Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword
Like this
7Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Enlightening the Culture Industry: Horkheimer, Adorno and Democracy in America

Enlightening the Culture Industry: Horkheimer, Adorno and Democracy in America

Ratings: (0)|Views: 60 |Likes:
Two texts, written over a century apart, analyse the impact of mass culture on American society. This essay compares and contrasts de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835, 1840) with Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944) in order to understand the implications of these texts for enlightenment, democracy and despotism in modern capitalist societies.
Two texts, written over a century apart, analyse the impact of mass culture on American society. This essay compares and contrasts de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835, 1840) with Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944) in order to understand the implications of these texts for enlightenment, democracy and despotism in modern capitalist societies.

More info:

Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
See more
See less

10/27/2013

 
 
Modernism and Mass Society Essay 2:
Enlightening the Culture Industry:Horkheimer, Adorno and
 Democracy in America
 
Marie O’ReillySS European Studies05/04/2007
 
 1
Enlightening the Culture Industry:Horkheimer, Adorno and
 Democracy in America
 
In their essay, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”,Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno provide a scathing analysis of mass culturein modern capitalist society, placing particular emphasis on their experience of itsextremity in the USA. The title of this chapter in
 Dialectic of Enlightenment 
(1944)
1
 echoes one written by another European who had visited America over one hundredyears earlier. Alexis de Tocqueville’s
 De la Démocratie en Amérique
(1835, 1840)
2
 dedicates a short chapter to “L’industrie littéraire” in this young democracy, andmany more chapters of the second volume to what could be more generally describedas a culture industry. Indeed, Horkheimer and Adorno make specific reference toTocqueville in their essay, fully endorsing the views he had expressed a centuryearlier, which have “in the meantime proved wholly accurate” (
 DE 
, 133). WhileTocqueville then seems to be quickly forgotten again, the Tocqueville readercontinues to recognise innumerable similarities between the two texts as Horkheimerand Adorno develop their ideas. Cultural products as commodities only; art asreproduction and repetition instead of an autonomous search for truth; the correlatingmediocrity of values in society; the tyranny that can ultimately result, causing a returnto barbarism – any item in this list could come from the 20
th
century or the 19
th
 century text, although both are deemed original and unique.However, it would appear that few have attempted to explore Horkheimer andAdorno’s passing remark in more detail, in spite of the many questions it raises.Moreover, a broader reading of the two books would generally appear to render them
1
Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer,
 Dialectic of Enlightenment 
. New York: Verso, 1997.From now on denoted in the body of the text as
 DE 
followed by page number.
2
Alexis de Tocqueville,
 De la Démocratie en Amérique
. Vol 1 and 2. Paris: GF Flammarion, 1981.From now on denoted in the body of the text as
 DAI 
and
 DAII 
respectively.
 
 2at odds, as Tocqueville seems to paint a mostly rosy picture of democracy in Americawhile Horkheimer and Adorno announce a collapse into heteronomy. In keeping withall of the authors’ emphasis on the search for ‘truth’, the most pertinent enquiry musttherefore ask whether potential causes and consequences of a dominant cultureindustry rise above each individual text in its own context. This, in turn, can facilitatethe investigation of deeper implications for enlightenment, democracy and despotismin modern capitalist societies.
The Culture Industry: Producing Mass Mediocrity
At first glance, the context and content of these two European analyses of American society could hardly be further apart. While Tocqueville is predicting theinevitable wave of democracy that will pass from America to Europe as the latter isstill in the grips of the old aristocracy, Horkheimer and Adorno witness thetotalitarian nature of fascist Germany reproduced before their eyes and ears uponarriving in the US as exiles. Moreover, Tocqueville is assessing
democracy
inAmerica – can this really be compared to what is essentially a Marxist-Freudiananalysis of late capitalist consumerism a century later?Upon closer inspection, the subject of the culture industry produces consensuson a range of topics nonetheless. Horkheimer and Adorno’s description of thereification of art in the United States could, in fact, be seen a century earlier inTocqueville’s description of “ces auteurs qui n’aperçoivent dans les lettres qu’uneindustrie” (
 DAII 
, 77). Indeed, both analyses describe a process of commodification of culture that not only erases the aesthetic worth of art works, but further enforcessocietal conformity, undermining individual critical thinking. Horkheimer andAdorno’s idea of aesthetic barbarity is echoed in Tocqueville’s frequent descriptionsof dumbed-down works of art in American society that only serve “un goût égoiste,

Activity (7)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 hundred reads
leeinsuk liked this
Halil Türkden liked this
sabfor liked this
Holly Hobkirk liked this
Freeway222 liked this

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->