Using the show the X Factor as a tool to teach Adorno and Horkeimer’s ‘Culture Industry’ Standardization Pseudo-individuality Capitalism Questions/ Discussion for the lesson: What is the purpose of X-Factor? Do they really find someone who has the X-Factor? What are the judges thinking when someone comes to stage/starts to sing? (Commodity status) The act is always thought of as fitting into a box, rather than breaking the mould So do the ‘Culture Industries’ which X-Factor is a part of predict the nature of consumers? Are the ‘masses’ part of the of the ‘assembly-line’ of the Culture Industry?
Do the audience control culture production or do industries predict to the ‘masses?’
Do the audience control culture production or do industries predict to the ‘masses?’ There is, however, yet a further step in the argument: Adorno and Horkheimer were not only arguing about how culture had become standardized and robbed of any unique qualities, they also suggested that this resulted in a particular type of consumption in which few demands were made of the listener, viewer or reader. The 'mass culture' that was being, produced by the culture industry encouraged consumers to reject everything that was not familiar.
Maverick Sabre http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZNtticFI60 Different so won’t do as well in the charts UK 18 – Peak position http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Need_(Maverick_Sabre_song) No One UK 50 – Peak position http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_One_(Maverick_Sabre_song)
Find an artist who fits the theory and one who doesn’t Mat be hard to find one who doesn’t – therefore to what extent has an existing one gone against the theory?
Adorno and horkheimer 2013v2 students
Text taken from: Production of Culture/ Cultures of Production (ed) Paul Du Gay, Sage 1997
The X Factor is going to help you
• Adorno and
• Do you know what any
of these are?
THE CULTURETHE CULTURE
Adorno and Horkheimer
adopted the term 'culture
industry’ to argue that the
way in which cultural
items were produced was
analogous to how other
vast quantities of
Adorno and Horkheimer argued
that the culture industry exhibited
an 'assembly-line character" which
could be observed in 'the
synthetic, planned method of
turning out its products.
THE X-FACTOR MACHINETHE X-FACTOR MACHINE
Adorno and Horkheimer linked the idea of the 'culture
industry' to a model of 'mass culture' in which cultural
production had become a routine, standardized
repetitive operation that produced undemanding
cultural commodities which in turn resulted in a type
of consumption that was also standardized, distracted
WHO’S INWHO’S IN
Adorno and Horkheimer's view of cultural production has, with some justification, often
been portrayed as the pessimistic lament of cultural elitists who were dismayed at what
they perceived to be the homogeneity and vulgarity of 'mass" taste, and who were
concerned that the potential for artistic creativity in music, literature and painting had been
co-opted and corrupted by the production methods and administrative regimes of
WHO’S INWHO’S IN
The capitalist corporation seems to enjoy an
almost omnipotent form of domination and
both the consumers and the creative artists
are not separate from but are directly
connected to this system of production.
Adorno and Horkheimer stressed
the structures of economic
ownership and control of the means
through which cultural products are
produced and argued that this
directly shapes the activities of
creative artists and consumers.
REJECT EVERYTHINGTHAT ISN’T FAMILIAR
THAT ISN’T FAMILIAR
Adorno and Horkheimer argued that the 'culture industry'
operated in the same way as other manufacturing industries.
All work had become formalized and products were made
according to rationalized organizational procedures that
were established for the sole purpose of making money.
The metaphor of the
used to stress the
repetitive and routine
character of cultural
Adorno and Horkheimer
argued that all products
produced by the culture
The argument here is that there
is nothing spontaneous about the
process of cultural production: it
has become a routine operation
that can be carried out ' in an
office by the application of
specific formulae.Adorno noted that songs which became successful
over time were often referred to as 'standards', a
category that clearly drew attention to their formulaic
character. From the 'plan' to the details, songs were
based around repetitive sequences and frequently
recurring refrains (Adorno, 1976, p. 25). This was
done for quite calculated commercial reasons, so that
the song would imprint itself on the mind of the
listener and then provoke a purchase. For Adorno, the
production of bit songs had become a mechanical and
manipulative operation motivated purely by
Think about the popular songs
that you might hear throughout an
average day (on the radio, when
out shopping, on television or
when in a club or bar). Do you
agree with Adorno's argument
about standardized songs? Are
some songs more predictable than
others? Or is such an analysis
simply irrelevant today?
PSEUDO INDIVIDUALITYPSEUDO INDIVIDUALITY
Adorno and Horkheimer
evoked the image of the
lock and key - an item that
is mass produced in
uniqueness lies in only
very minor modifications
Adorno and Horkheimer were also critical of what they referred to
as pseudo individuality. By this they meant the way that the
culture industry assembled products that made claims to
'originality' but which when examined more critically exhibited
little more than superficial differences.
Think again about the music you listen to in terms of Adorno's argument about
pseudo individuality. To what extent do you think that you recognize singers, songs,
composers and symphonies by their 'trade marks'?
TO CONCLUDETO CONCLUDE
Adorno and Horkheimer believe that the culture industry
allows people to become 'masses' and be easily manipulated
by capitalist corporations and authoritarian governments.
Adorno and Horkheimer thus present us with a powerful argument about what happens
to culture when it is subject to the structural control and organization of industrial
capitalist production: it becomes merely a standardized, formulaic and repetitive element
of 'mass culture'. It has no aesthetic value whatsoever and leads to a very specific type of
consumption that is passive, obedient and easily manipulated for the purpose of
propaganda or advertising.
Does this type of reasoning sound familiar? Have you ever defended your own cultural
preferences (books, films, music, television programmes, opera, theatre) as complex
and demanding, while criticizing other peoples' as standardized and repetitive? Have
you heard people explain the worldwide popularity of performers such as Madonna,
films like Batman or the novels of Stephenie Meyer (Twilight) by arguing that the
audiences are being manipulated by the marketing and promotional mechanisms of the