Culture Industry or Propaganda Model

The Culture Industry, as described by Adorno and Horkenhiemer, is everything connected with the creation and distribution of what we essentially call commercial media. Mass media creation and distribution have created a  flattening of all cultural goods because the technology behind modern mass media requires such a large number of people and management organization. The result is a low quality cultural product.  This sameness perpetuates a mind numbing effect on the populace who is moronic and defenseless. This ultimately, leaves them open for absorbing totalitarian propaganda through the same means without even noticing.

The Adorno/Horkenhiemer conception of Culture Industry is clearly rooted in fears about Facism  as it is largely focused on how the Culture Industry sets a populace up to be open to accepting, without little or no protest, a totalitarian rule. They are primarily concerned in this text, with how Culture Industry effects they way a populace perceives of themselves as individuals and in relation to the whole. In this view people are essentially pleasure seeking, creatures of habit and needs basically, children. In modern society people have become so alienated that they easily adopt stereotypes as real and in fact model themselves after them as a substitute for actual individuality and emotional experience.

The Culture Industry as a structure has trained the populace to happily eat pabulum and to in fact beg for it and feel fulfilled by it. The fear is that people become used to this and the content itself has become so meaningless that it can be replaced with anything without anyone so much as noticing only clamoring for more. The Culture Industry makes even languages useless sets of patterns and into signs so childlike they are just that, signs.  Freedoms to choose exist but the choices offered are so irrelevant that it is just the feeling of freedom that persists. The Culture industry absorbs dissent, fine art, personal freedoms, personality. Anything can be almost instantly co-opted and flattened by it and replaced by a commercially sponsored cardboard pop-up simulation. All of this occurs so seamlessly that the consumers don’t even feel it they in fact, feel empowered by it.

Chomsky and Herman also believe that the structure of  system that creates the cultural product is of great importance. Their propaganda model is essentially discussing the same thing as the Culture Industry only Chomsky and Herman see it not as some mastermind plan for totalitarian control but rather a set of circumstances that interlock and create a model which is so efficient at reproducing the same circumstances that keep it in perpetual motion, that is difficult to break or significantly alter. Ultimately they offer a  bigger picture of the structure so we can perhaps begin to take pragmatic steps to dismantle is or to make use of it differently.

A few questions I am left with:
Adorno and Horkheimer are not fans of the popular culture created by a mass media but also call out bourgeois art for being elitist and doing nothing to benefit common people. What manifestations of culture woul Adorno and Horkenhiemer find worthwhile?
Adorno is  deeply disturbed and angered by the effectiveness of Hitler’s propaganda machine on his own German people and their culture. How are the personal perspectives of Chomsky and Herman v. Adorno and Horkenhiemer coloring their take on propaganda through popular culture?

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One Response to “Culture Industry or Propaganda Model”

  1. I completely agree with your questions and wonder the same myself. What do they find worthwhile? What is considered NOT propaganda in today’s society? Also, is culture industry and globalization one of the same, since it has the same foundations of imitation dominating world wide?

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