Charles Horton Cooley and the Origins of U.S. Communication Study in Political Economy

Peter Simonson

Abstract


This paper argues that, contrary to received wisdom, political economy lay at the core of the project of communication study at its originating academic moment in North America. It makes that case by reconstructing persistent political economic dimensions in the work of Charles Horton Cooley, who more than anyone else de-serves to be called the intellectual founder of communication study in the U.S. Drawing out previously neglected aspects of Cooley’s thought, it sketches how his pragmatist, social democratic brand of political economics took a holis-tic, historically informed view of the communicative constitution and social or-ganization of selves, institutions, and political cultures. Cooley provides a starting point for a revised understanding of the history of political economic thinking about communication and ways that it has intersected with sociology, cultural study, and democratic theory

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