Alienating and Reorganizing Cultural Goods: Using Lefebvre’s Controlled Consumption Model to Theorize Media Industry Change

James N. Gilmore


The primary objective of this article is to develop social theorist Henri Lefebvre’s notion of a bureaucratic society of controlled consumption as a useful theoretical model for media studies researchers. Developing a model that draws on four processes of “controlled consumption”—instantiating, programming, alienating, and reorganizing—this article first explains how this theory and these components can provide useful analytic pathways for media research, and, in particular, the ongoing processes of moving media consumption onto streaming platforms. The second half of the article demonstrates one way this model might be used through a critical discourse analysis of how industry trade press framed the 2014 release of The Interview as an example of how members of the film industry responded to a crisis situation by shifting to online rentals under the goal of reorganizing distribution through controlled consumption processes. The article concludes by suggesting this theoretical model may have a number of further uses and developments for studying larger rearticulations and contextual transformations across various media industries.



controlled consumption, streaming, The Interview, distribution, media industries

Full Text: