GER100 Lecture Notes - Zeitgeist, Culture Industry, F. R. Leavis
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10 September 2012
Introduction into Zeitgeist
Noun: the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of
the time: “the story captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s.”
What is Culture?
Chris Jenks summarizes four prevailing definitions:
1. Cognitive: “a general state of [an individual person’s] mind.”
2. Collective: “a state of intellectual and/or moral development in society.”
3. Concrete: “the collective body of arts and intellectual work within any one society.”
4. Social: “the whole way of life of a people.”
Schein: 3 levels of culture
Observable behaviour and artefacts
o Visible organisation structures and processes
o Strategies, goals, philosophies (justifications)
Basic underlying assumptions
What is Popular Culture?
John Storey offers six definitions:
1. “culture…widely favoured or well-liked by many people”
2. “the culture… leftover after we have decided what is high culture”
3. “A ‘mass culture’… hopelessly commercial... formulaic, manipulative…imposed and
4. “the culture which originates from the people… authentic… folk culture
5. “A site of struggle between the forces of resistance of subordinate groups in society, and the
forces of incorporation of dominant groups in society.”
6. The postmodern attitude: postmodernist culture… no longer recognizes the distinction
between high and popular culture.”
Popular Culture Overlaps
Ideas of mass culture
Ideas of culture industry
Ideas of everyday culture/Alltagskultur
Mass culture critics (e.g. Q.D. Leavis, Siegfried Kracauer) argue that modern industrialization and
urbanization is disruptive.
The mass media (radio, film, television, etc.) produce surrogate “culture,” not real culture.
Mass culture threatens to destroy or displace “high” culture.
o Under normal circumstances, people in working classes can’t afford to go to operas,
These critics are people of middle-class or richer, and as such these statements are
condescending and snobbish to those lower classes.
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