Culture Industries was proposed by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer of the Frankfurt school in 1944. It was presented as critical vocabulary in the chapter “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”, of the book Dialectic of Enlightenment.
We think that were living in a good and rational society. Living in a democracy, we compare ourselves with other countries which have dictatorship and consider ourselves to be in a better position. The creation of this perception is one of the major roles of Culture Industry.
Culture Industry refers to the standardization and false-singularity of cultural items, and how these cultural items are regulated. It says that we, as people, have become standardised because corporations produce standard products which fit our needs and demands. So corporations produce our needs and desires.
If the cultural products lose their sense of meaning and authenticity due to their mass production, so do the individuals who buy them. Subconsciously, we may not realize that each time we buy a new and trendy product, we are merely buying the new trendy “thing” to add to our very own material product of a self. The truth is that we are buying this product because it is frequently publicized through media only to illustrate this materialized commodity of “cool” that everyone must have. We are truthfully as much of a commodity as the product itself. Regardless, we have a situation where the consumers are being victimized by the producers in that they know what we like and give us what we want; therefore, we no longer have genuine experiences. We may “think” we are expressing our sense of self and individuality by buying the latest Samsung phone of a different colour, because in our mind, we find that typically everyone buys blue or silver and we want to be different; thus we conclude we are being unique.
Take for example pop stars like Britney Spears, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and other female performers on the top 40 charts. These women share similar characteristics that our young population is attracted to. The music industry recognizes this and begins to mass produce more “Britneys” and more “Rihannas” and slap a different name to the new evolving pop star. They too are human beings treated as manufactured goods that can be purchased or replicated, just like a Barbie doll or an iPod.
Whether you like it or not, advertising plays a crucial role in our everyday lives. Advertising effectively grabs the public’s attention through the use of television commercials, billboards, magazines, etc. It is the advertisement that attracts the consumer to buy a product and ascribe the connotation of “coolness” to it. Inevitably, the product and the advertisement become two of a kind.
Adorno and Horkheimer proposed that films, radio programmes, magazines, etc. — that are used to manipulate mass society into passivity. Adorno and Horkheimer criticise the ‘Culture Industry’ for promoting a society that is drowning in a society of mass culture and industrialisation, instead of encouraging freedom and individuality.
The Culture Industry in short can be represented as the “Enlightenment” or knowledge as mass trickery or fraud. In other words, we may be compelled to wonder if we live in a world of mass deception in which we are simply kept in the dark.
‘Mass deception and ‘Social control describe the ideas and theories that Adorno and Horkheimer earnestly prescribed. Adorno saw what he referred to as ‘the culture industry’ as constituting a principal source of domination within complex, capitalist societies. The Culture Industry is characterized by three specific ideas: Monopoly, Mass Production, and Technology.
The crudest way to oppress is to physically force people to do things or prevent them from doing things.
The next level up is to use the threat of physical force to persuade them. This uses no physical force. Also, this is often accompanied by restricting freedoms of expression. The oppressed in this situation still know that they are being oppressed, but they know they must comply.
The best method that has been found so far is one where you directly control the boundaries in which people think. In this way they dont even know that they are being oppressed, believing they act they way they do of their own free will.
It creates a calm and conformist society, which we can’t really break out from.
Culture industry prefers effects and style over substance and content. That’s one of the reasons why a films like ‘The Iron Man’ is such a huge hit. Also, most of Salman Khan films are doing great business despite being low in content.
Critics of the theory say that the products of mass culture would not be popular if people did not enjoy them, and that culture is self-determining in its administration. Adorno’s has been criticized for not drawing practical conclusions from his theories. Adorno is also accused of a lack of consistency in his claims to be implementing Marxism. Whereas he accepted the classical Marxist analysis of society showing how one class exercises domination over another, he deviated from Marx in his failure to use dialectic as a method to propose ways to change.