2. Critical Theory and the Critique of the ‘Culture Industry’ This lecture considers how the Critical Theorists of the Frankfurt School sought to understand the relationship of culture and society in an age of advanced capitalism and mass media. It explores their analyses of popular culture, and poses the question of whether the term ‘culture industry’ has now lost its original, critical meaning. Key thinkers: Marx, Gramsci, Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin
1.Has the mechanical reproduction of art opened up possibilities of a more democratic appreciation, or merely reduced it to the status of a commodity? 2.
Has ‘the Culture Industry’ killed ‘High Culture’?
Walter Benjamin (1936)
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (1944)
The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception
article 1: Walter Benjamin (1936)
Reference: “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” Keywords: Film, Aura, Capitalism, Fascism, Media Criticism, Fan Culture, Mass Communication One sentence summary:
This essay is important for understanding the intersections of art, technology, and politics under capitalism.
One paragraph abstract:
Technology has allowed the mechanical reproduction of works of art that has changed art from ritual objects to objects for exhibition. This reproduction devalues the art because it has no aura. This change means that technology can put the reproduction in a situation where the original would never go—-so the Mona Lisa is now a postcard. People who would never have access to actually seeing the original can see it across the world (221). Film and photography have revolutionary potential that is squashed by capitalism and very dangerous in the hands of fascists. Unique Contributions to the Field:
Benjamin, a German Jew who fled his home wrote this in 1936. He was a friend of Adorno and Horkheimer’s and eventually immigrated to the USA before killing himself. It did not become wildly used until it was translated in 1968. His work is important because it analyses how art has changed under capitalism, how it is potentially revolutionary, and how it is potentially dangerous. AURA and Authenticity
Reproductions are lacking a “unique existence” (aura) in time and space (220). Reproductions don’t hold history in a material way like originals. When an original work of art changes hands—that history is recorded on/in the art and becomes part of it. So, if the Mona Lisa was owned by someone who damaged it—that damage becomes part of the original. Originals therefore have authenticity. The reproduction is always devalued—it is lacking in “aura”—“the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition” (221). So, a painting has aura, yet a photograph of it does not. Seeing the original art work often moves a person emotionally the way seeing a reproduction does not. Photography as a “revolutionary” means of reproduction happened simultaneously with the rise of socialism. Cult Value vs. Exhibition Value:
“Instead of being based on ritual,” Benjamin asserts the function of art “begins to be based on another practice—politics” (p. 224). Art changed with capitalism, it is no longer in the domain of the religious, the sacred—instead it is involved in political struggles of the time. So, photography documents the “scene of a crime” and “needs captions” – precisely because it is to be consumed by the masses motivated by politics. Think of the caption of a photograph and how that changes what you actually see/read in a photo—this is politically motivated. So, the same photo of military vets can read—“Local heroes support Obama” or “Vets turn out to protest Obama” (exhibition value). 在政治背景的影响下，自己有自己的解读方式，人的背景社会背景有更多的联系。 Mechanical reproduction frees ART from ritual uses—but instead becomes bound with politics! 223-224
How is this useful for media criticism
The difference between theater and film is also about loss of aura. A play (has aura) is always different because the actors interact with the audience and each performance is unique. A film, however has no audience—the actors usually only perform tiny fragments of the whole and generally not even in order….movies are pieced together by editors. Film 也是一种reproduction。 Audience Reception:
Watching a film is a collective experience and each audience member is a critic—its part of the fun. Think of a newsreel—when a group of people witness an event they are educated on something and they can become politically active because of it (For example, although he was talking about the potential for class revolt–Benjamin would be proven correct when American men and women were motivated by newsreels in WWII美国人民在二战的时期受过新闻短片的影响。新闻短片在这儿来看是一种political propaganda). 看新闻是一种educated你。受众是一种被动的过程，受众接受what they want to tell you. Capitalism/Fan Culture:
