– QUESTION Entertainment is the prolongation of work under late capitalism. It is sought by those who want to escape the mechanised labour process so that they can cope with it again. Adorno and Horkheimer, p. 109
the culture industry and frankfurt school theory
concept of the culture industry as mass deception
case study example relating to question
find second theory responding to frankfurt school
Capitalism continues to prove itself as the most domineering social systems in history owing to various forms that is assumes and its profound ability to infiltrate social and technological systems. Capitalism involves an historical production mode founded on the withdrawal of extra value from the worker, who must sell her or his own labor potential to the money owner for survival because she or he does not any commodity apart from her or his own labor power. Marx prominently criticised this system by alluding to its dehumanising, degrading, and alienating nature. The propagation of this nature of capitalism continues in various aspects of capitalism among which culture industry is included. Culture industry is a terminology employed by social thinkers Max Horkheimerto and Theodor Adorno in describing how popular culture within the capitalist society operates like an industry in generating standardized products, which generate standardised people (). Individuals today strive to conform to various aspects of the popular culture from different genres including the entertainment, leisure, and music. People resort to entertainment as a form of relieving the stress from work and regaining composure prior to resuming their tasks. Nonetheless, amidst people’s pursuit of entertainment to cool or relieve their minds off the pressure from work, capitalism has long infiltrated its roots into entertainment, which currently serves as extension of the capitalistic system. This paper analyses and discusses the topic, “entertainment is the prolongation of work under late capitalism. It is sought by those who want to escape the mechanised labour process so that they can cope with it again.” (Adorno and Horkheimer, p. 109). In relation to this, the paper champions the argument that entertainment serves as the prolongation of work under late capitalism and is sought by those desiring to evade the process of mechanised labour in order to enable them to manage it again. The paper begins by presenting the claims that justify this argument and then concludes by employing the theory by Raymond 1958 in responding to the argument.
Culture industry is bears a robust association with late capitalism in which culture forms such as entertainment constitute the capitalist production system. The fabricators of culture in various forms of entertainment continue to cajole people into believing that their quick pleasures epitomise enlightenment. Online shopping offers a suitable example of how entertainment represents an elongation of work under later capitalism. Currently, people are employing online shopping in amusing themselves. Entertainment, which is among the cultural products of the capitalistic system, is not only meant for amusement, but also for the production of consumers who are adapted to the needs of capitalism.
Individuals often imagine that pop songs or blockbuster films provide relief from their working lives. On the contrary, these elements of entertainment only serve as extended sources of incomes to those who produce them. Adorno and Horkheimer justify this claim by asserting that popular culture serves as the handmaiden of labour (). The two theorists argued that the incurable illness of all forms of entertainment is constant need of consumers or people to keep consuming with the aim of coping with working. Online shopping happens to be among the
According to Adorno and Horkheimer, the culture industry perpetually deceives its consumers of what it unendingly promises, as its promissory note which it draws on desire is endlessly prolonged. The theorists add that the promise of culture industry is illusory and only serves to prove that the actual point is unattainable.
Capitalism exhibits broad tendencies to large public sectors, cycles of activity, and unprecedented wealth creation. As such, the features of capitalism result into the establishment of a culture industry, which entertainment is part, founded on false needs owing to unavoidable mass-production whose outcome is monopoly over a passive and homogenised consumer audience.
The culture industry produces not only commodities, goods to be consumed, but consumers to consume them, and even produces artificial needs whereby they might be prompted to consume even more things they do not need. “The culture industry as a whole has molded men as a type unfailingly reproduced in every product. All the agents of this process, from the producer to the women’s clubs, take good care that the simple reproduction of this mental state is not nuanced or extended in any way.” The culture industry produces not only commodities, but produces subjects 19 programmed to consume these goods. It is involved in what is arguably the grandest and most pervasive scheme of subject-formation ever imagined, far beyond the wildest dreams of any social engineer. The most conspicuous aspect of this subject-formation is the manner in which it programs subjects to consumers. In order to keep the great wheel of capital in constant motion, in order to keep profit rates at levels adequate to stimulate further accumulation in developed capitalist societies in which the basic material needs of most have been met, capital must produce, in addition to commodities, the artificial need for those commodities. It must manufacture desire. “The stronger the 20 positions of the culture industry become, the more summarily it can deal with consumers’ needs, producing them, controlling them, disciplining them,” etc. What the culture industry must do, i.e., 21 is to reduce human beings to consumers: “Industry is interested in people merely as consumers and employees, and has in fact reduced mankind as a whole and each of its elements to this all-embracing formula,” and to this extent is involved in a complicated process of definite subject-formation.
