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SOCY 122 (65)

Fear of Mass Culture

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SOCY 122
Rob Beamish

Fear of Mass Culture Mills-private lives are a series of traps -uneasiness of anxiety Bloom-people lived in a world of chronic uncertainty, to escape, people must themselves -only the liberally educated are properly prepared to address the challenges and other worthy alternative Arnold-similar to Mills and Bloom -to solve the problem people faced they must turn to culture Fredrich Nietzsche-questioned if modern man has found happiness-> everything is lost -humanity has abandoned the desire for freedom and action -culture is the solution to industrial society’s problems -culture is liberation -culture is each individual’s self-knowledge and dissatisfaction -argues that humanity must rediscover its active and creative Dionysian capacity -follows Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as a model of the free, highly educated, well-rounded, and self-affirming person to whom people should aspire -Arnold and Nietzsche to Mills and Bloom, social reformers, essayists, and scholars has deep concerns about the prospects of humanity as culture is progressively overwhelmed by the forces of the market and reduced to a popular, simplified commodity that is passively consumer by a mass public Raymond Williams-reshapes how sociologists and other scholars thought about culture -general pattern of change serves as a map that makes it possible to examine the wider changers in life-> industry, democracy, class, art, and culture -shift in meaning of culture from basic, material, and agricultural roots to its emerging and then dominant -driving social and material forces is caused by industrialized and became increasingly market based and perceived as a need to create a separation between certain moral and intellectual activities and the very material forces that now constituted the foundation of society -growth of culture is an alternative for power slipping away to the new capitalist class -culture is the formation of a new class structure -culture has taken on different meanings -culture represents a state of mind, idea of human perfection-> similar to Arnold, Nietzsche, and Bloom -culture is a level of intellectual development within a society as a whole -societies with cultures are seen as advanced or high demonstrate their development and achievement through abstract, intellectual pursuits that show the sophistication of the society’s leading minds -culture is a way of life -culture is tied to the meaning of the term to people’s lived experiences Culture vs. Mass Culture -culture, classical culture, modern culture, high culture, mass culture, popular culture, middlebrow culture, lowbrow culture, plastic culture, authentic culture, e-culture, and more -Nietzsche, Arnold, F.R Leavis and Denys Thompson, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Lukacs, Walter Benjamin, Richard Hoggart, Williams, Herbert Schiller, John Fiske, Stuart Hall, Neil Postman, and Neal Gabler-> different views of culture Leavis and Thompson-growing number of simple forms of media causes the organic community that sustains culture is being lost -difference between popular culture and high culture is tied to industrialization and urbanization Hoggart-profile of the working class to examine more meaningfully the impact of media on the lives of real working-class people and in their understanding of the world where they live -rise of mass culture and the consequences how it limits people’s horizons, seduces them to accepting simple media, and penetrates people’s everyday lives -without a conscious intervention into media, freedom will be lost in the levelling down of the market as it appeals to the greatest mass of consumers -literature is a cultural not a commercial production-> not all writing has this impact -conventional literature reinforces the existing way of seeing the world while live literature leads us to reflect not to conform -Two cultural categories: -creative, exploratory, and complex -convention, ignores complexity, and seeks to comfort, entertain and give instant and easy pleasure ->Leavis and Thompson -Hoggart, Leavis, and Thompson share Nietzsche’s concerns about humanity in the modern era following the ‘herd instinct’ and losing its Dionysian or creative and generative capacities, but Leavis and Thompson link their concerns to industrialization, Hoggart focuses on the growing impact of the market economy and the declining standards in literature which cause an increase in simplified entertainment -Arnold, Leavis, Thompson, Hoggart, and members of the Frankfurt school- Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse- fear the growth of ‘the totally administered society’ which is associated with the increasing power of capitalism over social life, which leads to the rise and predominance of ‘one-dimensional man’ and to a modern world where cultural forms are being continually levelled down by ‘culture industries’ Horkheimer and Adorno-influenced by Marx’s critique of capitalist society, Weber’s analyses of the growth of legal-rational domination in the increasingly bureaucratic world and the rise of Fascism -Enlightenment is the growth of science and the spread of technical, instrumental reason had significant negative consequences that remain insufficiently explored -every aspect of modern society is dominated by technical efficiently, mass production techniques, and standardization, which is the same system of instrumental rationality(most effective means of producing a mass product that is sold to mass public) and totally integrated with culture subordinate to capital -industries are economically connected -all cultural products are reduced to standardized formula where every consumer can predict what will come next and anticipate the conclusion Marcuse-built on Horkheimer and Adorno -public is almost