Government and the Pressrnby Jeremy Blackrn. – • • . • • • • • = « « . ,rnS^^”h ^’^^fefei;- • rrn? • • • • • • % ••••• •’••• f I ip^w**^-‘-^rnSX-:^rn• Jf…rnV . . . ; . ^ , * S 9 ^rn• M ^ -rnIn comparison with its modern rivals, capitalism is the mostrnattractive form of socioeconomic organization for conservatives.rnCapitalism has moved the democratization of society in arnconservative direction, because at the same time that the differingrnwealth and income of individuals ensures that their purchasingrnpower varies, each is a consumer able to make his or herrnown purchasing decisions. This clement of choice and thernneed to shape and cater to it have helped to lead to a major shiftrnin political culture, so that in modern Britain, unlike during thernlate 1940’s, there is now little confidence in central planningrnand state collectivism. Capitalist pressures and possibilitiesrnhave changed societv, leading to a major expansion of the middlernclass. The percentage of the labor force composed of manualrnworkers fell from 75 in 1900 to 47 by 1974 and 36 m 1991.rnA capitalist, eonsumerist, individualist, mobile, predominantlyrnsecular and urban, property-owning democracy developed inrnBritain, and societv was far more atomistic than its predecessors.rnThe young, determined not to be younger copies of theirrnelders, were more willing to try different foods, to holiday in differentrnplaces, to move away from parental religious preferences,rnto go on to higher education or to purchase property.rnMan- conservatives, disturbed by these shifts, seek to blamerncapitalism for the secularism and collapse of deference thatrnworr them. In Britain, a major battle was fought in the latern1980’s and early 90’s between those who supported shoppingrnon Sundays and those who wished to restrict it. Some conservatirnes condemn advertising in general and the Amerieaniza-rn]eremy Black is a professor of history at the University ofrnDurham, Enghind.rntion inspired by capitalist concerns such as McDonald’s. Yet,rnthe alternative to capitalism is a controlled economy, either ostensiblyrnsocialist or socialist in its methods and assumptions,rnand such a situation is not in the interest of conservatives, especiallyrnif they are of a democratic bent.rnThe modern press, indeed the media in general, takes an importantrnrole in this debate. There is a long tradition of uneasernamong conservatives about the liberal traditions of the press,rnone that has not been assuaged by its capitalist rationale. Partly,rnthere is disquiet about the extent to which news and opinionrnare both commodities, a situation that unsettles those who likernto see them in terms of immutable truths. Partly, there is gravernconcern about the influence of the media and the possibilityrnthat opportunities for the dissemination of news and opinionrnwill be controlled, deliberately or otherwise, in a hostile fashion.rnYet, again, it is first necessary to look at the alternatives. Arncentral feature of a country with a capitalist press is that newspapersrnhave had to compete with each other; the alternative, arnformally or informally controlled press, is far less attractive torndemocrats. The capitalist press is best understood in a competitivernlight, though at present there is a worrying tendency towardrnmonopoly positions for commercial, rather than ideological,rnreasons.rnNewspapers have also had to compete with other means ofrnconveying news. These means can essentially be divided intorntwo types. First, there have been other capitalist agencies, bothrnthose involving the culture of print, such as magazines, and,rnmore rccenfly, those using different technology, such as radiornand television. In contrast, there are the far less readily graspedrnnoninstitutional and noncapitalist agencies for formulating andrnFEBRUARY 1996/27rnrnrn