Networks, Corporations, and the Struggle for Global Governance in the Early 20th Century
392 pp., 6 x 9 in, 4 b&w illus.
- Published: July 12, 2019
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: August 6, 2019
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How early twentieth-century American policymakers sought to gain control over radiotelegraphy networks in an effort to advance the global position of the United States.
In Reluctant Power, Rita Zajácz examines how early twentieth century American policymakers sought to gain control over radiotelegraphy networks in an effort to advance the global position of the United States. Doing so, she develops an analytical framework for understanding the struggle for network control that can be applied not only to American attempts to establish a global radio network in the early twentieth century but also to current US efforts to retain control of the internet.
In the late nineteenth century, Britain was seen to control both the high seas and the global cable communication network under the sea. By the turn of the twentieth century, Britain's geopolitical rivals, including the United States, looked to radiotelegraphy that could circumvent Britain's dominance. Zajácz traces policymakers' attempts to grapple with both a new technology—radiotelegraphy—and a new corporate form: the multinational corporation, which managed the network and acted as a crucial intermediary. She argues that both foreign policy and domestic radio legislation were shaped by the desire to harness radiotelegraphy for geopolitical purposes and reveals how communication policy and aspects of the American legal system adjusted to the demands of a rising power. The United States was a reluctant power during the early twentieth century, because policymakers were unsure that companies headquartered in the United States were sufficiently American and doubted that their strategies served the national interest.
Prof. Zajácz impressively brings archival research and a wide range of scholarly discussions together to make a crucial point: national communications policy is international media policy in the U.S. as elsewhere. One can't understand one without the other. The tense relations between global capital and territorial control are always present.
Thomas Streeter, Professor of Information and Media Studies, Western University, London Ontario, Canada; author of Selling the Air: A Critique of the Policy of Commercial Broadcasting in the United States and The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet
Zajácz invites you to rethink the roots of globalization and power in the twentieth century. Her focal point is the evolving American aspiration for “network control” of global radio telecommunication. She traces the interaction of technology, territory, and capital -- key then and now to debates over the evolution of our international communication infrastructure.
W. Russell Neuman, Professor of Media Technology, New York University, author of The Digital Difference: Media Technology and the Theory of Communication Effects
Deeply researched and meticulously argued, Reluctant Power unlocks the heretofore hidden dynamics of American media dominance established in the early decades of the 20th century. Not just media scholars but all who are interested in ways that today's multinational communications corporations interact with state power will find this a compelling read.
Michele Hilmes, Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Rita Zajácz tells a story of ambition, intrigue, and policy as the United States sought control over the new communications infrastructure of radiotelegraphy, in the early twentieth century and ultimately challenged the British Empire for global domination. The lessons drawn here are especially timely for the twenty-first century.
Jorge Reina Schement, Distinguished Professor of Communication Policy, Rutgers University