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I am author of the books Political Internet(Routledge, 2017), Intimate Speakers ( Fingerprint! 2017), has finished the typescript of three books—first, on Internet and sexuality; second, on the negative impacts of social media; and third, a novel—and is presently working on a narrative non-fiction with the working title Lovescape: Why India is afraid of love.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Media and Culture Industry




The term culture industry was perhaps used for the first time in the book Dialectic of Enlightenment, which Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adornpublished in Amsterdam in 1947.
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer “The culture industry: enlightenment as mass deception” (1944).The word culture has many different meanings.  cultures are complexes of learned behavior patterns and perceptionsFor some it refers to an appreciation of good literature, music, art, and food. 

For a biologist, it is likely to be a colony of bacteria or other micro-organisms growing in a nutrient medium in a laboratory Petri dish.  However, for anthropologists and other behavioral scientists, culture is the full range of learned human behavior patterns.  The term was first used in this way by the pioneer English Anthropologist Edward B. Tylor in his book, Primitive Culture, published in 1871.  Tylor said that culture is "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."  Of course, it is not limited to men.  Women possess and create it as well.  Since Tylor's time, the concept of culture has become the central focus of anthropology.

The word Culture is highly misunderstood. The semantic field for this expression collectively includes but is not limited to:

Language : the oldest human institution and the most sophisticated medium of expression.

Arts & Sciences : the most advanced and refined forms of human expression.

Thought : the ways in which people perceive, interpret, and understand the world around them.

Spirituality : the value system transmitted through generations for the inner well-being of human beings, expressed through language and actions.

Social activities : the shared pursuits within a cultural community, demonstrated in a variety of festivities and life-celebrating events.

Interaction : the social aspects of human contact, including the give-and-take of socialization, negotiation, protocol, and conventions.

Culture is a powerful human tool for survival, but it is a fragile phenomenon.  It is constantly changing and easily lost because it exists only in our minds.  Our written languages, governments, buildings, and other man-made things are merely the products of culture.  They are not culture in themselves.  For this reason, archaeologists can not dig up culture directly in their excavations.  The broken pots and other artifacts of ancient people that they uncover are only material remains that reflect cultural patterns--they are things that were made and used through cultural knowledge and skills.
Broadly speaking, the Frankfurt School thinkers have done a critical and social analysis of the contemporary societies in the twentieth century. They have adopted an interdisciplinary approach that combines philosophy, cultural theory, economics, political science, legal theory, psychoanalysis, and the study of cultural phenomena such as music, film, and mass entertainment, and so on in order to assess the contemporary societal realities of the contemporary era.
The Frankfurt School theorists’ approach is intrinsically interdisciplinary in the sense that they draw upon a number of figures to build up their social theories. They made use of a number of concepts from a varied number of philosophers and thinkers of whom I will mention –in short— a few.
A “culture industry,” they explain, is a scrutinizing term to describe popular culture. The goods that the “cultural industry” produces are its resulting media, such as television and radio. The issue with such products is that they hold the power to manipulate and induce a sense of passivity among its audiences, which, in effect, changes society. This industry of culture ignites changes by inventing new needs for the consumer; new needs that require satisfaction through a capitalistic system. Here lies the crux of Adorno and Horkheimer’s criticism: the passive masses who become the manipulated consumer all through popular culture and its engine, the culture industry. 
The culture industry concept is a thesis proposed by Adorno and Horkheimer of the Frankfurt school. It contends that cultural industries exist to enforce (and reinforce) the capitalist ethos. Adorno and Horkheimer coined the "culture industry" term to replace the concept of "mass culture", which they felt had a semantic at odds with the truth.
So, by a culture industry producing commodified culture, we mean an industry and a product where each purchase reinforces the politics of the dominant worldview: Horkheimer's insistence that cultural industries served the ideological role of perpetuating the capitalist ethos. This is unusual, in that the relationship is apparently the reverse, with capitalism seeming to perpetuate the production.
Freedom is another irony. It is key to Western democracy, an ideal much-vaunted and often claimed as reality. But freedom here is subjective stuff, in that it is under the thumb of the overarching ideology. Free time, for example, is defined in opposition to work time: a worker in work is not free. Further, not only does work decide leisure, but also the means of pursuing it. The culture industry performs a vital role in this cyclical manipulation of freedom: work evokes certain desires for escape, and the escape, when it comes, is underpinned so much by the ideology that it fits the leisuring worker to work once more.
It is bland and fair to say that television has changed the world. Homogenity in broadcasting is quite understandable where commercial television is concerned. Commercial television is largely supported by advertising, and therefore requires popularity; consistently the most popular shows are those aimed at a passive and uncritical audience. This state of affairs tallies with the pervasiveness of the capitalist ideology. Those aspects of the society's culture here represented are familiar interpretations either of reality or of real issues. The programmes are soap operas, chat shows, gameshows, most sports events, sitcoms, certain films, TV films or dramas, and most childrens' television. It is reasonable that representations of pop culture will be popular with audiences and advertisers alike.

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