But just as the medium has the potential to be used in the Revolution, it cannot be because it is controlled by capitalism (this might be a good connection to the Hollywood Censored book). Because of the way capitalism operates, there is a false consciousness between the actors and audience. The actors become held up as having “cult value” (ritual value).艺术价值都是资本主义堆砌出来的。资本主义怎样去包装就是艺术怎样变成reproduction的赚钱工具。 Facism/Propaganda:
So, the industry denies audiences access to truly participate in the film while selling the values of X. The eye cannot really grasp what is before it in moving pictures—under NAZI fascism the powers of propaganda were realized. CCI culture industry 被更多运用于propaganda. Propaganda的作用。 Quotes:
“By the absolute emphasis on its exhibition value as opposed to an ahistorical cult value, the work of art becomes a creation with entirely new functions, among which the one we are conscious of, the artistic function, later may be recognized as incidental 附属的” (225). “The audience’s identification with the actor is really an identification with the camera” (p. 228). Film has a potentially revolutionary use value in that it enables us to explore and understand our world and our historical situation: “the film, on the one hand, extends our comprehension of the necessities which rule our lives; on the other hand it manages to assure us of an immense and unexpected field of action” (p. 235). The industry [is]…“trying hard to spur刺激鼓舞 the interest of the masses through illusion promoting spectacles and dubious speculations” (p. 233). MORE NOTES:
For Benjamin, Mechanical Reproduction included newspapers, film, photography, lithographs…etc. Technology created a way for mass communication—that is reproduction enabled many more people to have access to art than before. Lithographs in the 1880’s allowed for newspapers with illustrations, photography soon followed…. this allowed for the mechanical reproduction of art—that is a photograph of art can be mass produced bringing access to art to the masses—regardless of geography (or time). Photography/reproduced art displaces the “cult” value and instead is based on exhibition value. It becomes a way of documenting the “scene of a crime—used a evidence-and it needs “captions.”
Structuralism and Roland Barthes
Article 2 : Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (1944)
Reading reference: “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.” (1944) School of thought:
This reading about the development and deployment of the culture industry as
a tool of mass control and conditioning. One-paragraph abstract:
Context: Written in 1944 (approximately) by two German expatriates living in New York. Purpose: To decry the culture industry and it’s perceived agenda of homogenizing and manipulating the public. Key findings and conclusions: Adorno and Horkheimer argue that, with the advent of film, radio, and magazines, consumers are tricked into the belief that they have choice. The trick lies in the fact that there is little variation between the products of studio A and studio B or novelty song A and novelty song B. They argue that the culture industry is built on style, not truth, （只讲value 只讲function culture industry 只讲包装不讲内涵。）and that close examination is generally discouraged. Finally, they emphasize the consequences of non-conformity; those who do not assimilate according to the dictates of the culture industry will be subject to “economic impotence…intellectual powerlessness,” and a reputation as “an eccentric loner.” They elaborate further on this final point, saying that while “formal freedom is guaranteed,” there is still social control exerted by almost every system such as churches, schools, and other organizations. Unique contributions to its field:
This piece emerged in the waning years of World War II, where the lessons taught by a totalitarian dictatorship were still at the forefront of political and intellectual discourse. Horkheimer and Adorno’s concerns about the reach and influence of the culture industry were not unfounded; however, to a contemporary eye they seem to be somewhat overstated. That is not to say, however, that they were not also somewhat prescient. Some of their warnings about the alert consumption of media “even in a state of distraction” and the pressure to keep up so that “no one…appear stupid even for a moment [while] emulating the smartness displayed and propagated by the production” are now a part of modern life. Furthermore their analysis of the culture industry and consumers as part of a larger capitalistic machine rings true, both from a historic and a present perspective. The culture industry, regardless of its products, is a business first and its continued existence is only guaranteed so long as it convinces consumers that its version of culture is not only correct but also indispensable. Culture industry作为一个更大的资本主义下的赚钱机器。那个时候越赚钱越里文化越远。 How to use this article?
