Communications Policy and Cultural Political Economy: Charting the Collapse of the Neoliberal Consensus in the United States

Brian Dolber


This article charts the fracturing of the neoliberal consensus in the United States through the lens of communications policy activism. I employ a framework of cultural political economy to understand the productive role of communications policy discourse in structuring political alliances in this moment of crisis. Relying on public statements, media accounts, and secondary literature, I discuss debates over three policies—network neutrality, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act—between 2005 and 2016. I argue that the ideological limits placed on these policy discourses exacerbated contradictions within what Nancy Fraser calls the progressive neoliberal bloc. This dialectical process contributed to emerging populist formations on both the right and the left. Thus, I demonstrate the important role of communications policymaking within our broader political alignments. I conclude that media activists may work to forge a multiracial, antineoliberal bloc to remake not just U.S. politics, but also the larger global political economic order, by “laboring” communications policy.


political economy, cultural political economy, communications policy, network neutrality, Stop Online Piracy Act , Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, neoliberalism, historical blocs

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