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Towards a critical theory of communication as renewal and update of Marxist humanism in the age of digital capitalism

A Research Paper by Christian Fuchs, published by Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour

This paper’s task is to outline some foundations of a critical, Marxist‐humanist theory of communication in the age of digital capitalism. It theorises the role of communication in society, communication and alienation, communication in social struggles, social struggles for democratic communication, the contradictions of digital capitalism, and struggles for digital socialist humanism.

Marxist humanism is a counter‐narrative, counter‐theory, and counter‐politics to neoliberalism, new authoritarianism, and postmodernism. A critical theory of communication can should draw on this intellectual tradition. Communication and work stand in a dialectical relationship. Communication mediates, organises and is the process of the production of sociality and therefore of the reproduction of society. Society and communication are in class and capitalist societies shaped by the antagonism between instrumental and co‐operative reason. Authoritarianism and humanism are two basic, antagonistic modes of organisation of society and communication. Instrumental reason creates and universalises alienation.

Digital capitalism is a dimension of contemporary society where digital technologies such as the computer, the Internet, the mobile phone, tablets, robots, and AI‐driven (“smart”) technologies mediate the accumulation of capital, influence, and reputation. A Marxist‐humanist theory of communication aims to inform struggles for a good, commons‐based, public Internet in a good, commons‐based society that has a vivid, democratic public sphere.


Photo by OSPAN ALI on Unsplash

Christian Fuchs


Christian Fuchs is Professor at, and the Director of, the Communication and Media Research Institute. He is also Director of the Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies.

His fields of expertise are critical digital & social media studies, Internet & society, political economy of media and communication, information society theory, social theory and critical theory.


22 July 2020
Published By
Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour
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