Perspectives on the Production of Culture
The Frankfurt School Philosophy
- hitler regime
- work was funded by millionaires, people who had a lot of people, private citizens, people with
lots of capital, philanthropists
- autonomists; the government did not dictate to them what they should be interested in and what
their studies should be based on. Because.. the government didn’t fund their school. The private
citizens didn’t care what they did, they just wanted them to think.
- People held the scholars of this school as spirit leaders, icons.
- The scholars thought they were the conscious of society; they saw things the masses could not
see. They felt they needed to comment on everything.
- The scholars criticized mass media, the way the government used mass media, the dominant
ideology, the way of things.
Conscience of society
Criticized the establishment
Questioned dominant ideology
Frankfurt School: Questioning Dominant Ideology
- the way that the ruling class choose to see reality/ to talk about reality/ to structure reality
Most accepted ideas
- the system of ideas that are most accepted as an explanation for social reality
- ex: capitalism (its the best way to structure our society.. there has to be people who produce
stuff and people who buy stuff. its a social construction. the people who produce stuff will
always have more money than the people who buy things) . There will always be more people
who have to buy than people who don’t.
How ruling parties maintain their power
- the way that capitalists and rulers maintain their power. they convince us to accept our
subordinate position. This is hegemony. You know it’s wrong, but you’re buying into it
- Frankfurt school was interested in how we are dominated.
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer
Frankfurt School scholars
- they looked at and critiqued relationships between government, mass media and audiences
Ultimate goal to inform the masses of mass deception
1 - they wanted to inform the masses that they were being deceived by dominant ideology, and
manipulated by the ruling class.
- they thought .. going out to the theatre and listening to the radio (popular culture) was where
the masses were being manipulated
One of their most important works – The Mass Society Theory
- this is the theory that explained the manipulation
Mass Society Theory
1) Media are a negative force
- media need to controlled and regulated
2) Mass media are all powerful
- and directly influence attitude and behaviours
3) Individuals are vulnerable
- to the power of mass media. Why? Because they live their lives unaware of how established
systems of power work to manipulate them
4) Consolidation of power
- that the changes that media bring about in society will continue to consolidate power into the
hands of few.
ex: what if 5 companies own everything? what happens when very few people own everything
5) Decline of cultural standards
- mass media and popular culture products bring about the decline of cultural standards. Instead,
they promote what is trivial and uncivilized behaviour.
ESSAY: “The culture industry: Enlightenment as mass deception” (Adorno and Horkheimer,
Criticism of mass culture
- they criticized all these movies, films, magazines which lacked any sense of creativity.
- where the diversity in the magazines? why do the covers look all the same? why do the fitness
magazines have the same stories as other genres of magazine?
- no creativity in mass culture. how is that supposed to encourage debate and critical thinking?
Movies and film
- they didn't have any substance; they were rubbish because they distracted the masses.
- they were only produced to make money off of the masses.
- they don't offer any intellectual stimulation
Standardization (‘dumbing down’)
1 - the worst process which has ever been known to civilization
- it is responsible for the dumbing down of media messages and content, in order to produce and
- ex: mcdonalds taste the same wherever you eat it.... you could say its efficiency.
- Adorno and Horkheimer wondered why the recipe for movies is all the same.
What is the Culture Industry?
-The culture industry: the name given to mass media that is concerned with
catering to the lowest common denominator
- what is the lowest common denominator? a demographic that typically doesn't really have a lot
of education, maybe not a lot of money. It essentially means the everyday person.
- we wouldn't be a part of this.
- its monolithic, stands alone.
- the culture industry creates consumers. It goes for people who will fall for commodity
- it makes us think that we need to buy products.
Creation of Consumers
Example: 2012 Super Bowl commercial cost
- it costs $4million for 30 second spot
- award shows are media events.
- when culture is sold as a commodity, it loses its true artistic merit... because it masked by this
want to make money
Popular styles are false and hollow
- ex: styles in magazines, and music videos
- because they have been created to make us think that we need it.
- They are only about luring the masses so that we consume things.. so they make money.
High art is real art
- this is the only form of art which is innovative
- it should be the standard of what real culture is
- we could argue that oprah isn't high art anymore
- they are writing in 1940’s germany. They feel that the art that they have access to is real art...
because only limited amounts of people have access to it. Therefore i