Cultural industry is the name given to the production and distribution of cultural items with a view to making a profit . It is a concept that refers to the serial production of cultural goods, as occurs with other types of merchandise. Examples of products from the cultural industry are films, TV programs, soap operas, sports championships, musical shows, radio programs, books, records, etc. Cultural industry definition
This concept was created in the 1940s by the German philosophers Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) and Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969). Both were part of the so-called Frankfurt School, a group of researchers dedicated to formulating a critical theory of contemporary society. Among the themes researched by the Frankfurt theorists are art, culture and the media.
The cultural industry, as the name suggests, is a phenomenon that emerged with the industrialization process, more specifically during the Second Industrial Revolution (1850-1945). During this period, there were great advances in the telecommunications sector, such as the invention of the radio and technical innovations that allowed the evolution of printing techniques. In the nineteenth century, there is the consolidation of the press as the first means of mass communication.
One of the first products of the culture industry was the serialized novels. The serials were stories published in chapters in newspapers, similar to current soap operas. Cultural industry definition
Like any other commodity, cultural industry items are mass-produced and distributed through mass media such as TV, radio and the internet. Today, streaming services for watching movies and series, such as Netflix, or for listening to music, such as Spotify, are major distributors of cultural industry products.
As the objective of any industry is to make a profit, the production of cultural goods follows the logic of the market. Thus, the work of artistic creation, instead of meeting only the expressive needs of its creator, becomes subject to the idea of profit. If the first season of a series did not yield the expected profit, the studio that produced it will hardly invest in a second season.
One of the criticisms made to the cultural industry has to do with its repetitive nature. If the objective of the producer of cultural goods is to make a profit, he bets on what the consumer already knows. There are “success formulas” whether in movies, books or songs. Betting on these formulas usually works out quite well. The rule is: give the consumer what he wants.
Philosopher Marilena Chauí, in her book Invitation to Philosophy , states that the cultural industry makes art lose its experimental character. According to her, the artistic goods produced by the cultural industry tend to confirm what has already been “consecrated by fashion and consumption”. Cultural industry definition
Another criticism made of the cultural industry is the fact that cultural items are transformed into mere entertainment . More reflective or critical works are often seen as things that don’t sell. Therefore, it is common to choose to produce pleasant, simplified, superficial and easily absorbed materials. According to critics, industrialized culture has serious social consequences, such as alienation, escape from reality and conformism.
Adorno and Horkheimer, the creators of the concept, were great critics of the cultural industry. According to them, serial cultural production would make individuals mere “puppets” of economic power, since the consumption of mass culture does not contribute to critical thinking and reflection. On the contrary: it makes the individual alienated and conformed.
cultural industry and mass culture
Mass culture is the product of the culture industry. All cultural goods, from audiovisual to printed products, that submit to the logic of the market can be classified as mass culture. Another name that can be given to mass culture is “industrial culture” – products made in series with a view to making a profit. Cultural industry definition
According to critics of this definition, one cannot speak of a “mass” culture, as these cultural goods are not produced by the masses. It would be more correct to speak of culture “for” the masses, that is, a set of cultural goods produced for their consumption, since mass culture is not produced by the public that consumes it.
Philosopher Marilena Chauí draws attention to the separation promoted by the cultural industry between two types of works: the “expensive” and the “cheap”. The former are aimed at a cultural elite, who can afford these expensive works. The second are mass products.
Thus, instead of democratizing access to culture, the culture industry would make a separation between elite consumer goods and mass consumer goods. Each social group is assigned a type of cultural asset.