The Republic of Mass Culture: Journalism, Filmmaking, and Broadcasting in America since 1941.

Author:Pauly, John J.
Position:Book review
 
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Baughman, J. L. (2006). The republic of mass culture: Journalism, filmmaking, and broadcasting in America since 1941 (3d ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 320 pages.

When James Baughman's The Republic of Mass Culture was first published in 1992, reviewers noted its several virtues. Baughman's book offered one of the only credible scholarly overviews of political, economic, and social change in the mass media since World War II. Reviewers were impressed with how skillfully Baughman moved between media, describing the ways in which television, newspapers, magazines, and popular music changed in relation to one another. Unlike many popular histories of the media, Baughman's book wisely referenced the scholarly literature when appropriate.

All these virtues remain in the third edition. Because the scholarly literature on nearly every topic Baughman covers has exploded in the last decade, however, specialists may often find themselves quibbling with his interpretations. For example, this reviewer found the discussion of magazines sketchier than that of other media, and thought that magazines have played a more culturally significant role than he suggests. Nonetheless, taken as a whole, The Republic of Mass Culture continues to feel prudent in its judgments and accurate in its historical claims. Baughman writes with a deft, light touch. The third edition adds a chapter bringing the story up to 2005, as well as a review of "significant new work" (p. 280) as part of the book's bibliographical essay.

Over the years, this reviewer has wondered how this book came to be named. The cleverness of the title may certainly make other readers envious. In the end, however, Baughman does not pay much systematic attention to theories of either republicanism or mass culture. Though the book speaks often of the media and politics, Baughman seems only casually interested in the role media play in redefining notions of...

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