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Critical Theory and the Rise of the Cultural Industries

Cmns130, Spring 2012 Kathleen Cross

Lecture Outline Today Lecture Outline

Housekeeping Recap last lecture (media effects research) Critical Theory intro Enlightenment Frankfurt School Standardized culture Commodity fetishism Critical theory in context

Media effects in Lib. Pluralism

Changed over time: Hypodermic Needle Model
Mass society concerns War of the Worlds, propaganda, 1930s - 40s

Two Step Flow theory

Minimal political effects, 1950s -

Uses and Gratifications theory

Audience control, advertising & industry research Consumer soveriengty 1970s 3

Related to consumer culture Prevalence of Audience Research

Timeline of Dominant Views

1700-1800s 1900s - 1940s 1960s -80s 1985- 2012

Enlightenment - Modernity


Liberal Pluralist

Liberal Pluralist

Liberal Pluralist

Critical Cultural

Critical Theory/ Critical Theory/ Cultural Studies Cultural Studies

Enlightenment / Modernity (1550) 1770 1800s






Age of Reason New humanism based on logic and the scientific method (empiricism) Influence of other emerging sites of power: merchant class, early capitalists, educated elites, industrialists. Massive upheaval from agrarian to industrial society. Enlightenment: an intellectual approach based on scientific and rational view of the world, established the ideological foundations for modern democracy and free press.
Cross/Cmns130/SFU 7

Enlightenment cont.
Origins of modernity a profound revolution in social thought in 18th C.

Secular movement, dedicated to freeing people from ignorance and blind religious faith, through application of science and reason
Emancipatory movement Notions of universal, natural, individual rights, & representative democracy Education, and communications methods to bring reason to civil society Specific role of the state to safeguard rights and provide services for the public good.
Cross/Cmns130/SFU 8

Three key concepts of Enlightenment (Classical Liberalism)

1. Assumption that humans are rational, capable of making choices and governing ourselves 2. Liberty, all men are created equal and have unalienable rights. Freedom from authoritarian governments 3. Truth is discoverable through reason.


Critical Perspectives
Concerned that democracy/freedom movements were not being realized Concerned with unequal relations of power, especially economic power

Frankfurt School
Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, and later others... Who holds the power in media?
Karl Marx 1818 - 1883


Frankfurt School
Culture Industry: Enlightenment As Mass Deception (1944) Progressive technical domination Rationality through technology

Max Horkheimer

The Cultural Industry Thesis

Adorno and Horkheimer used the ironic term culture industry Refers to the process of the industrialization of mass produced culture The industrial assembly line based model of work now pervades leisure (Fordism) Leisure has the same rhythms, pace, simplifications and illusions of work

A mode of organization to produce, and distribute something in capitalist economies Defines institutions and their interrelationships in networks of commerce

mass deception critique

Issues of: Standardization Pseudo-individualism Commodification

the result of taking the commodity as being an almost magical object, rather than being the result of a set of social relations

Cultural Industries
If culture = the signifying system through which social order is communicated, reproduced, experienced and explored (Hesmondhalgh, p11) Then cultural industries are those institutions which are directly involved in the production of social meaning

Hesmondhalghs Definition
Based on Raymond Williams narrower definition: - The signifying system through which necessarily a social order is communicated, reproduced, experiences and explored (page 11) - Thus, cultural industries are those institutions which are most directly involved in the production of social meaning. Industries which produce SYMBOLIC MEANING Centered on the creation of texts

Why do Cultural Industries matter?

- Make and circulate texts - Manage and circulate creativity - Are agents of economic, social and cultural change

Core Cultural Industries

Those that deal with industrial production and circulation of texts/products/services:
Broadcasting Film Music Print/Book and magazine publishing Advertising* Video games Internet

Key Concepts in Critical Perspectives

SOCIETY is divided or stratified - the illusion of consensus is maintained in the midst of inherent and structural conflicts of interest. POWER is concentrated, unevenly distributed within certain elites or structures of dominance

MEDIA, are both constituting and the result of these differential power relations
media has a role in shaping the whole ideological environment in legitimizing the social order


Two general streams of Critical Theory

Cultural Theory Critical Political Economy

Frankfurt School Cultural Industries Focus on ideological analysis

Herman & Chomsky McChesney Focus on economic analysis

Convergences between the two, eg: Gramsci

Next week...
Neo-liberalism Proposal due in tutorial