of marriage’s social value and importance among upper class women (qtd in Ferguson 275).
In his seminal essay, Domhoff discussed how wedding announcements consistently appear in widely circulated newspapers (qtd in Ferguson 276). Wedding ceremonies are highly important in the lives of many individuals. However, as these events become published in renowned print media, feelings of “self-respect and ego expansion (Davis & Moore qtd in Ferguson 256)” are highly felt. Yet, other than that, it cannot be denied that it also increases the upper class’ prominence—something that can be hardly achieved by those who are at the bottom of the social, cultural and political ladder.
Due to their prominence, it would not come as a surprise if news organizations would eventually consider such press releases as news items, which, in reality, is far from being significant and relevant to the public’s lives. In this case, media transform into a seemingly abusive and exploitative machinery since it actually dictates and manipulate the lower class’ perceptions regarding issues that should be considered important or plain irrelevant. More often than not, this particular situation is regarded as media’s agenda-setting function.
The subtle agendas manifested in news items and programs are primarily determined by behind-the-scene ruling parties. Inevitably, media, in this context, do not only protect and safeguard the positions of the upper class, these also support the quest for what Dahrendorf described as “power legitimacy (Slattery 79). ” Amidst these situations, the dream of building an egalitarian society seems to be a far-flung dream. But then again, resolving oppression, if taken seriously, can very much produce change. Some may immediately resort to bloody revolts.
Yet, as Johnson asserted, the initial steps should begin with the acknowledgement of systemic flaws (700). In the context of media as aggregators of elite dominance and social inequality, resistance can be successfully pursued via creating equally important alternatives. If the present media system caters to the need of the few, then perhaps, establishing grassroots media institutions should be built and established. However, in the creation of alternatives, these alternatives must seek every effort to avoid the tendency of being absorbed by the dominant system.
Coexistence alone cannot guarantee change since it does not thoroughly eliminate stratification. Coexistence simply minimizes it. What is therefore needed are alternatives that are strong enough to resist absorption and turn theoretical assumptions into pragmatic solutions.
Works Cited Benton, Ted. Philosophical foundations of the three sociologies. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd. , 1977 Davis, Kingsley and Wilbert Moore. “Some Principles of Stratification” Ed. Susan Ferguson 5th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008. Domhoff, William.
“WHO RULES AMERICA The Corporate Community and the Upper Class. ” Mapping the Social Landscape. Ed. Susan Ferguson 5th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008. Gitlin, Todd. “MEDIA UNLIMITED How the torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives. ” Mapping the Social Landscape. Ed. Susan Ferguson 5th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008. Johnson, Allan. “WHAT CAN WE DO? Becoming Part of the Solution. ” Mapping the Social Landscape. Ed. Susan Ferguson 5th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008. Slattery, Martin. Key Ideas in Sociology. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Ltd. , 2003