Market Power and the Downsizing of Democracy. Globalization, Communication and Economic Elites in South Korea

Lee, Bong-hyun. 2011. Market Power and the Downsizing of Democracy. Globalization, Communication and Economic Elites in South Korea. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Media and communications engage in social power relations. This thesis aims to investigate the “power value” of media and communications, focusing on the private communication practices of economic elites. The main argument is that, in the age of hyperglobalization, elite private communication plays no less important a part than mass forms of communication in shaping and maintaining economic elite power that operates in a far from transparent and accountable manner. This detachment of media and communications from the public is a symptom of the shrinking of democracy, which sanctions the massive transfer of resources to the organized interests.

For the purpose of empirical study, his thesis investigates the sites or networks of the national and transnational market forces within the historical context of the neo-liberalization of the Korean economy and society since the 1990s. The research shows, via in-depth interviews and qualitative case studies, how increasingly broader areas of the economy are becoming discursively de-politicized and how the closed communicative processes of economic elites are replacing democratic structures. Think-tanks, epistemic communities and policy networks, with their practices of private communication, lobbying and “brain sharing”, often make policy decisions that have a significant impact on the masses. The discrete culture and exclusive elite communication networks which are prevalent in the global-national investment web of intermediaries allow the growth of “invisible power”, which almost completely blocks the vigilance of the public. In the financial market, the cohesive culture, combined with the reflexive and intensive communication environment, generates a system of preferences and evaluations as well as one-sided expectations that have a tremendous impact on corporate management and the whole of society.

The study suggests that we should attend to the growing tendency of the mediation of power that is taking place with minimum reference to the public. This research contributes to the understanding of the “power value” of media and communications by providing an alternative or complementary explanation.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


korea, neo-liberalism, downsizing of democracy, power value of the media and communications, market power, economic elite, financial market, chaebols, intermediary

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2012 18:44

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:29


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