LIS 767/867

Fall 2006

Political Economy of Information


Instructor:         Dr. Samuel E. Trosow

Time & Place   Thursday 1:30-4:20 – 266 NCB (Conference Room)

Office: 259 NCB, 661-2111 x88498  


Description: This course gives a graduate-level introduction to the political economy perspective on library and information science. It examines the intersections between social relations of power and wealth and changing means of communication. The emphasis is on theory and broad historical overview. The course treats policy in the broadest sense, as a regime of power and control of the social processes of communication, and the production, organization, distribution, and use of information.


(Note: In the Fall of 2006, special emphasis will be placed on the issues pertaining to public library and other government information services)




20% Prepared weekly responses to the readings; may include substantial questions about or comment on some aspect of the weekly readings.  Ph.D students to prepare every week.  MLIS students to prepare four times throughout the term (@5%) as to be assigned in class. E-mail to class list, no later than 8 pm the evening before the readings are to be discussed. These responses will help organize the class discussions, which will be conducted as a graduate seminar.


20 % Short essay (approximately 5 pages), question to be distributed in class approximately 3rd week to be due app. 5th week. 


50 % Final paper. Approx 20-25 for MLIS students (25-35 pages for Ph.D. students), on a topic of your choice relevant to course themes and selected in consultation with instructor. Final paper is due last day of class to be graded on literacy, organization, argument, originality, and quality of research. Topic should be selected by mid-term and a paper outline, introduction should be submitted by app. 10th week  (exact dates tba)

Each student will be asked to make a conference style presentation of their paper, at the last class session, which will be taken into account for your paper grade


10% Participation. For intelligent, constructive participation in seminar discussions. 


 Tentative course schedule

(additional readings tba)


September 7th: Introductions & Overview of Course


September 14th: Metatheoretical Issues & Introduction to Political Economy


Political Economy and the Economics of Information


·        Vincent Mosco, The Political Economy of Communications: Rethinking and Renewal. (Chapters 1-2)

·        Benjamin Bates (in Mosco, Vincent & Janet Wasko (eds.) Political Economy of Information (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988).  On Reserve in IMS

·        DeLong, J. Bradford  and A. Michael Froomkin, “Speculative Microeconomics for Tomorrow's Economy” First Monday 5(2) (February 2000).

·        Goldhaber, Michael H. “The Attention Economy and the Net” First Monday 2(4) (April 1997).

·        Ghosh, Rishab Aiyer. Economics Is Dead. Long Live Economics! A Commentary on Michael Goldhaber’s "The Attention Economy." First Monday 2(5) (May 1997).

·        Goldhaber, Michael H. “What’s the Right Economics for Cyberspace.” First Monday 2(7) (July 1997 (rejoinder to Ghosh)

·        Schiller, Dan.  The Information Commodity: A Preliminary View. (pp. 103-120) in Davis, Jim, Thomas A. Hirschl and Michael Stack [Eds.] Cutting Edge: Technology, Information, Capitalism, and Social Revolution, (NY: Verso, 1997) QA76.9.C66C88 1997 (on reserve in IMS). (or read Schiller article in Mosco & Wasko)


September 21st: Intro to Political Economy of Information (cont’d)

& Metatheoretical Framework


·        Finish readings from Sept 14th

·        Gibson Burrell & Gareth Morgan, Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis (Introduction & Chapters 1-3)

·        Standpoint Epistemology as an Alternative Methodology for Library and Information Science, Library Quarterly 71 (3): 360-382, (July 2001)

·        Christine Pawley. Hegemony's Handmaiden?: The library and information studies curriculum from a class perspective. Library Quarterly 68(2) 1998: 123-144.


September 28th: A political economy of librarianship/information services?


·        Birdsall, William F. 2000. “A Political Economy of Librarianship?” Hermes: Revue Critique, no. 6.


·        Ruth Rikowski, The Corporate Takeover of Libraries . Information for Social Change, Vol. 14  (Read section 2, “The corporate takeover of libraries: commercialisation, privatisation and capitalization.”)


·        Roma Harris, “Information for Sale: Profit versus Public Good—What happened to the Librarians?” Chapter 8 in Librarianship: The Erosion of a Woman’s Profession/. (pp.145-160) (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1992).


·        Michael H. Harris, “State, Class and Cultural Reproduction: Towards a Theory of Library Service in the United States.” In Advances in Librarianship volume 14, edited by Wesley Simonton, (N.Y.: Academic Press, 1986).


·        Samuel Trosow & Kirsti Nilsen. Constraining Public Libraries: The WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (Lanham MD, Scarecrow Press, 2006 (Chapter 5, “The Perils of Privatization: Commercialization and Privatization of Public Libraries and Library Services, pp. 89-114)


October 5th    A political economy of librarianship/information services? (continued)


·        Finish  readings from Sept 28th


·        John E. Buschman, Dismantling the Public Sphere: Situating and Sustaining Librarianship in the Age of the New Public Philosophy. (Westport, CT, Libraries Unlimited, 2003) Chapters 1, 4, 6, 9 (on reserve)


·        Hampton Auld, (ed). Patrons, Customers, Users, Clients: Who are the and what difference does it make what we call them? Public Libraries (March / April 2004) pp 81-87.

·        Other articles dealing with library & information services


October 12th : The commodity form and information


·        David Harvey, Limits to Capital, new edition (London, Verso, 1999) Chapter 1 (Commodities, Value and Class Relations, pp. 1-38)


·        Karl Marx, Capital (volume 1, chapter 1)


October 19th:

·        Dyer-Witheford, Chapters 1-


·        Tessa Morris-Suzuki, “Capitalism in the Computer Age,” (pp 57-71) in Cutting Edge.




October 26 Cycles and Circuits

·        Dyer-Witheford, Chapters 4-6

·        Martin Kenney, “Value Creation in the Late Twentieth Century: The Rise of the Knowledge Worker,” (pp 87-102) in Cutting Edge.


November 2nd (No Class)


November 9th:

·        Dyer-Witheford, Chapters 7-9

·        Marx, Grundrisse (699-743?)


November 16th: The commodification of information & knowledge, enclosures and the commons  (readings tba)


November 23rd:

The commodification of information & knowledge: International aspects


·        Ruth Rikowski, The Corporate Takeover of Libraries . Information for Social Change, Vol. 14 


·        Ruth Rikowski, Globalisation, Information & Libraries: The Implications of the TO’s GATS and TRIPS Agreement. (Oxford, Chandos Publishing, 2005) On reserve in IMS Chapters 11 and 12.



November 30th:


On the borders of political economy


·        Doug Kellner, “Overcoming the Divide: Cultural Studies and Political Economy,” (pp. 102-120) in Marjorie Ferguson and Peter Golding [Eds.], Cultural Studies in Question. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997)

·        Other readings tba


December 7th:


In class presentations and class wrap-up