Monday, 14 September 2015

Adorno And Horkheimer

The Culture Industry 

Adorno and Horkheimer adopted the term 'culture industry' to argue that the way in which cultural items were produces was analogous to how other industries manufactured vast quantities of consumer goods. they argued that the culture industry exhibited an 'assembly-line character' which could be observed in the synthetic planned methods of turning out its products. 

They also linked the idea of the cultural industry to a model of 'mass culture' in which cultural production had become a routine, standardised repetitive operation that produced undemanding cultural commodities- which in turn resulted in a type of consumption that was also standardised, distracted and passive. 

Their view of cultural production has - with some justification- often been portrayed as the pessimistic lament of cultural lists who were dismayed at what they perceived to be the homogeneity and vulgarity of 'mass' taste and who were concerned that the potential for artistic creativity in music, literature and painting had been co-opted and corrupted by the production methods and administrative regimes of industrial capitalism.

The capitalist corporation seems to enjoy an almost omnipotent form of domination and both the consumers and creative artists are not separate form but are directly connected to this system of production. 

They stressed the structures of economic ownership and control of the means through which cultists products are produced and argued. It directly shapes the activities of creative artists and consumers. Additionally, they  argued the 'culture industry' that operated in the same way as the other manufacturing industries. All work had become formalised and products were made according o rationalised organisation procedures that were established for the sole purpose of making money.


Adorno and Horkheimer argued that all products produced by the culture industry exhibited standardised features. They argued nothing spontaneous about the process of cultural production became routine operation- they can be carried out 'in an office by the application of specific formulae'. Adorno noted songs that became successful over time were often referred to as 'standards' a category that clearly drew attention to their formulaic character. There was a 'plan' to the detail, songs were based around repetitive sequences and frequently recurring refrains. This was done for calculated commercial reasons so songs would imprint itself on the mind of the listener and provoke a purchase. The production of songs had become mechanical and manipulative operation motivated purely by commercial gain. 

Pseudo Individuality 

Critical of what they referred to as pseudo individuality. By this they meant the way cultural industry assembled products and made claims to 'originality' - which when examined more critically exhibited little more than superficial differences. This evoked image of lock and key, an item that is mass produced in millions and whose uniqueness lies in only very minor modification. Cultural industry allows people to become 'massers' and to be easily manipulated by capitalist corporations and authoritarian government. This presents us with a powerful argument about happens to culture and subjects to the structural control and organisation of industrial capitalist production. Additionally, this becomes merely standardised formulaic and repetitive element of 'mass culture' it has no aesthetic value whatsoever and leads to a very specific type of consumption that is passive, obedient and easily manipulated  for the purpose of propaganda or advertising. 

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