I can see this article working well in conjunction with the idea of passive/active or distracted consumption of media and the idea that media is, in a way, the background noise to our world even as it provides much of the material that binds us together. I can also see how their discussion of genuine style vs. caricature of style could be of use when discussing the concept of authenticity. For my own work, I would love to take apart the premise that watching Donald Duck conditions viewers to accept “the breaking of all individual resistance.” Barney, yes. Donald Duck, maybe not. My major critique of this article:
Adorno and Horkheimer are the Statler and Waldorf of the Frankfurt School, if not of the breadth and depth of cultural studies as a whole. This piece is replete with “back in my day” and “you kids today don’t know what good culture is,” and their constant drumbeat of negativity (“Fun is a medicinal bath,” for example) makes it difficult to sort the relevant commentary from their elitism and bitterness. For all of the astute observations, the writing occasionally has the faint whiff of sour grapes. Pertinent quotes:
“Sharp distinctions like those between A and B films, or between short stories published in magazines in different price segments, do not so much reflect real differences as assist in the classification, organization, and identification of consumers.” On the culture industry’s focus on detail rather than the larger picture: “Lacking both contrast and relatedness, the whole and the detail look alike.” “The whole world is passed through the filter of the culture industry.” “[F]ilm denies its audience any dimension in which they might roam freely in imagination…” “[P]eople can still make their way, provided they do not look too closely at their true purpose and are willing to be compliant.” “By artfully sanctioning the demand for trash, the system inaugurates total harmony. Connoisseurship and expertise are proscribed as the arrogance of those who think themselves superior, whereas culture distributes its privileges democratically to all.” “This principle requires that while all needs should be presented to individuals as capable of fulfillment by the culture industry, they should be so set up in advance that individuals experience themselves through their needs only as eternal consumers, as the culture industry’s object.” “The advance of stupidity must not lag behind the simultaneous advance of intelligence.” “Beauty is whatever the camera reproduces.”
“What is repeated is healthy – the cycle in nature as in industry.” “Formal freedom is guaranteed for everyone. No one has to answer officially for what he or she thinks. However, all find themselves enclosed from earl on within a system of churches, clubs, professional associations, and other relationships which amount to the most sensitive instrument of social control. Anyone who wants to avoid ruin must take care not to weight too little under the scales of this apparatus. Otherwise he will fall behind in life and finally go under.”
The Legacy of Cultural Studies
Examines the birth of ‘Cultural Studies’ as a discipline in the UK and the implications of its, sometimes uncomfortable, mixture of literary criticism and Marxist historical materialism. Considers the work of the Birmingham School (CCCS) and its legacy in respect of the ways in which the relationship between culture, economy and society is analysed and understood. In addition, we consider the internationalization of the CCCS approach, and reactions to it. Key Thinkers: Orwell, Leavis, Williams, Hoggart, Hall, Hebdige Seminar questions
1.How did the work of the CCCS differ from earlier understandings of mass culture, popular culture and the culture industry? 2. What was the theoretical basis of the CCCS’s idea of culture as contested? 3. Why were the CCCS writers more optimistic than earlier writers on mass culture, popular culture and the culture industry – at least in some respects? What are the limitations of the CCCS approach and can this type of approach be taken too far?
Marxist Gramsci: Cultural hegemony
In Marxist philosophy, the term Cultural Hegemony describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of the society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class Weltanschauung becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class. In philosophy and sociology, the term cultural hegemony communicates denotations and connotations derived from the Ancient Greek word hegemony (leadership and rule), the geopolitical method of indirect imperial dominance, with which the hegemon (leader state) rules sub-ordinate states, by the implied means of power, the threat of the threat of intervention, rather than by direct military force, that is, invasion, occupation, and annexation. （概念节选自Wikipedia ）
Cite this Culture and Creative Industry
Culture and Creative Industry. (2016, Aug 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/culture-and-creative-industry/