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date: 21 November 2019

Summary and Keywords

Materialism emerged as the beginning of philosophical (as opposed to mystical or religious) thought in ancient India and Greece around the 6th century bce and has from the beginning been associated with the investigation of the world in its complexity beyond the relatively immediate appearance of phenomena to human sense and thought. The thinkers whose concepts inform contemporary materialist approaches to critical communication studies can be traced through historical developments of materialist thoughts in antiquity, the premodern and modern eras, and leading up to the present day. Familiar, emerging, and potential discussions of the nature and formation of consciousness in natural and social life inform the critical study of communication, particularly rhetoric. Particular attention is paid to the relation of materialism and varieties of Marxist and post-Marxist thought, and these are situated within debates in the field of critical communication studies, particularly rhetoric. Concepts originating from the early-20th-century USSR, associated with “creative” Soviet philosophy and activity theory, are less familiar (to this field) but are pertinent to the area of materialist thought. While this area of philosophy has not yet developed deeply or been promulgated widely in communication studies, it is suited to participate in the current conversation about materialism in communication, consciousness, and practice. Its chief contribution is a treatment of the ideal in materialism that resists both reduction and dualism. It also brings to the fore important questions about the place of human activity, including thought, in the material world.

Keywords: materialism, Marxism, new materialism, structuralism, poststructuralism, philosophy, rhetoric, activity theory, communication and critical studies

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