Handbook on the Economics of the Internet
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Handbook on the Economics of the Internet

Edited by Johannes M. Bauer and Michael Latzer

As the single most important general purpose technology of recent times, the Internet is transforming the organization, competitive structure and business models of the private, the public and non-profit sectors. In 27 original chapters, leading authors discuss theoretical and applied frameworks for the study of the economics of the Internet and its unique economics as a global information and communications infrastructure. They also examine the effects of the Internet on economic transactions (including social production, advertising, innovation, and intellectual property rights), the economics and management of Internet-based industries (including search, news, entertainment, culture, and virtual worlds), and the effects of the Internet on the economy at large.
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Chapter 8: A political economy approach to the Internet

Patricia Mazepa and Vincent Mosco


Understanding of the means of communication as a world property – a public and globally shared resource – is fundamental to how a political economist approaches the Internet. Dallas Smythe, a founder of this approach, began from this standpoint to identify how such essential resources were the subject of constant power struggles, given relentless efforts to transform a world public property into one where private ownership and control dominates. Rather than taking this as an inevitable, acceptable or desirable outcome, political economists question what is generally taken for granted by orienting the focus on the social relations, social processes and social changes – and thus the power struggles – that constitute the Internet as one of today’s most important forms of world property. This chapter begins with a definition of political economy and explains four fundamental aspects that mark a political economy approach to the Internet. It then distinguishes between historical and current variations to provide an overview of examples moving from the general to specific. This is followed by an explanation of commodification, spatialization and structuration – three social processes that are central to the field – as applied to the Internet. It concludes with a discussion of major directions and distinctive advances in a political economy approach to the Internet today.

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