immobilized by fear-> fails to search for solutions -media presents the needs of society as a whole are accepted as individual needs and aspirations, the satisfaction for the common good and seems to be completely rational -society is irrational-> productivity is destructive of the free and full development of human needs and faculties, peace is maintained by the constant threat of war, and growth depends on the repression of the real possibilities for pacifying the struggle for existence -focuses on the commodification of all that humans produce, even thoughts, feelings, and cultural works -high culture becomes material culture and loses its critical tension and impetus to challenge the status quo Postman-age of show business -history, politics religion, and education have become forms of entertainment -less able to cope with complexity, ambiguity, nuance, and uncertainty Gabler-differences between high culture and mass culture-> difference between a culture of reality vs. entertainment Hoggart-critical of the extent where Leavis, Thompson, and others accept the notion that the organic community was lost -society is no longer a rural community but the working class still constituted and still a community even though they were exposed to an increasingly commercialized culture, they filtered it and resisted it on the basis of values they develop from their own real experiences -aware of the power of the ‘modern mass media of communication’ and of the diminishing quality of their products -wants to ensure a lively engagement with the complexity of human conditions as it’s translated through various cultural forms -seeks to maintain cultural forms that explore the diversity and rich texture of life -Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse concerned with Hoggart’s question of freedom Arnold-culture is an ideal of human refinement-> many use this definition for high culture, which is different from other cultural forms -stresses its humanist origins within the Renaissance and the high value this sort of culture places upon human creativity, aesthetically pleasing composition, and the artistic rendering of complexity in a form that gives immediate satisfaction but draws one into deeper, evermore revealing contemplation and insight, and points the value of the object, score, or manuscript-> agreed with other defenders of high culture -mass culture represents all the unrefined styles, modes of thought expressions, sentiments, objects of consumption, and activities of the uneducated, lower orders of societies Gans-Pre-industrial European societies were culturally divided into high and folk cultures -high culture supported by the nobility, the priesthood, and affluent merchants- people who had the time, resources and educational background to consume and consider the cultural productions of talents and highly trained artists create a system of patronage that distinguishes the elite from the masses -rule out the possibility that folk, mass, or popular culture would be considered equally creative complex aesthetically refined, capitulating, and intellectual fulfilling -popularity and widespread appeal didn’t automatically rule out depth or substance -cultural products are widely available and popular among many people can gain the popularity form their artistry complexity and ability to stimulate reflection and ongoing analysis -invisible folk culture contains elements that were as artistic as objects celebrated by high culture -depth and eternal qualities of folk culture that become focal points of literature, sculpture, painting, and other traditional forms of high cultural production -refined artistry of folk are that makes it sought after by cultural connoisseurs in the contemporary periods -high culture is originally associated with the king’s court and supported by the nobility, aristocracy, and haute bourgeoisie-> results in cultural production undertaken by genuine, highly skilled craftsmen- people with specialized knowledge, lengthy experience, talent access to scarce resources, and some independence from by-the-clock production-> centers on masterpieces -growth of the market challenged and undermined the control exercised all forms of production-> competes with cottage industries and small workshops-> master craftsmen losses their monopoly control -growth of the market increased all forms of production and created new opportunities for cultural production and expanded the range of cultural products -best art and literature remained the property of the wealthy, but larger audiences and a growing consumer base provided the opportunity for more writers, artists, and musicians to contribute to an increasingly diversity world of cultural production -market and modernity create a demand for copies of masterpieces or the mass production of quickly made, inexpensive work-> concern for supporters of high culture-> difference between real cultural and mass culture -assumes that all cultural production in the pre-modern period is of highest quality-> although the best Renaissance art has survived, thousands of pieces of lower aesthetic quality, artistry, or craftsmanship were cast aside long ago -time ultimately determines what endures and what will become defined as high culture Taste Cultures-number of popular cultures -function to entertain, inform and beautify life -consists of values and the cultural forms -lived cultures cannot be abstracted from social contexts within which they are created and consumer> direct link to real individuals, acting within specific social relationships that ensure that taste cultures are a vibrant dimension to people’s social lives -stable and homogenous society, cultural expression is relatively consistent and narrow in diverse societies, but a wide range of cultural expression and a number of tastes where different taste cultures appeal -dominant feature of the contemporary period is that social life is diverse-> new cultural