Culture industry is the production of culture at industrial scale. This includes popular culture and mass produced consumer goods that can be considered culture such as food and fashion. The following are illustrative examples of the culture industry.
A similar term cultural industry is used to denote the economic activity driven by traditional culture.
Affordable Luxury Goods
Fast Moving Consumer Goods
Footwear (mass produced)
Furniture (mass produced)
Interior Design (mass produced)
Manga & Anime
Critical TheoryThe term culture industry originates with postmodern critical theorists, particularly Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who portray it as a power structure that pacifies the masses by convincing them to pursue false needs. This is based on a diminished view of the masses whereby individuals have little or no agency. For example, an individual wouldn't watch a television show as a shared experience with their family but rather because they have been tricked by the system into wasting their time. It should be noted that critical theory views almost everything as a power structure including familiar institutions such as family.
AgencyUnder critical theory, the elite are portrayed as all powerful such that pop culture is pushed onto the relatively powerless masses. This can be contrasted with the traditional view that firms only produce what audiences and consumers want. In other words, firms compete to meet demand driven by customer needs. In the traditional view, consumers shape most things and have high agency.
ElitismThe term culture industry is used by critical theory to paint pop culture as a false need that is pushed to the masses. High culture is more likely to be portrayed as a priceless element of cultural heritage that is supported by the intelligentsia and upper classes. This resembles elitism whereby the culture of the working and middle class is painted as having negative value and the culture of the intelligentsia and upper class is held in high regard.
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