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Lecture 4

VPAB05H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Dick Hebdige, Antonio Gramsci, Reality Television


Department
Arts Management
Course Code
VPAB05H3
Professor
Alan Stanbridge
Lecture
4

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October 5, 2011
Marxism & Adorno
Adorno very pithy writer
Classical Marxism
Marx “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it”
- Wants to interpret the world but also address problems in society
- Very activist and political approach
Marxism insists that all forms of analysis are ultimately all political
- Whenever you make an analysis, you’re taking a stance, evaluating, making valuable judgments and wanting to
change it
Particular modes of production (i.e. slave, feudal, capitalist)
- Slavery existed into 19th century, not long ago
- Feudal system, like robin hood. Peasants can farm the land at benevolence of lords
- Capitalist
Each mode of production produces:
1. Specific ways of obtaining the necessities of life
a. Slaves don’t hope for lors to ffed em
b. Agrarian you grow your own food or crop to sell
c. Capitalist you work for a living and then factory owner pays you and then with that money, you buy
necessities of life
2. Specific social relations
a. Slave and master
b. Peasants and lords
c. Owner and worker
3. Specific social institutions (inclu. Cultural ones)
a. Religion, etc..
Bass/Superstructure Model
- Base: consist of forces of production (ex. Agrariangrowing livestokc vs. industrial-factories and producing
goods for sale) and the relations of production (ex. Master/slave; lord/peasant; bourgeois(money
owners)/proletariat (works for money))
- Considers this the base for any mode of production
- Superstructure: consist of institutions (political, social, cultural, etc.) and definite forms of social consciousness
o How does it lead us to understand how society is organized?
o The base ‘conditions’ or ‘determines’ the superstructure – this is a vulgar ‘reflection’ theory leads to
economic determinism
o Engel argues but texts and practices (i.e. the superstructure) can be active agendas… of social stability”
Ex: debate of arts funding.. base would be economic base and superstructure would be the Arts
(this is coming from economic discourse on arts)
o Interplay between base and superstructure
o Much debate over this, not sure if it is actually useful
The Frankfurt School
- Established in 1923
- Critical Theory
- Key figures: Adorno, Benjamin, Horkehimer, Lowenthal, Marcuse
- Adorno and Horkeimer argued The Culture Industry contra Arnold and Leavisims, it maintains, rather than
threatens social authority
o Similar to leavisism and Arnold, both thought mass culture is bad

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o Frankfurt school approach, also depressing about man-kind. Maintains social authority because it turns
masses into passive consumers, no fear that they will rise up in revolution (key difference between
leavisms and adorno)
- Culture Industry (ardono are referring to something different from contemporary culture industry. It is a more
depressing. Unlike William’s acknowledge and acceptance of wide breadth of culture) vs. art or high/’authentic’
culture
- “The culture industry,.. deprives authentic.. mode of negation” (64)
o At the point that high culture gets sucked into mass culture, it loses its power and devalues high culture
- Commodification devalues ‘authentic’ culture
o Not making it authentic or original anymore
o Maintaining high art of high culture and mass
o Stems from point of view that there is no market for high art; but contrary, money is always linked to
high art
o Myth, implies that high art has never been bought or sold and not linked, but that is always the case.
o Frankfurt hanging onto a vision of art that is not sustainable
- Use of opera and classical music in advertising from bread to expensive motor cars
o Says devalues original work
- Die Hard (1988) Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (plays during the antagonist’s appearance)
- Robyn Stillwell 1997 composer didn’t want to use Beethoven, cannon of great western pieces for bad guy
- Transgression of use of beethoven’s music… gives new meaning
- Pg 68: According to Frankfurt school, this is how they categorized..
- Culture
o Real
o European
o Multi-dimensional
o Active consumption
o Individual creation
o Imagination
o Negation negate forces of mass culture
- Mass Culture
o False
o American
o One-dimensional
o Passive consumption
o Mass production
o Distraction
o Social content
- Walter Benjamin
- ‘The Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction’ – wrote it in 1930s, began to theorize what these
mechanical changes brings to art.
- “aura” = ‘authenticity’, ‘authority’, ‘autonomy’ – claiming that it stands alone, outside its social context. Very
common in aesthetics. Not part of social world, ‘distance’
o Ex. Of mona lisa in louvre
- Picasso vs. Chaplin
o Picasso’s arts where it doesn’t look like a face..
- Benjamin acknowledges people like chaplin and the stance of popular/mass culture but mourns the death of
aura of original arts
Althusserianism
- Louis Althusser
- Social Formation: the economic, the political, and the ideological
- Model allows for the relative autonomy of the superstructure
o Back to marx’s superstructure
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