The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture

The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture

The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture

The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture

Synopsis

The creation of the Frankfurt School of critical theory in the 1920s saw the birth of some of the most exciting and challenging writings of the twentieth century. It is out of this background that the great critic Theodor Adorno emerged. His finest essays are collected here, offering the reader unparalleled insights into Adorno's thoughts on culture. He argued that the culture industry commodified and standardized all art. In turn this suffocated individuality and destroyed critical thinking. At the time, Adorno was accused of everything from overreaction to deranged hysteria by his many detractors. In today's world, where even the least cynical of consumers is aware of the influence of the media, Adorno's work takes on a more immediate significance. The Culture Industry is an unrivalled indictment of the banality of mass culture.

Excerpt

The contentious arguments surrounding the idea of an affirmative postmodernist culture have brought with them a persistent theoretical depreciation of the claims of high modernist art as well as a positive reevaluation of the character and potentialities of popular (mass) culture. Both of these critical re-evaluations often take the form of a sustained criticism of the cultural theory of T.W. Adorno. Adorno's apparently uncompromising defence of modernist art and his apparently uncompromising critique of mass culture as a product of a 'culture industry' has served the proponents of postmodernism as a negative image against which their claims for a democratic transformation of culture may be secured. In their view Adorno is an elitist defending esoteric artistic modernism against a culture available to all. Equally, by calling for a continuation of the project of artistic modernism and perceiving only manipulation and reification in the products of the culture industry, Adorno's critical theory appears to proscribe the transformation of culture in an emancipatory direction.

While it is certainly true that the cultural landscape has altered substantially in the twenty years since Adorno's death, and perhaps in ways he had not anticipated, our current situation may be a great deal less sanguine than its proponents suppose. Even if some of the historical and sociological details of Adorno's analyses were composed to address . . .

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