forms emerge and existing ones are modified and reinterpreted and appreciated anew or from a different perspective -number of variables will influence a person’s interest in a particular taste of culture-> class, religion, ethnic, and racial background, regional origin, place of residency, age and gender- > class and education is most important -moderates elitism with a commitment to democracy and a respect for diversity but it still marginalizes popular culture Popular Culture Forms: Reality TV -category that includes a wide range of popular factual programs located in border territories between information and entertainment, documentary, and drama -created through a mixture of journalism, documentary television, and popular entertainment -style and technique includes non-professional actors, unscripted dialogue and surveillance footage Infotainment- on-scene footage of emergency footage Docusoap- popular observational documentary Lifestyle- home and personal makeovers Reality Gameshow- experiments that place ordinary people in controlled environments -format draws on existing popular genres to create hybrid programs and focuses on telling stories in an entertaining style Critics- genre is voyeuristic, cheap, and sensational television-> based on general concerns about quality standards within public service and commercial television, the influence of it on viewers, and the ethics of popular television Academic Work- a rich site for analysis and debate on issues such as genre, audiences, gender, class, identity, performance and authenticity, c.elebrities, and new media -repositioned factual and entertainment programming within popular culture -shift in information and entertainment is irreversible-> blurred difference between fact and fiction Popular Culture Forms: Jazz -musical style developed from African and European tradition emerging in African American communities, especially in New Orleans in the twentieth century -most styles share some musical qualities such as syncopation, swing, improvisation, blue notes, call and response, sound innovation such as growls and stretched notes and polyrhythmic structure -cultural transition-> used for everyone to escape mainstream society-> the past was used to escape the prohibition of alcohol, alcohol and drugs were served at jazz clubs not under surveillance Ragtime- brass instruments and African rhythm and beat -big band, swing, bebop, acid jazz, jazz funk, jazz house, and nu jazz Popular Culture Forms: Hip Hop DJing- cutting and scratching with two turntable and performing with the microphone B-Boying/B-Girling- breaking or break dancing Emceeing- rapping or talking in rhyme to the rhythm of the bet Tagging and Graffiti Art -pop rap dominates sound over many radio airwaves and pervades youth cultures in language, style of dress, cultural and artistic aesthetics, and musical preferences -debate over center on racial ownership of the subcultures and its sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, and violent elements Clothing-designer baggy shirts and pants, silver and gold chains, backwards baseball caps, scullies, bright white sneakers, and Timberlands -aided by commercialization -distinctive urban street language -spirit of keeping it real-> keeping the style reflective of the everyday realities of black urban life and minimizing the distorting forces of commercialism Ideological Hegemony -explains relationships of domination and exploitation as embedded in socio-culture -Marxism-> task of explaining the absence or failure of worldwide communist revolutions-> suggests that the extent that dominant class ideas are internalized by the dominated, they induce consent Objective Class Consciousness- worker’s material interests Subjective Class Consciousness- worker’s ideas and attitudes False Consciousness- gap between worker’s objective class interests and their awareness of them-> moves away from pure economism-> inherent contradictions in capitalism make communion inevitable Antonio Gramsci-coined the term -believed that the universal suffrage in industrialized countries would natural lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat -ideational processes come between material forces and the meanings connected to them -dominant group exercises it in civil society which represents all that we consider private, whereas it utilizes the state to directly dominate political society -not automatic-> a project that the ruling class must accomplish-> level varies between societies-> when strong, capitalists rely on popular consensus-> when weak, physical coercion becomes more necessary -worker’s revolutionary potential is higher in the latter but develops connterhegemonies to successfully accomplish their potential Conterhegemonies- main political task of the socialist movement Marcuse- added advertising industry, industrial management and consumption Marx- realm of ideas-> superstructure (religion, legal structures, family, etc.) normalizes the interests of the ruling class so that they appear natural and justified -exploited people unwittingly adopt ideas and ways of life that are consistent with their continued exploitation -mass consumption lowers class to an exploitative system and mitigates oppositional behaviour and critical thinking -media scholars argue that the format of television creates a reified view of reality impervious to radical change by proposing character themes that are fixed rather than developing -consuming mainstream cultural transmission- watching television- precludes public discourse and encourages passive absorption of dominant ideologies -scholars point to the profit logic during media dissemination which creates appetites for sensationalism rather than redress of everyday problems Limits- economic and political structure is always changing and hegemonic ideology must change to naturalize evolving social relations-> Habermas->
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