I. Schiller, professor emeritus of communication at the
Schiller warned of two major trends in
his prolific writings and speeches: the private takeover of public space and
public institutions at home, and
The founding member of UCSD's Department of Communication, Schiller was an immensely popular teacher who always played to packed classrooms and was known for combining his biting criticisms of the media with dry humor and an openness to students' own ideas.
Schiller was a frequent and much sought after contributor to leading journals of opinion, including The Nation and Le Monde Diplomatique.
"Herb Schiller was a valuable
national resource," said Neil Postman, author of "Amusing Ourselves
to Death" and a professor of media ecology at
An economist by training, Schiller turned to the study of the media in the 1960s, publishing "Mass Communications and American Empire" in 1969 and "The Mind Managers" in 1973. The mass media, he argued, were closely tied to the centers of political and economic power. Because of these ties, they often fell short in their most crucial roles of providing a democratic forum and acting as the watchdog of powerful interests. This critique, which represented a dramatic break with the conventional wisdom in communication research at the time, permanently changed the agenda of communication scholarship by reintroducing issues of political and economic power, which had drawn little attention in the 1950s and‘60s. With a very few other scholars, Schiller’s early work founded what came to be known as the critical political economy school of communication research.
Appearing at a time of political
activism both at home and around the world, Schiller's work also had wide
impact beyond the scholarly community, inspiring media critics and activists
of many kinds. It was widely translated, and had perhaps its greatest impact
in developing countries, where the subservience of media to ruling elites and
the dominance of world media markets by
"Herbert Schiller was a media intellectual on a global scale," as Kaarle Nordenstreng, a Finnish scholar and president of the International Association for Mass Communication Research put it. "His ideas traveled well in the divided world of the East, West and South." In the 1970s, when sharp debates arose in UNESCO and other forums over cultural imperialism, Schiller's work was important in defining the position of the critics of Western media industries.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, Schiller turned his attention to the rise of the "information society," publishing, among other works, "Who Knows: Information in the
Age of the Fortune 500" and "Culture Inc.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Expression." In these works, he argued that the new information technologies extended the power relations he criticized in his earlier work, allowing corporate power to penetrate new parts of the world and new areas of life, including education.
Schiller continued writing to the end of his life, recently completing "Living in the Number One Country: Reflections from a Critic of American Empire," which will be published by Seven Stories Press this year. The book is in part an account of the development of his own political ideas.
Schiller was born in 1919 in
His own life, he liked to say,
paralleled in many ways that of the
Schiller came to UCSD in 1970 to establish the Communication Program. Throughout the 1970s, Communication at UCSD was a fragile entity, popular among students but marginal within the academic structure of the university. On a number of occasions it was close to elimination. In 1982, it finally became a regular department of the university, and two years later it established a Ph.D. program, which came to be among the best known worldwide.
"When I arrived here in 1978," recalls Communication Department colleague, Professor Michael Cole, "Herb was the heart, soul, and rallying point for students interested in critical studies of the media. The conversion of Communication from a small program to a large, world-class department, is in no small measure a monument to Herb's energy and determination."
Schiller is survived by his wife Anita
of La Jolla; two sons, Dan, of