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The Culture Industry

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  5,072 ratings  ·  101 reviews
The creation of the Frankfurt School of critical theory in the 1920s saw the birth of some of the most exciting and challenging writings of the twentieth century. It is out of this background that the great critic Theodor Adorno emerged. His finest essays are collected here, offering the reader unparalleled insights into Adorno's thoughts on culture. He argued that the cul ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published 2001 by Routledge (first published 1944)
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Glenn Russell
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Here is a short Youtube video capturing the spirit of Theodor W. Adorno's The Culture Industry. Such a clear synopsis of his philosophy, I wanted to include as part of my review here:

You will be hard pressed to find a more scathing, uncompromising indictment of popular culture than The Culture Industry, Selected Essays on Mass Culture by Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969). An accomplished classical pianist, composer and musicologist (he was a friend of compose
May 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
How old were you when you realized that the methods and modes that govern Hollywood cultural production are EXACTLY THE SAME as the propaganda machines that power some of the most oppressive totalitarian regimes in human history? I know how old I was. I was twenty-five and this realization came to me, not immanently, but because I read this critical text. Critical theory is exactly what gives voice to suspicions that all intelligent people have, but lack the ability to voice. Whereas some critic ...more
E. G.
Introduction & Notes

--On the Fetish Character in Music and the Regression of Listening
--The Schema of Mass Culture
--Culture Industry Reconsidered
--Culture and Administration
--Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda
--How to Look at Television
--Transparencies on Film
--Free Time

Name Index
Subject Index
I do this weird, masochistic thing whenever I can't make up my mind about an author, or musician, or filmmaker. I go in depth on them. I did it with Saul Bellow, with Lupe Fiasco, and with Lars Von Trier. And now I'm doing it with Adorno. Firstly, what I like about Adorno: his dissection of how culture is produced, his criticism of Enlightenment, the correlations he draws between reproduction and alienation. We're cool. What I dislike about Adorno: his profound elitism, especially the belief tha ...more
Nov 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture
Stunning book about how culture isn’t just a random collection of our individual behaviours and norms transposed into something in the air which drives our etiquette and modus operandi. the book says quite the opposite. That we have been foisted into a construct which is self perpetuating and does not want us to take our eyes of the dumbpads and dumbphones we are usually subsumed within. A thinking man is a dangerous man to those fat cats that are relishing the taste and contours of the status q ...more
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
Theodor Adorno is the original hipster, from a time before it was cool to be so. Furthermore, Adorno's work is, by modern standards, racist, sexist, and classist.

Adorno speaks of fetishization and conformity, but his own arguments begin to contradict each other. At the same time that he claims that only "original" art is good art, he vocalizes a very stringent worship of the old classical masters; suggesting in no uncertain terms that no ideal music has been produced since Mozart's "The Magic F
Sep 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: capitalists
dear reader,

welcome! welcome, friend, to this week's review of "did you say CULTURE INDUSTRY?" by theodore "california dreamin'" adorno! please enjoy!


written in 1940's. maybe.
capitalism gives birth to corporations, mass media.
they create false needs.
we have true needs: freedom, independence, happiness.
they say: fuck that shit, $$$$.
population consumes false needs, becoming passive.
you buy fancy clothes, fancy car, nice home, body wash, makeup, cologne, go to hollywood movies, sign up for
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
“The research finding, that among radio listeners the friends of light music reveal themselves to be depoliticised, is not accidental.”
-On the Fetish Characteristic in Music and the Regression of Listening.

Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jimmy by: Routledge makes a handsome little paperback.
Adorno is brilliant. The profound aspect of his views on mass culture is the rather postmodern, ironic perspective that he throws on consumer manipulation. For Adorno what is essentially important is not that popular culture is debasing the attention span of the masses, it is the way in which capitalist institutions-say for example, television networks-convince the spectator that they are all too aware of what low brow art really is. In turn this assures people that it is okay to patronize cheap ...more
vi macdonald
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
There's a lot of astute observations here, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I winced my way through certain sections of this book. Like, across these essays Adorno is clearly outlining a really sharp analysis of the function of art under capitalism. And yet, even though his analysis is largely predicated on the fact that all art under capitalism is a hollow version of what it could be under a non-repressive society, there are a number of points where he ends up sounding like an angsty 15 ...more
Oct 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I don't know what Marx had to say about the arts, but Adorno can be his spokesperson. Overall, Adorno is spot-on about how commodification of public goods, like the arts, has destroyed them in large part. He blames the market for fetishizing favorite tunes and celebrities, without regard for 'quality'. I already blamed the market and technology for the downfall of all things good, so I'm with him there.

