Critical Theory.docx

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Media, Information and Technoculture
Course Code
Media, Information and Technoculture 2200F/G
Alison Hearn

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23 January 2013 Critical Theory The Frankfurt School for Social Research - changes threatened the morals of society  anarchy - Massification would lead to social decline This week… - Concern about pop culture and mass media is not that it is a threat, but it kept us from criticizing the masses - Frankfurt school were worried that it kept people from changing the world The Frankfurt school for Social Research - 1920s to the 1960s, moved from Frankfurt to USA and back again - mass society critics, but with a Marxists, radical agenda - How was mass society preventing the working class from developing a radical revolutionary consciousness? o How to save the world from a completely left wing view - Jewish Germans, who were forced out by Hitler o Central question was with, after living through and witnessing a series of failed workers revolutions (Russian Revolution turning into Fascism, and the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany) their concern was what kept people from rising again the system that did not work for them. - Some members of the school: Theordor Adorno, Max Horkheimer; co- authored the Dialectic of Enlightenment o As well as Herbet Marcuse One Dimensional Man o Walter Benjamin Illuminations - Critical Theory continues  Jurgen Habermas - The Institution for Social Research: est. 1923 o Formed out of a need to provide an intellectual environment with a decidedly Marxist orientation - Wrote against the failure of the workers movements and the rise of Hitler and fascism, the failure of unions and capitalist free market economies o Why no meaningful workers revolution?  Very wealthy few, very precarious many o Major economic shake down of unions  what keeps us all so complaisant? - What is the link between culture and power? - Flee and arrive in NY, see evidence of a growing pop. culture o For them, they asked “what is their role, what are these industries doing? o Set of suspicions about mass culture  understood that in Germany, these methods were used to dilute and distract the populations from questioning what was really going on - In Germany, role was to support the state, so why would it be any different in America? Critical Theory - Why do people endorse and accept a system that demonstrably operates against their best interests? - What keeps people complacent about the way in which they are governed, exploited or manipulated? - Critical because it believes in the power of human reason, in the capacity for humans to come to self-realization - Thinkers come from a traditional institution  intellects, slightly disconnected o In order to properly understand the cultural generation, to think clearly and critically, had to keep some disconnection - A theory is critical to the extent that it seeks “to liberate humans from the circumstances that enslave them” (Horkheimer) o Theory must seek to reveal abuses of power and increases freedom  Have different views of abuse and freedom The Culture Industry/Mass Media - Mass media forms are tools of domination  create an environment that is impossible to resist - Promote the status quo and protect the interests of those in power - The media obscure certain truths and promote others - Work to tell us about the world  need to watch mainstream media to get a sense of how the media, work to massage the world into a palatable package that does not threaten those in power o LA Riots o Hurricane Katrina o Occupy  Examples of how critics have understood mainstream media to be compliant to the needs of the government - Transmit the values of capital - Undermine individual autonomy by increasing the management and control of leisure time - We are ‘enculturated’ to become obedient workers for capital? o Grown up in a culture that to feel better about ourselves that we consume and are able to “express” ourselves The Eclipse of Reason - The enlightenment project was to liberate us through reason – science and technology - But it has also given us disease, fear, alienation and the breakdown of traditional ties and forms of meaning making - When the bomb is developed at a time with little questioning, we accept them through human reasoning and become enslaved to instrumental thinking - What we think of as progress becomes regression o Short sited and instrumental for only a short
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