Perspectives on the Production of Culture
Are we brainwashed ? Does popular culture need to be creative to be valuable ?
The Frankfurt School Philosophy
1940s Germany : Grramsci wrote his hegemony theory at the time of Moselini.
The Frankfurt school was funded rich people and not the government, and that is why they
were able to have autonomy and more space and freedom to research whatever they wanted
to. Because it was funded by citizens they were autonomous. The gov. did not tell them what
to think and research about.
Conscience of society
The researchers in the Frankfurt school were opinion leaders and popular, because people
trusted their judgment on consciousness. They themselves thought that they were able to see
things the public couldn’t.
Criticized the establishment
Questioned dominant ideology
Frankfurt School: Questioning Dominant Ideology
1- Basically that the dominant ideologies come from the ruling class, and naturally they
would fall in the interest of the ruling class.
Most accepted ideas
2- Dominant ideologies are accepted as explanation for social realities. For example,
capitalism (which is a social construct), we accept that it is the best structure for us to
organize social and economic welfare. This ideology would tell us that there those who
are the HAVE and the HAVE-NOTs. We accept that some people make A LOT more
money than others.
How ruling parties maintain their power
3-(like hegemony: which means that subordinate groups accept or consent to being
dominated by dominating groups) you would know that you are subordinate, yet you
accept your subordinate role.
1 Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer :
Frankfurt School scholars
The biggest names from the Franfurt School
Ultimate goal to inform the masses of mass deception ( and inform them that they are
One of their most important works – The Mass Society Theory
Mass Society Theory
1) Media are a negative force: it meant to them that the media needed to be controlled and
2) Mass media are all powerful: and directly influences thoughts and behaviours ( like the
direct effect theory- Magic Bullet)
3) Individuals are vulnerable: because they lived their lives unaware of how established
systems of power work to deceive them.
4) Consolidation of power: The changes in society will continue to be in the hands of a few
people (concentration of media ownership) also, this is like the idea of “political economy:
which means the study of social relations that mutually constitute the production, distribution
and consumption of resources”, what would happen when very few people have control? In
political economy we talked about the control of content, prices and dependency.
5) Decline of cultural standards: and promotion of trivial and uncivilized ideas.
--- the theory of mass society was not empirically tested. They thought they were simply able to
see things others were not able to. Some of the things in the theory are applicable today but
others may not. (note to self: think of an example for midterm short answer)
“The culture industry: Enlightenment as mass deception” (Adorno and Horkheimer,
Criticism of mass culture: They wrote that things were wrong in mass culture. Films,
radio…. Had no creativity, no diversity, and no range of opinions. Why were all
magazines owned by the same group? Where is the intellectual stimulation in mass
culture? There was no content that helped the masses think critically.
2 Movies and film: 1-they believed that there was no value in them, because they were
made for MONEY. 2- They believed it was rubbish because they had no intellectual
substance. ( media as a corrupting force)
Standardization (‘dumbing down’): it meant to make things more efficient, which
meant that there was no diversity; everything appears to be the same. They said that this
process was the worst ever known to civilization, why ? because its responsible for
dumbing down content and media messages in order to increase profit ( book mentioned
example of dumping down Shakespeare to movies )
What is the Culture Industry?
profit-making: The culture industry is the name given to mass media that’s particularly concerned
with making content to make MONEY.
lowest common denominator: 1)the industry is mainstream and accessible. It targets a
demographic that doesn’t have a lot of education and not a lot of money. The everyday man. Very
simply put together, and not much brains needed to interpret the messages.
2)It’s also MONOLITHIC, stands alone and there isn’t much opposition to it. It’s viewed as the most
legitimate way to make culture.
Creation of Consumers : a form of brainwashing, to our identities. The industry creates
consumers and makes us buy products in order for is to present who we are.
Example: 2012 Super Bowl commercial cost: $4 million for 30 seconds. Why?
Because it’s a high opportunity for many eyes to be “brainwashed” and turned into
consumers. Another example is Award shows and media events which come with a lot of
Popular styles are false and hollow: since it’s made for us to buy.
Adorno and Horkhiemr ar