The Magical-Market World of Disney


  • Janet Wasko





Discussions of the New Economy generally point to media and communication as the dynamic industries that are at the eye of the free market hurricane. The creation of ideas and images, we are told, has overtaken the production of things. The culture of consumer choice that commercial media offer, it is said, provides the basis for free societies and human happiness. Time-Warner CEO Gerald Levin proclaimed on CNN in January 2000 that "the global media is fast becoming the predominant business of the twenty-first century, and we're in a new economic age." In this article I would like to take a look at the Disney company, one of the three largest media firms in the world, and a firm often invoked as the type of company poised to dominate in the twenty-first century. From its evolution as a small Hollywood animation studio, Disney has expanded into a giant media conglomerate (see page 58). From a political-economic perspective we need to ask: How has Disney expanded beyond the commodification of children's culture to the commodification of culture more generally? How does it exemplify in the digital age what Harry Braverman in Labor and Monopoly Capital called "the logic of the universal market"?

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