But, I have never had such a love-hate relationship with an author. He makes me want to wring
Sep 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, music
A funny book this one. At the beginning of it, I disliked his lash about jazz and his obsession with Tchaikovsky. The middle of the book was just Chinese to me, with high academic language and complex paragraphs that make you wonder whether he’s trying to be a snob on purpose and why the hell can’t he just simplify his ideas and make them accessible. But by the end of the book in his articles about mass media and how we spend our free time, I fell in love.

I wonder he would’ve made of jazz toda
John David
Oct 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology, philosophy
More a collection of related essays and less a book with a coherent, unified message, this is a set of nine essays on a variety of topics. I’ll list them here just to give the reader some idea of the vast area these essays cover. They are “On the Fetish Character in Music and the Regression of Listening,” “The Schema of Mass Culture,” “Culture Industry Reconsidered,” “Culture and Administration,” “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda,” “How to Look at Television,” “Transparencie ...more
Katie Bayford
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Is this book essential reading for anyone? Almost definitely not, though the message is pertinent. Does that make this book any less great? No.

Like all brilliant, glimmering Adorno, I understand perhaps half. The lengthy rants against people in the office questioning why he doesn't have a suntan or hobbies are unironically a joy to read. Adorno at his best.
Dec 15, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is great and all, but Adorno loses points for being a curmudgeon.
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Theodor Adorno: the original snob before it was cool, criticizing listeners of popular music for being stupid, regressive, childish, whose primitivism is that of “the forcibly retarded.” I like him.

Nonetheless, it would be off the marks, if not plain wrong, to say that Adorno is a snob in the first place: he is not an elitist (or is he?) who looks down upon the masses. What he intends to attack is not the listeners, but rather the culture industry itself, which includes the entertainment industr
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Sometimes one needs a book to survive the boredom of a flight, however, in this case - one needs to be stuck on an airplane to survive this book. Elitist doesn't begin to describe it: the guy really didn't appreciate jazz, dancing, having hobbies, and basically every other form of entertainment. On a more serious note, Adorno tries to deconstruct the fetishism of the culture on an industrial scale (still in a very elitist and often contradictory way), and hints to few important points about cult ...more
Jon Wlasiuk
Jan 01, 2021 rated it liked it
One of the moist important contributions of the Frankfurt School was the application of psychology to culture. While Adorno’s critical analysis of mass culture is blind to the Information Age of our own time, his meditation on the relationship of all artistic endeavors to commodity capitalism remains relevant.
Katrina Sark
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Introduction by J.M. Bernstein

p.2 – No one statement of Adorno’s concerning the great divide between artistic modernism and the culture industry is either more famous or better encapsulates his view than the one found in his letter to Walter Benjamin of 3 March 1936. There he states the both high art as well as industrially produced consumer art “bear the stigmata of capitalism, both contain elements of change. Both are torn halves of an integral freedom, to which, however, they do not add up.”
Gary Bruff
I always enjoy reading works of the Frankfurt School, not so much for what they say as for what they represent. Whether it is Benjamin, Adorno, Horkheimer, or any of the other Weimar intellectuals, a close reading always rewards the reader with cautionary tales of brewing fascism and flights of the philosophical imaginary wherein the individual triumphs over the inhuman and the unjust.

Adorno's The Culture Industry is a great book by a German intellectual living in exile in the United States. The
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is impossible to do justice to brilliance of the substantive observations contained in this volume in a brief review, however polemical Adorno becomes at times. To be sure, it took a radical thinker to come so close to the truth of how completely capitalist economic ideology penetrates every aspect of postmodern human life, and how unfree we really are in all actuality.

