On the Way of Adorno's Criticism of Popular Culture

"The culture industry no longer has anything in common with freedom. It proclaims: You shall conform, without instruction as to what; conform to that which exists anyway, and to that which everyone thinks anyway as a reflex of its power and omnipresence. The power of the culture industry's ideology is such that conformity has replaced consciousness. The order that springs from it is never confronted with what it claims to be or with the real interests of human beings.” 

Theodor Adorno


One may argue that it is almost impossible to envisage oppositional, alternative and critical ways of thinking and acting. This has a meaning which is counterpart with what Adorno had tried to reveal. Well, all these arguments are still valid today? This question has to be answered by who has some criticism about the today's world order which merely looks like a "quelle horreur" grotesk picture, rather than a heaven on earth.

If one that seek to reply Adorno's statement, first it has to be revealed that what are all stands
behind those sentences. And if one look for following Adorno, surely it has to be put some
information about Frankfurt School, especially Max Horkheimer. Let's see what Douglas Kellner
wrote in his “The Frankfurt School” article:

“Horkheimer and Adorno developed an account of the “culture industry” to call attention to the industrialization and commercialization of culture under capitalist relations of production.”

Horkheimer and Adorno (as can be seen on the picture above) were leading members of the Frankfurt School and their main difference were coming with their approach; as they said this school has to more philosophical way to trace, not a institute for doing some empirical works as the founder of the instute Karl Grünberg once decided. In this regard, they used psychology, philosophy, psychoanalysis etc. to criticize enlightment theory by using conception of“culture industry”. Their aim using the “culture industry” term is to elicit how enlighment process of the modern world created today's neo – liberal economic structure and its results as a tool of dominance. As they put critical theory just against the traditional theory due to reflect what the enlightment really is, thus they showed the teleologic structure of enlightment which makes a control system works within subject and object regarding dominance tool. Moreover, they got back to initial times of the enlighment in order to set up their history theory. This theory wasn't contain anything new but it showed that the emancipation of the individuals is just lying right there in the history. (Adorno saw a light at the end of the tunnel in spite of all that happened in this world)

Mass culture, as the culture of the modern capitalism, try to homogenize receivers because
they produce for the market. This is how the mass society emerged from. The distinction of the
noble life / common life rose with mass society conception and the critics of the masses gradually inclined. Criticism of mass society first put forth by de Tocqivelle and then followed by Nietzsche, Ortega y Gasset, and finally Theodor Adorno. According to Adorno, critical theory has to be negated, the negation that we found it at art. Because the art, at least, protect the class. In this regard, he stated a negation of identiting which he argued that one that has to be non-identiting with capitalist structure and its culture just because of the showing resistance what is perpetually rising as a culture industry against him/her. Adorno said that the art welcomes you to either identiting or not-identiting, other discussions are not valid. Hence, he criticized Marxist German theatre director Bertolt Brecht saying that he assimilated to the fact which exists by speaking the tongue of what he intented to criticize. So the art can be successful if it would be functionless and when it forced to structure to change. The didactical way of art is no longer useful to change the system as a whole but it is very much proper to hegemonic order as a drain canal of opponent elements. If one that really desire to change the system behalf of the good of human beings, he/she should change the form (by using the art), not the content.

What I understand from the statement that given is related with this form/content criticism
of Adorno which showed us that the freedom is just a deceptive story told by culture industry and the criticism of it also uses its language if it not look for changing the form. Culture industry says that the happiness only comes with conformism; the more you conform, you get less critical thoughts and it makes you happy without asking questions. Hence, conformity gets consciousness of individual and uses it against it. As an example, this industry produces “false needs” and put off people with those things. We saw a “Prozac Society” as a result of false needs, thus the same industry gives us prescription how we can get rid of it. What is written on the prescription is running away from everything that cannot be changed by the individual is also be welcomed by culture industry which presenting people “effect of free choice”. This identiting process never be related with the real interests of human beings, but the culture industry gains from it over and over again. People that be encountered with effect of free choice meet with frustration yet but prescription written already and presenting to them; the compansation of frustration. All these things make system keep working and produces continually itself.

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