The culture industry

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The culture industry

  1. 1. The Culture Industry Discussion Questions
  2. 2. Discussion Questions <ul><li>(Fernando) How is irrationality conceptualized in Adorno’s thinking? Is irrationality a consequence of the negative dialectic of reasoning? </li></ul><ul><li>Does Adorno’s idea of rationality belong exclusively to an analysis of western capitalist societies, and, following this line of reasoning, is “rationality” a specific manifestation of western cultural thinking? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Adorno on Irrationality <ul><li>From Adorno’s perspective irrationality is engendered by a fear of the unknown which in turn manifests itself by a desire for domination. </li></ul><ul><li>This process is characterized by the domination of man over nature, the domination of nature in man and the domination of men over other men. </li></ul><ul><li>The logic of the enlightenment is hence “corrupted” when it becomes embedded in a radicalized mythical fear. This fear of the unknown is ephemerally quenched through the aforementioned patterns of domination. </li></ul><ul><li>This state of affairs, according to Adorno, is epitomized in a capitalist system where surplus value (extracted through structures of domination) becomes the means by which wealth is accumulated. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Adorno and Irrationality <ul><li>It is through a dialectic process of negation and synthesis (a dialectic gravitation between the universal and the particular) that one can manage to resolve the contradictions between the eschatological promise of the enlightenment and the reality that has been created in its name. </li></ul><ul><li>Adorno believed that the desire for freedom (including freedom from domination) was indeed indistinguishable from the pursuit of enlightenment in culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Adorno approached the concept of “rationality” from the context of enlightenment logic, which was of course constructed within a Eurocentric epistemology. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Adorno’s Method <ul><li>“ The position of dialectical criticism is a non-position; it can neither immerse itself in the object in the manner of idealizing, redemptive criticism [ immanent criticism ], nor take a stand outside culture by comparing it with a fictitious absolute [ transcendental criticism ]. To take up the former stance would amount to acceding to the cult of the mind; while to take up the latter stance would be to reveal hatred of it. ‘The dialectical critic of culture must both participate in culture and not participate. Only then does he do justice to his object and to himself.”(20) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Adorno’s Method <ul><li>“ Immanent critique does nothing to alter the existence to which it bears witness. Immanent critique must, then, step outside the object, it must ‘relate the knowledge of society as a totality and of the mind’s involvement in it to the claim inherent in the specific content of the object that it apprehended as such.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ This means, for example, that dialectical criticism must relate its literary critical encounter with a work to the social determinations that generate, without directly causing, the work’s inner contradictions. Only by presenting society with the bill which the object, in itself hermetic, does not redeem, only, again, by bringing in an external perspective, can critique be saved from the temptation of a reversion to idealism, from the temptation of treating the mind and its products as self-sufficient.” (19) </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Critique of Postmodernism <ul><li>Habermas Vs Lyotard debate. </li></ul><ul><li>The discourse of the enlightenment as embedded in a modernist teleology is nothing but a metanarrative or grand narrative. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Because postmodernist practice alters the empirical world without transforming it, its abstract affirmations belie the despair that sustains it. That despair manifests itself in aggression and violence, a violence now represented, exploited and celebrated in the media. The violence perpetuated by instrumental reason on sensuous particularity.” (25) </li></ul><ul><li>“ The project of negation will continue to have a point so long as the reconciliation of universal and particular remains illusory. The situation of postmodernism is an exacerbation rather than a diminuation of that illusory state.” (26) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Discussion Question <ul><li>(Ana) Adorno criticizes the vulgarization of culture as a result of the capitalist homogenization of the world. Isn’t this homogenization in fact a symptom of “normal” historic evolution? Perhaps after the rise of capitalism we can observe that culture has become more “pre-digested” and that we create and consume in a more aggressive fashion, however, hasn’t there been a continuum of such standardization of cultural forms throughout history? Related to that, is the cultural industry to which Adorno refers a recent phenomenon or has it always existed? </li></ul><ul><li>Absolutely!!!! (by that I mean that it has always existed in some form) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Adorno on “Light Music” and the “Higher Type” <ul><li>“ The illusion of a social preference for light music as against serious is based on that passivity of the masses which makes the consumption of light music contradict the objective interest of those who consume it. It is claimed that they actually like light music and listen to the higher type only for reasons of social prestige, when acquaintance with the text of a single hit song suffices to reveal the sole function