Going Back to the Future of the Culture Industry

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 17:20
Location: Seminar 34 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Colin CREMIN, University of Auckland, New Zealand
The concept of the culture industry, introduced by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in their 1944 book Dialectic of Enlightenment, explains why under conditions of servitude people identify with interests to whom they ought logically to oppose. Their focus is not culture industries as such but rather the adaptation of factory-style techniques to aesthetic production for the purposes of exchange. This leads to the standardisation of culture and the reification of easily reproducible, interchangeable and marketable artefacts, be they films, music, paintings, celebrities and so on. Familiarity is key to popularity. By seeking out and consuming the ever same, the aesthetic sensibilities and intellectual capacities of the individual are stunted and they regress into a childlike state. To engender novelty minor variations are factored into cultural production. By identifying with and recognising his or herself in these novelties, the person becomes a pseudo-individual with anything substantive liquidated.

Rather than consign the culture industry thesis to history, the paper will claim that it was ahead of its time and is indeed relevant now. Taking into account new technological developments, the sphere of Internet communication in particular, it will be argued that the thesis is also useful when speculating on the future. Gilles Deleuze will be enrolled into this task.