PCUL1F92 Section 1: Tuesday, October-11-11
* This class was a continuation of the lecture from Thursday October 6, 2011.
• Everything, including culture, is turned into a saleable
commodity. Even our past times are for sale.
• “Commodity Fetishism” – influence from Marx in reference to.
Notion that we get our identity and sense of worth through
what we own.
• “Exchange value deceptively takes over the functions of use value” –
What something is worth on the market becomes its value,
not what it’s really worth – not the ‘heart’ of its worth.
e.g. Hammer – monetary value = wood, metal it was made
out of, transportation costs.
*image of concert tickets – The Police tickets vs. Tegan & Sara tickets
What do we actually get when we buy a concert ticket? We pay $92 for
tickets to see The Police and $25 to see Tegan and Sara. Ultimately these
are just pieces of paper. We can’t exchange our tickets after the event.
Why the cost difference?
• What do we actually get with a concert ticket.
• Experience, but nothing of actual physical value. No literal value.
• Sometimes the more we pay, we might actually get less.
Exchange Value vs. Use Value
• How is a cultural commodity valued?
• How do they have monetary value and distinction that is far above
their use value?
Where all we got was a piece of paper with information on it and
the ‘memories’ associated with the experience of attending a
concert. We can’t actually exchange that for other goods.
• Marx distinguishes between exchange value (what people will
• Focus on this suggests [the Marxist] political leanings of Frankfurt
• For Leavis and other mass culture theorists, threat is to social and
cultural power of the elite.
• For Frankfurt school, the threat is from the elite – those in power.
o See mass culture as a way of maintaining their power through
forms of social coercion.
• Both sides would argue that mass culture is a distraction. PCUL1F92 Section 1: Tuesday, October-11-11
• Culture industry organizes leisure time in the same way that the
workplace organizes work time.
• e.g. even their enjoyment is structured. Movies can be predicted
within two minutes of watching the beginning, songs are structured.
iPhones, Blackberries, iPads are modern examples of how work and
leisure are so closely integrated nowadays.
• ‘Escape’ from structured aspects of work is itself highly structured and
Adorno: “On Popular Music”
• Written in 1941
• Defines role of culture industry in relation to forms of popular music
(mainly ‘Tin Pan Alley’ at that stage).
• Makes three broad claims.
• Interestingly, we see these echoed in ‘F**k S**t Stack’.
- Adorno notes that popular music is standardized, no different than
the way that cars are churned out. There’s a certain length of song,