Current processes of commodification in Cuba’s mobile and Internet communications surface in the form of an incongruent relationship between the (relatively high) prices for accessing these amenities, provided by a state-owned company, and the (relatively low) salaries of the state-employed workers. While criticizing state-led commodification, this thesis de-naturalizes the idea of communication commodities as private goods, and historicizes the articulation of commodification under state socialism in Cuba. It argues that, on the side of the state socialist management, the commodification of wireless and Internet communications is a state-led strategy for capturing hard currency from the sphere of circulation. Specifically, these processes of commodification are related to transnational value circulation processes such as remittances (income transfers sent to Cubans from family or friends living overseas), and to local commodification processes such as the TRD scheme (state-run hard currency stores) deployed by the socialist state to capture hard currency from remittances since the economic crisis in the 1990s. The research attempts to offer an explanation for commodification on the basis of Political Economy of Communication (PEC) scholarship, however empirical work demonstrates the inability of some of the PEC frameworks developed in the Global North to address commodification under state socialism given its historical complexity. As a result, the analysis grows beyond the proposed framework to suggest the integration of theories on imperialism and political economy from the periphery in future research in order to contribute to the development of a Political Economy of Communication under State Socialism. Finally, the thesis suggests the potential for grassroots-based decommodification of communications in Cuba in the form of state/civil society alliances which could counteract the existing pressures towards commodification that spring from the capitalist and imperialistic relations of production, distribution and exchange that characterize the telecom sector on a global scale.
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Thesis advisor: Reilly, Katherine
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