A History of Popular Culture: More of Everything, Faster, and Brighter

A History of Popular Culture: More of Everything, Faster, and Brighter

A History of Popular Culture: More of Everything, Faster, and Brighter

A History of Popular Culture: More of Everything, Faster, and Brighter


This lively and informative survey provides a thematic global history of popular culture focusing on the period since the end of the Second World War.Raymond Betts considers the rapid diffusion and 'hybridization' of popular culture as the result of three conditions of the world since the end of World War Two: instantaneous communications, widespread consumption in a market-based economy and the visualization of reality. Betts considers the dominance of American entertainment media and habits of consumption, assessing adaptation and negative reactions to this influence.The author surveys a wide range of topics, including:* the emergence and conditions of modern popular culture* the effects of global conflict* the phenomenon and effects of urbanization* the changing demography of the political arena and the work place* the development of contemporary music culture* film, television and visual experience* the growth of sport as a commercial enterprise.Directed at students and general readers concerned with the dimensions and forms of popular culture, the book provides an engaging introduction to this pervasice and ever-changing subject.


Few subjects range as far and vary as frequently as does popular culture. It seems to embrace all and to discard much. Its consistency is change. Like the escalator that is now so essential to shopping center, sports arena and airport, it moves regularly, conveying us all up and down to different levels of engagement and distraction, to goods and pleasures regularly rearranged to attract, to appeal, to entice.

Unlike the elevator that encloses and limits our immediate vision of things, the escalator opens out and provides a particular panoramic view of a carefully arranged environment. Contemporary popular culture is all about movement, about seeing things, about buying and having, about being distracted and entertained. At one time, the word "transported" suggested a psychological or spiritual change of condition, an imaginary movement from one state of consciousness to another. Today, of course, being transported means being moved swiftly - and usually effortlessly - from here to there and back again. Up and down the escalator, on the plane and in the car, we have a form of spatial freedom not known before the late twentieth century. The pace of life has changed dramatically, as has the space in which we now move. We also see more than did the people of previous cultures. Popular culture is about mass-produced images changing their form in seconds, popping up as advertisements on the computer screen, elegantly laid out in photographs in trendy niche publications.

My effort has been to situate all this activity within the institutions and among the devices where it moves, captures attention, allows diversion and assures entertainment. I therefore have concentrated on transportation and communication, and the new environment they have created. Megamalls and cyberspace, automobiles and movies, tourist destinations and airports provide much of the structure of the text. They suggest the changes in both pace and space that have become so pronounced in the last half century. Entertainment pervades all: there is no denying that it has become a major industry, and many of its performers and producers form a new class of the wealthy.

Prior to 1937, when Walt Disney did his first full-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the appearance of characters populating fairy tales was still largely left to the reader's or listener's imagination. Today, we see all. Our visions, of course, are less internally-inspired than projected inward. Our culture

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