What Adorno means by “mimetic impulses” is that watching a movie necessarily entails that the viewer submit to and follow along with the flow of images, including to the ways those images manipulate us by seeming to alleviate our loneliness, and to satisfy deep-seated emotional drives otherwise unfulfilled by our fragmented social lives. Whether we think we know better or not, the ideas we come out of the movie theater with are ideas about what’s wrong with the world and how to make it better
examples of such monopolies taken under consideration by Adorno and Horkheimer include all the processes of production such as novel, films, and music which are meant to impress the future working individual regardless of plot because of their show of potential commodities that can be achieved through work through a capitalist system (Adorno & Horkheimer, 1944, 98). Taking from Marx, one of the thinkers that inspired these scholars, the commodities and impressive aspects of the mass-production are fetish objects where money is the main fetish of commodity (Marx, 1990, 187). One could claim that these fetishes even lead to a devaluing of human social life (Scannell, 2007, 40). Therefore, leading to a more materialistic mind frame, giving more importance to material means rather than social ones. On this matter, Walter Benjamin, although a proponent of aesthetic theory himself, would argue with Adorno and strike at the heart of his argument regarding fetishism by stating that such objects of mass production could be very abstracted (Witkin, 2003, 54). This was due to the fact that for Benjamin, some sources of need for people could be seen in art, which if produced in mass could lead to a decrease in its level of need as the mass production and increase of availability would alter the relationship between the buyer and art (Benjamin, 1992, XII)
When it comes to online shopping consumers possess specific expectations. These standardised expectations are products of the culture industry, which has led to the creation of standardised desires on the part of consumers. The capitalistic system has led to the establishment of a society that bestows value to a certain form of lifestyle that consumers believe to be the norm. Consumers believe that they have to live up to specific standards of life for them to be considered successful. Such a belief has resulted into individuals streaming into online stores to search for commodities that they believe can contribute to their attainment of the standard of success established for the society by the capitalistic system. () argue that consumers often flock to online stores that meet buyer’s lofty expectations. This situation is augmented by the capitalistic society’s conditioning of people into believing that gathering materialistic good will enable them to feel better. Nonetheless, while engaging in online shopping, as a means of relieving work related stress, individuals always strain themselves to an extent of being extraordinarily anxious and depressed.
The consumers are employees and works, the lower middle class and farmers. Capitalist system of production limits them, both bod and soul, to an extent that they become helpless victims to what is provided to them. As certainly as the ruled often consider the morality imposed on them more earnestly than the rules do, the deceived masses are presently entranced by the myth of accomplishment than the prosperous are (). Immovably, the deceived masses continue to embrace the ideology that enslaves them.
People not only exist under the oppression of capitalism during their workdays, but are also exposed to a capitalistic culture in the form of entertainment. Entertainment extends workers’ subjection from workdays to their lives beyond their occupations, offering them the escapism they need for them to return to work the subsequent morning. Nonetheless, entertainment not merely a distraction or escapism, but an exertion, service to the culture industry. () argue that entertainment transforms distraction into exertion by the insatiable consumption desire created by the culture industry. To consumers, online shopping guises as a job stress reliever, but in the real sense, it subjects people to endless impulsive buying or purchases. Such purchases lead to economic and financial burdens, as individuals spend beyond their means, which compels them to work even harder to satisfy their financial needs. Therefore, entertainment, which in this case is online shopping, subjects consumers to a vicious cycle of work with endless desires to meet their needs. The culture industry through entertainment sucks people in with promises that never come through because its fetishized items or commodities cannot satisfy the desires and needs they address. People do not finds relief from job stress when they engage in enormous online spending that only subject them to financial burdens that compel them to work more than they did before. By subjecting people to intense work to meet their endless needs, entertainment only serves as an extension of work under late capitalism.
The consumer has needs and desires. The culture industry displays its commodities before consumers as accessible, as in their reach, but the nature or form of these items is such that they unlimitedly defer consumers’ desires to other things. () argue that such commodities promise and denounce at the same moment.
Systematic subjection to standaridised entertainment keeps consumers “joyful” and docile. People do not possess the opportunity to contribute to the generation of cultural services and goods to which they are subjected. In an attempt to extend Adorno and Horkheimer’s concept of culture industry, () argue that individuals are made to believe that they possess choices and be producers by the introduction of custom objects and persoalised services, which seem to advance the notion of individualism. Online shopping has excelled in the employment of data to personalise shoppers’ experiences. () assert that the personalisation of customer experience in online shopping is accomplished by focusing on various elements including traffic source, purchase history, visitor location, aggregate customer data, and previous browsing behaviour all of which are influenced by the culture industry. In this manner, consumers can shop for the specific or standaridised products at the comfort of their homes. Therefore, online shopping constitutes one of the deceptions that a person can serve as a producer, possessing more choices. Adorno and Horkheimer emphasise that the content and form of cultural do not need interpretation on the part of consumers and they only serve to put objects or issues out of mind with the aim of ensuring that consumers forget suffering.
Raymond (1958) affirms the Frankfurt school of thought in the statement “there are in fact no masses, but only ways of seeing people as masses… masses became a new word for mob: the others, the unknown, the unwashed, the crowd beyond one.” People are today visiting online stores for experience, as a means of escaping from job pressure. This tendency has led to the establishment of a digital society established gathering and storing consumers’ personal data. Such data is employed in determining and offering standardised commodities for standardised consumers in the guise of providing items that meet consumers’ specific needs. Digital society has been extolled as emancipatory and liberating people from the restrictions of place and time (Shaw 2017). The vaunted liberty of leisure time and work, leisure-place and work-space, has been experienced by some, yet for many it has established the collapse of non-work and work time and space into a digital monitoring of social interaction, identity, and work. As such, people
Shaw, G. M. 2017. Digital society and capitalism, Palgrave Communicationsvolume, 3 (28) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-017-0020-5