Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Culture Industry


Artist Sylvie Fluery, 2002


Theodor Adono is co-author of the text titled, "The Culture Industy" from 1944. Adorno wrote with Max Horkheimer, but it was Adorno who made a life long committment to the theory, so it is normally associated with him.


The Frankfurt School was a school of thought, a group of scholars associated with the “Institute for Social Research” founded in 1923 in Frankfurt, Germany until 1933, then elsewhere
•The scholars used a Neo-Marxist approach that combined sociology and philosophy to make the cultural theory that constitutes today’s “media theory”
•They relied on Marx’ idea of class/power structures and the use/myth value of the commodity
•Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno are the most well known members
•Some people argue that they legitimized “critical” theory, and negated the honest philosophical quest for truth

The culture industry refers to the sysytem of production of culture. It is important to understand that all cultures have cultural goods that are specific to their region or values. A media product is cultural good. It is the cultural goods that are then exchanged, while culture itself remains communal and cannot be bought or sold. In the contemporary global world we have many American and Western products that dominate global exchange, especially in Europe.



Adorno wrote, “Culture now impresses the same stamp on everything.” Media gives the stamp of approval. The actual culture industry is the entire system of mass cultural production from mass made dvd’s to manufactured home d├ęcor. Adorno explains that the real world must pass through the filter of the culture industry so that particular cultures are merged with capitalist culture.


This image is from the British National Party on a site discussing the issue of exporting Disney

The culture industry can also be understood as the "media machine" that builds and supports particular media in every area so that you see a media product on the internet, television, magazine and book form as well in entertainment news.

Adorno also describes that one problem for the whole “cult of objects” is that advertising, already in 1944, was not informing a consumer but simply dazzling him. But Adorno concludes by saying consumers already know this: “The triumph of advertising in the culture industry is that consumers feel compelled to buy and use products even though they can see right through them.”

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