Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Culture Industry - notes

         Two of Frankfurt School’s key theorists Max Horkheimer and T.W. Adorno in their book "Dialectic of Enlightenmentdeveloped an account of the "culture industry" to call attention to the industrialization and commercialization of culture under capitalist relations of production
         They coined the term "culture industry" to signify the process of the industrialization of mass-produced culture and the commercial imperatives that drove the system

         They analyzed all mass-mediated cultural artifacts within the context of industrial production
         They argued the commodities of the culture industries exhibited the same features as other products of mass production:
        commodification,
        standardization, and
        massification
         The culture industries had the specific function, however, of providing ideological legitimation of the existing capitalist societies and of integrating individuals into its way of life

The Culture Industry:
"The whole world is made to pass through the filter of the culture industry.“ (--Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer from Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944)

         Moving through nearly all aspects of the popular culture of their time--movies, radio, music--they argue that the logic of modern capitalism deskills labor and concurrently dumbs down culture.  The result is a world in which a mass public has trouble distinguishing between the real world and the illusory world created by the industry of culture.
         The values perpetuated by the media were contradictory to the values of the radical Enlightenment tradition. The masses are ‘dumbed’ by the banality of the media. Their ability to function efficiently as citizens in a democratic state is replaced by their ceaseless consumption of culture or products, or both.
         Though the functionalist and Marxist approaches are radically different in their underlying assumptions, they are similar in that they both presume audiences to be passive and powerless.
         They critique society as being in a state of false consciousness, a consciousness which hides the reality of domination and oppression of the masses under capitalism.  The role of the media in this framework is to offer to consumers propaganda which lulls them into accepting their conditions.

         In their theories of the culture industries and critiques of mass culture, Adorno and Horkheimer were among the first social theorists to note its importance in the reproduction of contemporary societies
         In their view, mass culture and communications stand in the center of leisure activity, are important agents of socialization, mediators of political reality, and should thus be seen as major institutions of contemporary societies with a variety of economic, political, cultural and social effects
         Furthermore, the critical theorists investigated the cultural industries in a political context as a form of the integration of the working class into capitalist societies
         The Frankfurt school theorists were among the first neo-Marxian groups to examine the effects of mass culture and the rise of the consumer society on the working classes

         They argued that the system of cultural production dominated by film, radio broadcasting, newspapers, and magazines, was controlled by advertising and commercial imperatives, and served to create subservience to the system of consumer capitalism
         Later, critics pronounced their approach too manipulative, reductive, and elitist.
         However, it still provides an important corrective to more populist approaches to media culture that downplay the way the media industries exert power over audiences and help produce thought and behavior that conforms to the existing society

         The culture industry thesis described both the production of massified cultural products and homogenized subjectivities
         Mass culture for the Frankfurt School produced desires, dreams, hopes, fears, and longings, as well as unending desire for consumer products
         The culture industry produced cultural consumers who would consume its products and conform to the dictates and the behaviors of the existing society 

         Frankfurt school work was an articulation of a theory of the stage of state and monopoly capitalism that became dominant during the 1930s
         This was an era of large organizations
         The state and giant corporations manage the economy and individuals submit to state and corporate control
         This period is often described as "Fordism" to designate the system of mass production and the homogenizing regime of capital which wanted to produce mass desires, tastes, and behavior 

         Fordism was an era of mass production and consumption characterized by uniformity and homogeneity of needs, thought, and behavior producing a mass society
         Frankfurt school described it as "the end of the individual"
         No longer was individual thought and action the motor of social and cultural progress
         Instead giant organizations and institutions overpowered individuals

         During this period, mass culture and communication were instrumental in generating the modes of thought and behavior appropriate to a highly organized and massified social order
         Thus, the Frankfurt school theory of the culture industry articulates a major historical shift to an era in which mass consumption and culture was indispensable to producing a consumer society based on homogeneous needs and desires for mass-produced products and a mass society based on social organization and homogeneity

         The culture industry fuses the old and familiar into a new quality
         The culture industry is not like mass culture which arises spontaneously from the masses themselves
         The products are tailored for consumption by masses
         These products and the nature of consumption are manufactured more or less according to plan

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