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Chapter 4

Chapter 4 – The Production of Popular Culture

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SOC 202
Stephen Muzzatti

Chapter 4 – The Production of Popular Culture Introduction: The Business of Culture - Popular culture is a big business, and it is a trillion dollar business - Productions and consumption of popular culture contributes to standard measurements, GDP, - The cultural experiences wouldn’t be possible without the technological infrastructure provided by companies such as Oracle, IBM, and others o The entire economy is now dependant in surprising ways on popular culture - There is no simple way to separate the production of popular culture from the processes through which it is consumed o Productions and consumptions have to be treated separately o In the history of the academic study of culture, neither production nor consumption has been taken seriously enough Economic vs. Artistic Success - Financial success is taken by many consumers of popular culture as the inverse of “quality”; in other words, the more financially successful a product might be, the less artistically successful it must be - Economic success and artistic or aesthetic value in an inverse relationship, offers one common way of theorizing the impact of production on popular culture - One of the central assumptions lying behind this connection between money and popular culture is that if the great, unwashed masses life something, then it’s impossible for it to be good - To take popular culture seriously means to also take the whole range of reactions, interests, and values on the products popular culture - The “Hollywood” cinema, applies to a vast range of products and production techniques, has produced films that are admired worldwide - Even what is sometimes considered to be “high” art, was produced in conditions in which money played an important role Walter Benjamin - The main point that we want to articulate, is the problem that reliance on this equation introduces into an examination of the role of productions on popular culture - Cultural products continues to make use of what for him were already “a number of outmoded concepts, such as creativity and genius, eternal value and mystery - The myth of the intrinsic value of “independent” films, which generally have lower budgets - In understanding the role of production processes in the creation of contemporary popular culture, it seems essential to move away from these “outmoded concepts” that are addressed to the critical evaluation of popular culture - We need to avoid the common connection that is made between production and value The Culture Industry Thesis - Victorian faith in technological progress and the wealth created by industry was displacing culture from the centre of British society - While it is easier to see popular culture as something that is necessarily produced in a way that the fine arts are not, the link between culture and industry still remains mainly a figure of speech The Frankfurt School - Horkheimer and Adorno pushed “culture” and “industry” together on as effort to create a new consciousness about the changed conditions of cultural productions in contemporary societies What is the Culture Industry? - Nicholas Garnham has described the cultural industries as “institutions in our society which employ the characteristic modes of production and organization of industrial corporations to produce and disseminate symbols in the form of cultural goods and services, generally, though not exclusively, as commodities” - The cultural industries are the industries of culture, the institutions that create films, television programs, popular music, and video games, for examples of cultural industries - We can make a claim that the marketing and advertising of all consumer products has transformed consumer production in general into cultural industries o Eggs, milk, beef and chicken are marketed to consumers of a healthy lifestyle o The borders between cultural industries and other industries have become difficult to draw because of the expansion of the field of cultural experience - The cultural industry is a single system that explains the function of culture on contemporary society, both those forms and kinds of culture produced by cultural industries and those that are not Culture, Experience and Culture Industry - History Channel suggest that thing s are constantly getting “better”: once women couldn’t vote, they can; once humanity could move around the earth only slowly, now there are jet places; once there was only semaphore, now theirs is internet. - The culture industry plays an important part in perpetuating the domination of human beings and nature under the guise of increasing their freedom - The culture industry produces culture that is designed to deceive and mislead those engaged in it Instrumental Rationality - It is a complex concept that has a simple idea at its core, it uses rationality or reason in instrumental fashions suggests the use of the most efficient means to achieve the desired end - The rise of capitalism introduces instrumental rationality into all spheres of life – not just in economics, but also in politics, culture, and other parts of society as well - There are drawbacks to instrumental rationality because it eliminated the critical use of reason Three Points about the Production of Popular Culture - First, what characterizes popular culture for Horkheimer and Adorno is the standardization of cultural production and of audience reaction to contemporary culture o Standardization of cultural production is necessitated by the mass commodification of culture: there are only so many films that can be made and so many CDs that can be pressed, and the available “prime time” space on major television networks is constrained by the temporal limits imposed by the workday o One the key features of contemporary culture is the importance of the “new” o The creation of newness is linked to the perpetuation of profit: as long as the cultural industries have something “new” to offer us, the money will continue to flow in o Standardization is closely connected with what Adorno describes as pseudo- individualization  The claim being made is that popular music is so standardized that not only is the audience’s response predictable, but also it is in a sense “built in” to the cultural product itself  Psuedo-individualization implies the production of a false identity: the experience of a sense of individuality and selfhood that doesn’t match to the experiential depths that these terms usually suggest - Second point is that popular culture is produced only in order to re
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