The Culture Industry, as Adorno sees it, well and Horkheimer too.

In Adorno’s essay, I mean Adorno and Horkheimer’s essay on mass culture titled “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” they outline what they think the culture industry is doing to us and how basically it interacts with us. It is one of many essays published in Dialectic of Enlightenment originally published in 1944. I want to bring this essay into the continued discussion of art because it suggests a new type of art, the art of the mass industry. This art is a business, the business of entertainment. It is not ruled by manifestos or schools but rather by the wallet. This industry holds no morals and is not tied to any tradition, it will do what ever it needs to turn over that profit, and that includes convincing you that it is about traditions and manifestos, Dali that is to you.


Let me stop here for a second and admit that I 1) don’t fully understand the inter-workings of Adorno’s arguments and 2) hold reservations against brandishing everything that has come out of the cultural factories as some subservient art, a “light” art as Adorno would like us to call it.


I bring this up though because there is something interesting in the idea of control. Are we controlled by our own industry? There is truth to it in that the industry creates need through desire that it dictates, we can easily live without all the luxuries of technology but yet we don’t and worse off we now swear by them. But is it control? Am I writing here because I am being forced to or because I want to? But is that want imposed by the industry?


I’d love some thoughts on this. Huysmans


4 Responses to The Culture Industry, as Adorno sees it, well and Horkheimer too.

  1. rausyanfikir says:

    You better watch The Century of Self video in Google Video. Maybe by that you can understand The Culture Industry better.

  2. huysmans says:

    Very true, it does help, but I have to be honest, taking a class where we discussed it made it more accessible then this video can, at least that’s my opinion. For myself I much rather have a professor explore the text with a class than have a video aid the meaning, but that being said this is an excellent documentary. I guess I should update this post to state that I did post it at the beginning of our discussions based on this text and now I would feel more comfortable to discuss than when that post was published, but none the less thank you for introducing me to this.

  3. babel says:

    Well, one counter-argument would be that we only need to take a look at the current mass/popular cultural landscape to see that a lot of what he predicts here has come true – thinking of Pop Idol, Big Brother and other reality TV shows; and most serialised TV shows before this; manufactured music bands (even supposedly ‘authentic’ or ‘independent’ groups are heavily manufactured); the fashion industry; the incessant cult of the next ‘new’ that fanatically celebrates what is never much different from the quickly scorned and discarded ‘old’.

    “In the culture industry the individual is an illusion not merely because of the standardization of the means of production. He is tolerated only so long as his complete identification with the generality is unquestioned. Pseudo individuality is rife: from the standardized jazz improvisation to the exceptional film star whose hair curls over her eye to demonstrate her originality. What is individual is no more than the generality’s power to stamp the accidental detail so firmly that it is accepted as such. The defiant reserve or elegant appearance of the individual on show mass-produced like Yale locks, whose only difference can be measured in fractions of millimeters. The peculiarity of the self is a monopoly commodity determined by society; it is falsely represented as natural. It is no more than the moustache, the French accent, the deep voice of the woman of the world, the Lubitsch touch: finger prints on identity cards which are otherwise exactly the same, and into which the lives and faces of every single person are transformed by the power of the generality. Pseudo individuality is the prerequisite for comprehending tragedy and removing its poison: only because individuals have ceased to be themselves and are now merely centres where the general tendencies meet, is it possible to receive them again, whole and entire, into the generality. In this way mass culture discloses the fictitious character of the ‘individual’ in the bourgeois era, and is merely unjust in boasting on account of this dreary harmony of general and particular.”

  4. Ollie says:

    I think this is very interesting am currently doing writing a dissertaion on the culture industry with regard to adorno and horkheimer, yet despite what they say i still believve there is a darker twist to the mass deception that due to it appealing only to the sub-conscious mind we might never know! if theres any further reading or books you may know about please tell me much appreciated

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