Gaelan D'costa's Reviews > The Culture Industry

The Culture Industry by Theodor W. Adorno
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's review
Jun 15, 09

bookshelves: culture, philosophy
Read in June, 2009, read count: 1

A lot of Adorno's musings on the culture industry and the mass production of culture gained through industrialization, on the contradictory and blurred opposition between 'serious' and 'popular' art, are so embedded into culture itself that much of this book feels obvious. One thing I'm really glad to now appreciate is that Adorno wasn't simply critiquing a status quo but also went into how that status quo, or an aspect of it, is actually necessary for the 'progressive' oppositions to exist and be structured. He was pushing for awareness, but not necessarily elimination.

What I really appreciated was how one could appreciate the times in which Adorno lived and contrast his view of popular music (jazz) against our modern conception. While a lot of what Adorno writes still applies, things have shifted enough that you can't just run with Adorno's criticism and expect it to apply directly. As such, being able to now discern the difference in culture allows me to take Adorno's core sentiment and apply it more intelligently.

The real goldmine in this book, I find, is that of the last few chapters. While the first ones are extremely theoretical and heady and presumably why you are reading this book, it really surprised me to see Adorno taking what I thought to be a primarily arts-based complaint and then applying it to political activism and leisure time. In fact, his demonstration of how the culture industry weaves its tendrils into things that are not mere show or entertainment drives his point home with far more impact and room for introspection. In fact, those are the points that I think people would be far better off retaining as Adorno's culture-centric insights are part of the industry itself, going through the same machinations he set his polemic against.

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Reading Progress

02/07/2009 "I remember why I'm too dumb for a philosophy degree; it's hard work reading texts from a guy who argues that words themselves are deceptive."
02/19/2009 page 36
16.07% "Adorno himself is way easier to understand than the introduction, although every so often there are key passages which demand a day to diges"
04/17/2009 page 75
33.48% "It's getting easier to understand after 'Fetish Character', wow!"
04/26/2009 page 99
44.2% "The third essay is only six pages, maybe I can kill it in a bedtime read!"
05/25/2009 page 113
50.45% "God damn it, German translations."
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