Ideology and Art: Theories of Mass Culture from Walter Benjamin to Umberto Eco

By Robin Ridless | Go to book overview

Chapter V
ROLAND BARTHES: THE UNCULTURE OF IDEOLOGY

Language can either help or hinder a person master the contradictions of his environment. In saying that art does the first, ideology, the second, and that how it does it is through structure, this thesis has purposely left open the specifics about mass culture. How does mass culture reorient perception and through perception behavior? Until now, the question has been answered by warring sides. Adorno maintained that it anesthetized audiences; Benjamin and Brecht, that it brought the masses into their own.

Roland Barthes represents something of a compromise between these positions. To Benjamin, he concedes that mechanical culture is completely objective; to Adorno, that secondary meanings nestle in this objectivity (although the deception that goes on is through language, never hypnosis). With Brecht, he is of one mind that aesthetics unlock the limits of ideology. In the final analysis, he tends to agree with Adorno, but for reasons that are consistent with Benjamin and Brecht.

Roland Barthes' writings on art and ideology, while

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