Media, Information and Technoculture 2200F/G Lecture Notes - False Dilemma, Walter Benjamin, Utopia

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Published on 15 Apr 2013
School
Western University
Department
Media, Information and Technoculture
Course
Media, Information and Technoculture 2200F/G
Professor
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
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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
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Document Summary

The frankfurt school for social research changes threatened the morals of society anarchy. 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. 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: how to save the world from a completely left wing view. Jewish germans, who were forced out by hitler: 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.

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