Adorno’s two most important contributions in this collection are as follows:

1) A fleshed out criticism and dissection of his
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book of essays. Read more than three-quarters of it.

Was it just a terrible translation? It appears to be the only English translation out there. The prose is awful. Turgid, even. Having not read Adorno's other work, I don't know whether to blame the translator.

The essay in which he explicates Freud's theory of fascism is interesting, and more readable IMO than the others. As it stands, though, I wouldn't recommend this book unless you want to torture yourself. You
'Izzat Radzi
A profound (but as expected difficult) read.
A bit slow in the first two chapters, nevertheless started well in chapter 3 all the way to the end. Perhaps because getting used to Adorno's style of writing (?)

The main idea revolves around the autonomous, subconscious masses that is driven to things that they rationally don't want, the idea of consumption. Adorno started off in chapter 1 on arts and music, which I'm quite baffled, nevertheless a good exposure.
As this book was written 30 years aft
Dan Gibbons
Feb 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Apart from the bizarre detour into a Freudian analysis of Hitler's regime (which like all psychoanalysis is bunk and pseudoscience), this book provides a generally interesting analysis of the workings of the ways culture has been transformed by the arrival of capitalism. I happen to not agree with many of Adorno's conclusions because I find the Frankfurt School's style of neo-Marxism to be not especially good criticism and I find that Adorno substitutes personal taste for analysis a lot of the t ...more
May 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
The Culture Industry contains 9 essays by Adorno, which are as follows:

1 - On the Fetish Character in Music and the Regression of Listening
2 - The Schema of Mass Culture
3 - Culture Industry Reconsidered
4 - Culture and Administration
5 - Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda
6 - How to Look at Television
7 - Transparencies on Film
8 - Free Time
9 - Resignation

I enjoyed 5, 8, and 9 the most. While on the surface Adorno appears to be a conservative thinker, he is directly opposed to mai
Aug 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I was completely ready to be hit with Adorno when I did. While he seemed to be thoroughly one-eyed, and polemical, I thought he made many many salient observations. I can't say, having had time to be un-enthralled by his myopic gaze, that he is entirely correct but my god there are times when I see something on tv or hear discussions about this program or that, that I am forcefully reminded of his arguements about the culture machine and its function. ...more
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
A tough set of essays; real workout for the brain. But can't really complain that it was 'difficult' when the central premise is that capitalist culture patronises consumers with mindless mulch. Biting, insightful stuff, had me reaching for a dictionary every other page. Like a proper run, not to be attempted with a hangover. ...more
Jul 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
Not an enjoyable book. Not a very accessible book. Not a very persuasive book. Not a very informative book.

The rambling, contradictory, bitter, and often rather uninformed and outdated collection of essays was disappointing.

Yes, we all know that modern culture has shorcomings.

No, we do not want to hear about it in such rambling and incoherent terms.
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
you really shouldn't not read this book ...more
Scott Gates
Sep 23, 2015 rated it liked it
When discussing art, Adorno sometimes takes on the same kind of Platonic anti-art stance that you see in other Marxists (Frederic Jameson, Franco Moretti, etc.) For example, since film “only recounts the fate of an individual … it already succumbs to ideology. The case which is presented as one which is still worth recounting becomes for all its desperate nature an excuse for the world which has produced something so worthy of being related.”

So by presenting the existence of an individual in a
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Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno was one of the most important philosophers and social critics in Germany after World War II. Although less well known among anglophone philosophers than his contemporary Hans-Georg Gadamer, Adorno had even greater influence on scholars and intellectuals in postwar Germany. In the 1960s he was the most prominent challenger to both Sir Karl Popper's philosophy of science a ...more

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“In contrast to the Kantian, the categorical imperative of the culture industry no longer has anything in common with freedom. It proclaims: you shall conform, without instruction as to what; conform to that which exists anyway as a reflex of its power and omnipresence. The power of the culture industry's ideology is such that conformity has replaced consciousness.” 9 likes
“Illusory universality is the universality of the art of the culture industry, it is the universality of the homogeneous same, an art which no longer even promises happiness but only provides easy amusement as relief from labour.” 6 likes
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