Monday, September 14, 2009

Analysis Question #1: The "Political-Economy" Approach Applied to Tourism

Do you think the "political-economy" concerns that have driven much of the debate in IC research over the past decades are still relevant? If so, why?

In the introduction of Daya Thussu’s chapter entitled, “Approaches to Theorizing International Communication”, he highlights the notion that theories are products of their own history. Generally, theories and approaches generate out of enormous change similar to the Industrial Revolution or the aftermath of WWII. That said, Thussu discusses the roots of this approach in capitalism. The tenants are embedded with power relations and economic structures. The more specific theories emanating from this umbrella called the “political-economy” approach are modernization, dependency, hegemony, critical theory, and the public sphere theories. There is no doubt that the role of free market, neoliberal capitalism is alive and well in today’s society. It has certainly facilitated the ever-expanding interconnections (economic, political, and cultural) of societies around the world and given rise to what Castells calls the ‘global civil society’. While the origins of this approach may have come about in the days of the Industrial Revolution with the ‘father of capitalism’, Karl Marx, it is still extremely relevant.

My reasoning for believing there is still relevance in this approach within research derives from inspiration from Professor Chin’s Tourism and Globalization seminar in which I am enrolled this semester. As I was reading an article, for her class, written by Malcolm Crick called “Representations of International Tourism: Sun, Sex, Sights, Savings, and Servility”, I began to realize the extent to which the “political-economy” approach is pivotal to understand how tourism, economic development, and the political economy converge. In this applied example of tourism, what might be of greater importance is not what the “political-economy” approach highlights but rather what it fails to fully acknowledge. The tourism industry is young and, as such, research and subsequent literature is in the process of emerging. What I have learned is that tourism is inextricably linked with the “political-economy” approach because its origins date back to the era of imperialism. Tourism development should not only be looked at as raising a country’s GNP or foreign exchange, but should examine the extent to which other societal indicators (for example, levels of education, health care systems, and even sanitation systems) are static. (Crick, 319). This is where I believe the nexus of the political-economy approach and the cultural studies approach occurs (or should occur), to cope with vast change in the international system. In tourism and in other topics within the discipline of international communication, there will always be notions of power at play whether its in the hands of one dominant actor or shared among many actors. It is how we legitimize these notions of power (political, cultural, and economic) through the use of international media that are of increasing importance. This is especially true as, around the world, people have more and more access to the media facilitated through information technology.

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