"The Culture Industry: Enlightenment
as Mass Deception"
Basic Argument: Modern
culture industry, under the influence of mechanical reproduction, produce
standardized commodities which serve to homogenize/massify their consumers.
Even high arts get to be sacrificed in thie barbarity of style (or lack
of genuine style).
The essay published in mid-1940s.
"Adorno and Horkheimer were refugees from Nazi Germany living in the U.S.
Hitler's totalitarianism and American market system are fused in their
thought--all the more easily because, for them as members of the German
(or rather secularized German Jewish) bourgeoisie, high culture, particularly
drama and music, is powerful vehicle of civil values" (editor 29).
Films, radio and magazines
make up a system which is uniform as a whole and in every part. (30)
reasons for standardization (31-32)
The technical contrast
between the few production centres and the large number of widely dispersed
consumption points is said to demand that standards and planning by management.
A technological rationale
is the rationale of domination itself. It is the coercise nature
of society alienated from itself.
The technical and personnel
apparatus . . . itself forms part of the economic mechanism of selection.
Culture molopolies are
weak and dependent in comparison. They cannot afford to neglect their
appeasement of the real holders of power.
classfication of one genre
and of audience: Marked differentiation such as those of A and B films,
or of stories in magazines in different price ranges, depend not so much
on subject matter as on classifying, organizing, and labelling consumers.
stultification and pseudo-identity
integration of different
media: The varying budgets in the culture industry do not bear the slightest
relation to factual values, to the meaning of the products themselves.
Even the technical media are relentlessly forced into uniformity.
Real life is indistinguishable
from the movies. . . .The stunting of the mass-media consumer's
power of imagination and spontaneity.
[The movies] are so designed
that quickness, powers of observation, and experience are undeniably needed
to apprehend them at all; yet sustained thought is out of the question.
. . they react automatically.
The culture industry as
a whole has moulded men as a type unfailingly produced in every
There is laughter because
there is nothing to laugh at. . . .The pleasure industry never
fails to prescribe [fun]. It makes laghter the instrument of the
fraud practised on happiness. (39)
Pseudo individuality is
rife: from the standardized jazz improvization to the exceptional film
star whose hair curls over her eye to demonstrate her originality.
parts interchangeability － 車子與個人認同．
apparent emptiness of the marketing of the quad four nevertheless intervenes
toward a profound redistribution of position, not despite but because of
the lack of differnence with respect to competitors' engines" (162).
True art: negativity (vs. culture industry as the negation of style)
The great artists were
never those who embodies a wholly flawless and perfect style, but those
who used style as a way of hardening themselves against the chaotic expression
of suffering, as a negative truth. (37)
The secret of aesthetic
sublimation is its representation of fulfillment as a broken promise. (38)
(v.s. culture industry, which does not sublimite; which represses.)
More on Adorno's view on Art.
Adorno & Horkheimer. "The
Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception." The
Cultural Studies Reader. Ed. Simon During. NY: Routledge,
Gendron, Bernard. "Theordor Adorno Meets
the Cadillacs." Studies in Entertainment. Ed. Tania
Modleski. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1986.
Watkins, Evan. "For the Time Being, Forever":
Social Position and the Art of Automobile Maintenance." Boundary
2 18 (1991): 150-65.