“The reality is, to me, I don’t really see it as a business. I’m still one of thosepeople that see music as art, and maybe it’s really naïve, but maybe I’m thefuture”.
Theodor Adorno’s skeptical conception of modern consumer society- dubbed‘The Culture Industry’- is captured poetically in Bob Dylan’s
It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
. The epic tune has been referred to as ‘the ultimate protest song’ because itexpresses a general disapproval of the modern world. The lyrics are vigorously nihilistic,claiming that “It's easy to see without looking too far/ That not much/ Is really sacred”(Bob Dylan,
It’s Alright, Ma
, 1965). The narrator’s prime target is capitalism, specificallythe way in which the system’s pragmatist ideology neutralizes all other values. Dylansuggests that instrumental reason subjects absolutes such as beauty to financialcalculations, describing businessmen that “cultivate their flowers to be nothing more thansomething they invest in” (Ibid).
The culture industry’s amoral manufacturing has “madeeverything from toy guns that spark/ To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark”(Ibid). Dylan is “disillusioned” (Ibid) by the “phony” (Ibid) commodity form thattraditional values are reduced to and “Advertising signs that con you” (Ibid) by divertingfrom this fact. Adorno argues that the whole of culture is consumed by administration inthis way. Like Dylan, he suggests that the problematic inherent in the culture industry isso deeply rooted that “there is no sense in trying” (Ibid) to displace it.Adorno’s aesthetic theory is alternately hopeful and despondent: he is a strong believer in the social potential of art yet markedly pessimistic about its realization in