Media and ModernityA Social Theory of the Media
Media and Modernity
A Social Theory of the Media

What role have communication media played in the formation of modern societies? How should we understand the social impact of new forms of communication and information diffusion, from the advent of printing in fifteenth-century Europe to the expansion of global communication networks today?

In this major work, Thompson addresses these and other questions by elaborating a distinctive social theory of communication media and their impact. He argues that the development of communication media has transformed the spatial and temporal constitution of social life, creating new forms of action and interaction which are no longer linked to the sharing of a common locale. The consequences of this transformation are far-reaching and impinge on many aspects of our lives, from the most intimate aspects of personal experience and self-formation to the changing nature of power and visibility in the public domain.

Drawing on the work of social and political theorists, cultural historians and communication researchers, Thompson develops his argument through an analysis of several interrelated themes: the rise of mediated interaction; the creation of new forms of mediated visibility, the emergence of global communication networks, the transformation of tradition, the reshaping of the process of self-formation, and the changing character of the public sphere.

Combining breadth of vision with sensitivity to detail, this book situates the study of the media where it belongs, among a set of disciplines concerned with the emergence, development and structural characteristics of modern societies and their futures.

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More Info
  • December 1995
  • 328 pages
  • 158 x 232 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Open eBook $23.00
  • 9780745656748
Table of Contents


1. Communication and Social Context.

2. The Media and the Development of Modern Societies.

3. The Rise of Mediated Interaction.

4. The Transformation of Visibility.

5. The Globalization of Communication.

6. The Re-mooring of Tradition.

7. Self and Experience in a Mediated World.

8. The Re-invention of Publicness.



About the Author
John B. Thompson is Reader in Sociology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge.
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"This book is comprehensive and magisterial, and at the same time enormously readable. It will undoubtedly become one of the very few definitive texts in the rapidly growing field of media and cultural studies, providing a crucial link to critical theory and to social theory as a whole."
Professor William Outhwaite, University of Sussex

"An extremely powerful and sustained diagnosis of mass media at the turn of the twenty-first century, a diagnosis that is neither idealizing nor apocalyptic. Thompson's book deserves to become a definitive text and should have a lasting impact in the sociology of media and culture."
The Australian

"A new book by Thompson in which he compresses and refines his ideas on theorising the media is ... particularly welcome. In this book we have an example of someone writing with tremendous confidence, in self-evident command of both a broad historical sweep and a wide range of relevant studies and theories. With the publication of his book Thompson should move the sociology of mass communication onto a new level of sophistication ... an important publication."

"The Media and Modernity is refreshingly optimistic in offering a constructive, yet sensible, alternative to the doom and gloom with which the modern media are often regarded. It is impressive in its scope, often insightful in its analysis, and solidly grounded in its arguments, and so makes a valuable contribution to the fields of both media sociology and social theory."
British Journal of Sociology

"As an introduction to and an overview of the literature on the interrelations between society, democracy and the media, this book is an invaluable text and may stimulate further reading in more specialist literature."
Acta Politica

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