Culture industry is a relatively new notion but nowadays it is a part of everyday life and practically all individuals are influenced by it regardless there own will. At the same time culture industry is the result of high level of development of the contemporary society and high level of socio-economic and technological development which led to the creation of the society which is often labelled as consumerist society. In such a situation mass consumption is a basis of socio-economic progress but it negatively affects cultural sphere of life since it results in mass culture, and development of what is known as culture industry which actually produces not unique cultural product but, in contrast, represents a sort of conveyer where culture has become an object of mass production.
Unfortunately, such a culture is of a very low quality and extremely deceitful. However, strangely enough, people prefer to be deceived and they choose mass culture and culture industry sometimes without their own will.
The influence of culture industry
Speaking about culture industry and its impact on individuals and the contemporary society at large, it is firstly necessary to briefly discuss the entity of culture industry and than critically evaluate its role and influence in the contemporary world.
First of all it should be said that culture industry is closely related to mass culture and as Theodor Adorno remarks it should be distinguished from popular art in extreme since it “the culture industry fuses the old and familiar into a new quality” (1991:259). In fact culture industry is deceitfully perceived as a means of spread of mass culture, intelligence but in actuality its main goal is not a consumer as a subject but rather as an object. In such a situation culture becomes a part of mass production and its aim is to involve possibly larger number of people to consume its products.
Consequently it has to adopt its products to the needs and demands of possibly larger categories of people that may have not only negative but even dangerous consequences. For instance, Adorno warns that “American film producers are heard to say that their picture must take into consideration the level of eleven-year-olds. In doing so they would very much like to make adults into eleven-year-olds” (267).
However, in actuality, culture industry suggests consumers products which are characterised by sameness and culture is not anymore unique but a mass product though it is attempted to be disguised as an absolutely new and unique product. In fact, to a significant extent it is culture industry that makes people consumers of culture, objects, which are easily influenced by producers of cultural products, and not independent and thinking subjects of culture making process. At the same time, it is noteworthy that Adorno, for instance, suggests to interpret the term culture industry not literally but in a larger sense. According to him, “it rather refers to the standardization of the thing [culture] itself, and to the realization of distribution techniques, but not strictly to the production process” (1991:260). Moreover, each product distributed by culture industry affects all individuals regardless their will and pretends to be very serious and of the highest quality while in reality it is far from true.
Paradoxically but people, the society at large, prefer to be deceived by culture industry. In fact culture industry traditionally have a great number of supporters and defenders who sincerely believe that culture industry contributes to the cultural and intellectual progress of people. In other words it make art, culture art large more accessible for wide range of people and this is where the main danger and the basic myth of culture industry is. What culture industry along with mass culture brings to masses is mass product standardized, deprived of unique characteristics and adopted to all people regardless their educational, intellectual level, their religious or philosophical believes, moral and ethical values.
On the other hand the development of culture industry may be also explained by a paradoxical desire of people to be deceived. The main reason why such a situation is possible and why people want to be deceived is because culture industry provides people with a chimerical believe that the real life is as good as culture industry and mass culture presents it to the wide public. However, the reality does not correspond to the idealised and standardized products of culture industry.
Unfortunately, culture industry acquires a monopolistic character that makes it even more dangerous and its influence on people even more significant. In such a situation people “are not only… falling for the swindle; if it guarantees them even the most fleeting gratification they desire a deception which is nonetheless transparent to them” (Adorno 1991:264). As a result, enslaved by such a desire to be deceived, people consume gladly the products of mass culture and culture industry because, otherwise, they would have to face a severe reality as it is without any beautiful myths invented, or to put it more precisely, promoted by culture industry, or as Adornior underlines, “without admitting it they sense that their lives would be completely intolerable as soon as they no longer clung to satisfactions which are none at all” (1991:264).
In contrast, the defenders of culture industry indicates at the necessity to provide people with some basic notions, principles which people could be oriented on and this may be viewed as one more reason explaining why people prefer to be deceived because it makes their life easier, they have clear goals and the ways to achieve them, even though they are absolutely different from the reality but the fact that there are some idealistic goals inspires people to adopt culture industry and mass culture and not to change the reality instead since it is obviously easier just to believe in a myth than really do something to make the real life better.
In such a way the spread of culture industry led to the situation when “the power of the culture industry’s ideology is such that conformity has replaced consciousness” (Adorno 1991:266) and it is an undeniable fact that the majority of people are conformist, consequently such a desire of deception is quite natural for them.
At this respect, culture industry and theoretical assumptions of its defenders are absolutely contradicting to the legacy of Platonism, according to which “the true, the good, and the beautiful are one” (Russel 1997:345), moreover, what is significantly more important is the fact that “what is objectively and intrinsically untrue cannot also be subjectively good and true for human beings” (Adorno 1991:267). Consequently, the contradiction is obvious, since culture industry and mass culture is nothing but just a great deception, a myth that people prefer to believe, it is objectively bad while subjectively it is perceived, or is forced to be perceived, as good.
Thus, taking into consideration all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that culture industry is widely spread and, moreover, it is monopolistic trend in the contemporary world culture that makes people to accept it and believe that it is good while in actuality it is just a great deception but people are willing to prefer to be deceived instead of facing a severe reality of everyday life. This is why sometimes it turns to be useful to refer to ancient philosophers in order to better understand the contemporary reality and agree that the legacy of Platonism is much more right than the defence of the myths promoted by defenders of culture industry.
Adorno, T. (1991). “Culture Industry Reconsidered” from The Culture Industry: Selected Essays On Mass Culture. London: Routledge.
Russel, Bertrand. (1997). The Value of Philosophy. New York: New Publishers.
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