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Cultural Studies:
Culture Industry--The Theory of Adorno & Horkheimer
The Production of Culture
Culture industry, Standardization, Pseudo Individuality, Criticism

from Production of Culture/Culture of Production
  The debate between productionism and consumptionism
overriding theme:
the concentration of culture production within an industry that is dominated by a few corporate producers [Disney+ABC+MacDonald's] who manufacture, own the rights to and distribute a vast number of the mass-mediated cultural products that are found in the world. The consequences of such concentration are viewed as leading to a process of standardization of form and homogeneity of content. The impact is perceived as, at best giving the consumer little real choice, at worst promoting cultural forms that are dulling our ability to think critically about the world in which we live and reducing the diversity of values, beliefs and customs across the world. 

…TThis chapter will trace a broad theorectical shift from approaching the production of culture through a macro perspective which stresses social and organizational structures and economic relationships, towards a more micro approach which focuses on everyday human agency and the making of cultural meanings. The first approach foregrounds the issue of control over production and constraint on creative practices; the second emphasizes human autonomy and the active ability to engage in creative activities despite such constraints. 

Culture industry
'production line' and 'sausage machine'--music industry, book publishing business and Hollywood film production 

Adorno and Horkeimer
--how culture is industrialized
--the impact of [industrialization]on how cultural items were created and consumed.
Mass culture'in which cultural production had become a routine, standardized repetitive operation that produced undemanding cultural commodities which in turn resulted in a type of consumption that was also standardized, distracted and passive. 

[against instrumental rationality prevalent in the first half of 20th century.]
[personal history: witnessed 1914-1918 war, fled from Nazism in 1938 to the U.S. to find both the Nazi party and the U.S. make massive use of media technologies. 

Summary of the Three major arguments: production-creation-consumption

From a political-economy analysis which draws on Marx, they argue that the concentration of culture production in a capitalist industry results in a standardized commercial commodity.
Free and autonomous art against the repetitive and unchallenging culture produced as a commodity
cultural consumption has become a de-concentrated activity leading to passive and 'obedient' types of social behaviour. 

Further explanation of standardization and pseudo-individuality
standardization: there is nothing spontaneous about the process of cultural production: it has become a routine operation that can be carried out in an office by the application of specific formulae. E.g. production procedure, plan, repetitive sequences and frequently recurring refrains.

Examples: Artist and mass production: Springsteen and music video such as "Dancing in the Dark" "Born in the U.S.A."; the textbook's example: jazz improvization, psalm, traditional song, 'easy listening' -regressive listening 

consequences: passive, obedient and easily manipulated consumption--e.g. listen to the refrains and hooks of a hit song; 

pseudo individuality--trade marks of car, music and stars' images
"The constant pressure to produce new effects (which must conform to the old pattern) serves merely as another rule to increase the power of the conventions…}Pseudo individuality is rife: from the standardized jazz improvization to the exceptional film star whose hair curls over her eye to demonstrate her originality. " 


  1. popular culture--not always standardized, controlled;
  2. Do we need meaning and self-awareness in every activity, including entertainment?
  3. distinction between the standardization of 'functional artifacts' such as a car and 'music texts' such as songs.
    • Gendron (textbook p. 82): his point is that the standardization of components in the car is qualitatively different to that in a song.  How do we interprete the 'part interchangeability' of music elements? 
  4. There is a limit in this productionist perspective. -- Different ways of consumption