The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception

Horkheimer and Adorno’s analysis may be a little bit outdated because of the drastic difference between technology in the ’40s compared to now. However, Horkheimer and Adorno do acknowledge that technology shapes culture.

Horkheimer and Adorno say, “For culture now impresses the same stamp on everything”. They talked a lot about the struggle of classifying what real art is and the reaction to art by society determining its receptivity. Does our culture’s emphasis on creating art (being creative and artistic) take away from individual’s within society with true artistic genius? Why do you guys think our culture prioritizes aesthetics so much? Do you think that we could be forcing meaning upon works of art?

Yet, they discuss how “creativity can’t seem to break the barrier of the long-lasting industry”. All industries within the culture industry are intertwined, so it seems that there will always be a subjective influence. They say that ultimately, the culture industry creates ready-made themes (generalized content – ex. genre in film) to be repeated throughout media.

Do you guys agree with their point that “the culture industry cheats us because we are never getting the real point”? (We’re fed with aesthetic sublimation). Or would you say that the movement of technology is democratic and allows us as consumers to schematize media on our own accord?


3 thoughts on “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception

  1. In a way, I do feel that our culture does take away from true artistic genius because people are rewarded for mastering already known styles and new styles aren’t really praised till years after the fact. I think that our culture prioritizes aesthetics because we enjoy familiarity and anything that veers from it makes us slightly uncomfortable cause we don’t know how to analyze it or think of it. I’m not sure that we’re necessarily forcing meaning on works of art because I think that similar styles don’t necessarily have the same meaning as much as they just have a similar form. For example, you can see two different pointillism works that tell completely different stories but are just created in the same way.

    I think that in Horkheimer and Adorno’s time, it was easy to believe that only the elites had power over the culture industry and that common people were cheated from real art and culture. With the Nazi, Frankist, and Fascist regimes in power, it was easy to see how the government and elites could control the media that people consume. I disagree that this is completely the case today because I believe that social media and the .com era have opened up a free space for people to share their content without it being filtered or chosen by higher ups. YouTube stars become YouTube stars because people like to watch them–not because they are the only readily available ones. Even in film, independent films like Moonlight are becoming more popular and winning their big breaks.

  2. I would say that our culture doesn’t take away from individuals with true artistic genius because I think by having a culture that emphasizes creating art, it allows for those with artistic genius to be able to expand on their talents. I agree with Carolina, I think familiarity is what drives peoples appreciation of the aesthetic. For example, we see so many stories retold in theaters because of that familiarity factor. I would say that at times we do force meaning upon works of art because our culture is putting an emphasize on creating art, so thusly so many more things are considered as art which may not fall into the category as much as other things.

    I do think that technology has allowed for us as consumers to schematize media on our own accord, like Carolina said, through the internet and social media, people are able to choose the media they consume. I find this idea really interesting because if we have the ability to schematize media on our accord, do we sometimes give popularity and attention to things that reflect negatively on society?

  3. I agree with Horkheimer and Adorno when they argue that, “culture now impresses the same stamp on everything.” The cultural emphasis on creating art detracts from truly creative individuals. Just within our own culture art is clearly boxed into lower and higher forms. No matter how beautifully drawn or well written a comic might be, it can never receive the same critical reception that a famous painting can. No matter how much effort I put into a comic, I might never receive the same amount of recognition I would have gotten had I written a book or created an art piece. Even the way we as a culture classify different mediums affects an individual’s artistic aspirations.

    While it is true that genre and generalized content might have limited creativity in the past, I agree with Nicholas and Carolina’s sentiment. The rise of the internet age has without a doubt democratized media. It is possible to tailor the media you consume depending on your personal tastes. On the other end, it’s also possible to create media for others and have it seen by millions.

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