this object of honest approbation can perform. The unity of the two spheres of music is thus that of an unresolved contradiction. They do not hang together The illusion of a social preference for light music as against serious is based on that passivity of the masses which makes the consumption of light music contradict the objective interest of those who consume it. It is claimed that they actually like light music and listen to the higher type only for reasons of social prestige, when acquaintance with the text of a single hit song suffices to reveal the sole function this object of honest approbation can perform. The unity of the two spheres of music is thus that of an unresolved contradiction”. (35) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Adorno on “Higher Types of Music” <ul><li>“ The programmes shrink, and the shrinking process not only removes the moderately good, but the accepted classics themselves undergo a selection that has nothing to do with quality. In America, Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony is among the rarities. This selection reproduces itself in a fatal circle: the most familiar is the most successful and is therefore played again and again and made still more familiar.” (36) </li></ul><ul><li>“ This is catalogued as the composer’s ‘idea’ which one thinks he can put in his pocket and take home, just as it is ascribed to the composer as his basic property. The concept of the idea is far from appropriate to established classical music. Its thematic material, mostly dissected triads, does not at all belong to the author in the same specific sense as in a romantic song.” (36) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Beethoven’s greatness shows itself in the complete subordination of the accidentally private melodic elements to the form as a whole.” (36) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Adorno on Higher Types of Music <ul><li>Classical music, according to Adorno, has a symbiotic and living relationship between form and content. </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore, according to Adorno, as in the case of Beethoven, the details of the composition are shaped by a dynamic and evolving totality. </li></ul><ul><li>However, the meaning or content of “light music” tends to be “imposed” by the form which is in turn imposed from the outside. </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore, in popular music form never changes. There is instead a constant repetition of the same form and content. </li></ul><ul><li>The appearance of diversity in popular music is merely an illusion. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Discussion Question <ul><li>(Ana) Does the author’s critical intervention take into account “underground” cultural production? That is, cultural productivity which emerges from countercultures in marginalized segments or global populations far removed from the centers of power? </li></ul><ul><li>( Marisol ) Where can the criticism or resistance against hegemony be found in the “culture industry”, or, put another way, how can an opposition to this discourse be formulated? </li></ul><ul><li>(Laura) How has Adorno’s critical thinking been useful for you in your own research? What sort of difficulties have you encountered in making use of it? </li></ul>
  13. 13. Limitations of Adorno <ul><li>The problematic idea of a passive audience. </li></ul><ul><li>Start Hall on “Encoding, Decoding” </li></ul><ul><li>My research on hip-hop music and cultural resistance. </li></ul><ul><li>The hip-hop underground </li></ul><ul><li>Keny Arkana/ Immortal Technique </li></ul><ul><li>When discourses of resistance become appropriated within the logic of the market. </li></ul><ul><li>Adorno’s critic of the culture industry becomes even more relevant as the mess media becomes increasingly consolidated. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Discussion Question <ul><li>(Laura) What are your thoughts on Hedge’s theoretical work about the cultura of visibility and celebrity and the power of manipulation which mass media exerts over these phenomena? In your opinion, what are the points in Hedgens’ arguments which are most susceptible to criticism? </li></ul><ul><li>Response: FISA bill giving immunity to telecommunication industries, the culture of surveillance. </li></ul><ul><li>Normalizing the loss of privacy by visually aestheticizing it on reality TV. </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook, google and the U.S. government. Huge resources of private information. </li></ul><ul><li>Google and the “filter bubble.” </li></ul><ul><li>The disappearance of net neutrality </li></ul><ul><li>Christopher Hedges barely hints at this in his work. He needed to develop this angle further. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Discusion Question <ul><li>(Marisol) What is the relevance of this “Empire of Illusion” for Latin America, taking into account the fact that there is a sort of doublé segregation, in the first instance at the level of the masses and then as minorities relative to the dominant global power (as can be inferred by the example of “The Swan” and Christina in Hedges? </li></ul><ul><li>What purpose, in real terms, can the mass media serve in the negotiation of real social changes at the global level? </li></ul><ul><li>Response: Naomi Klein’s analysis is useful to answering the first question here (her analysis of the structure and division of labor in a global economy) </li></ul><ul><li>Global Media Consolidation (Impact on Kenya) </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriating and even thriving on the notion of diversity meanwhile limiting diversity of content. </li></ul><ul><li>The domestication of imagination and alternative utopias. The naturalization of the status quo. </li></ul>

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