Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Book sections

Serialization in the age of finance capitalism

Abstract : How might we critically approach the television series in a way that accounts for the nature of its form, a form which carries both ideological and economic ramifications? Few would deny that series fit awkwardly into an academic framework, by reason of their industrial volume, and because audience interest declines rapidly once they have disappeared from the screen. One could try to constitute a canon as in literary or film studies, but it is nevertheless difficult, if not impossible, to fully circumscribe a "work" sometimes extending to hundreds of episodes. 1 The choice made here is a synthesis, in very general terms, which encompasses the more commercial network series and the "quality" series produced by cable television, and which integrates on an equal basis the three terms evoked in the opening sentence: ideology , economy, and … form. Any direct attempt to relate the ideological and economic dimensions of a particular series is more or less doomed to the reductionism of the base/superstructure model. We would do well to remember, however, that the very principle of seriality in its two historical forms, the serial and the series, was determined from the outset by commercial factors, beginning with the serialized publications, both in 1836, of Balzac's La Vieille Fille in France, and of Dick-ens' The Pickwick Papers in Britain. In effect, serialization was invented to increase and consolidate the circulation of the periodic press. For similarly commercial reasons, the recurring main character was a mainstay of popular genre literature, especially the detective novel. 2 For the sake of argument, in purely formal terms, the television series can be seen as a derivative of what was originally a literary form. Seriality in its different guises has never existed outside of considerations of economic rationality (unless one wants to stretch a point). The daytime serial and the weekly series were present at the beginning of the television medium as privileged forms that enabled the advance sale of advertising time on the basis of relatively predictable audience levels. I propose therefore to explore the link between the economic and the ideological through the mediation of form, especially through the internal variations within the series form. For my purposes, the internal form adopted by the series at a given historical moment preempts the analysis of the content of any particular series (and thus, a fortiori, of any particular episode) Three theoretical suppositions anchor my argument. First, Adorno's claim that "form … is itself sedimented content" (Adorno, Adorno, and Tiedeman, 1997; see also the discussions in Jameson, 1990, 1992). The context here is a philosophical argument about the autonomy of "authentic" art, and Adorno would surely not have approved of its application to products of
Document type :
Book sections
Complete list of metadatas

Cited literature [25 references]  Display  Hide  Download
Contributor : Administrateur Hal Nanterre <>
Submitted on : Monday, October 21, 2019 - 10:34:15 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 1:47:32 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Wednesday, January 22, 2020 - 1:57:33 PM


Explicit agreement for this submission


  • HAL Id : hal-02321361, version 1


David Buxton. Serialization in the age of finance capitalism. Matt Seybold; Michelle Chihara. The Routledge Companion to Literature and Economics, Routledge, pp.406-414, 2019, 9781138190870. ⟨hal-02321361⟩



Record views


Files downloads