Thursday, 22 November 2012

Lecture Six - Popular Culture.

  • critically define popular culture
  • contrast ideas of 'culture' with 'popular culture' and 'mass culture'
  • introduce cultural studies and critical theory
  • discuss culture as an ideology

What is culture?
  • general process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development of a particular society, at a particular time
  • a particular way of life
  • works of intellectual and especially artistic significance

Marx's concept of Base/Superstructure
  • Base
    • forces of production - materials, tools, workers, skills
    • relations of production - employer/employee, class, master/slave
  • Superstructure
    • social institutions - legal, political, cultural
    • forms of consciousness - ideology
  • base > determines content and form of > superstructure > reflects form and legitimises > base
  • base = industrial capitalists and workers
  • superstructure = systems of law, ideology and religion, politics, army

Raymond Williams (1983) 'keywords'
  • 4 definitions of 'popular'
    • well liked by many people
    • inferior kinds of work (base culture)
    • work deliberately setting out to win favour with the people
    • culture actually made by the people themselves, made by the masses for the masses
  • class divide between popular culture and culture

  • Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane (2005) 'Folk Archive', work that wouldn't normally be displayed in a gallery, ask the question why are these not classed as culture?
  • Graffiti in South Bronx and Banksy piece exhibited in Covent Garden, stolen buy culture

Evolution of the Base
  • E.P Thompson (1963) 'The making of the english working class'
  • heavy industrialisation, process of urbanisation, growth of the city, hyper development of industrial capitalism
  • clear who the rich and poor were
  • clear lines of class separation
  • before it was believed culture was shared but it was made by the elite
  • then a culture made by the workers for the workers, done for profit, entrepreneurial
  • entertainment - music magazines
  • political literature - speaking of classes
  • independent living was ground upon by the upper classes
  • birth of chartism, movement to get working class people the vote
  • backlash from the 'taste makers' of culture.
  • Matthew Arnold (1867) 'Culture and Anarchy'
    • ''the best that has been thought and said in the world'
    • culture is a study of perfection
    • attained through disinterested reading, writing thinking
    • the pursuit of culture
    • seeks to 'minister the diseased spirit of our time'
    • anarchy should be seen as the working class who dare to stake a claim or write a culture of their own
  • Leavisism - F.R Leavis & Q.D Leavis
    • similar views to Matthew Arnold
    • still forms a kind of repressed, common sense attitude to popular culture in this country
    • standardisation and levelling down
    • 'culture has always been in minority keeping'
    • believes culture is on the decline as society has become more developed
    • culture is more standardised and stupid
    • 'the minority, who had hithero set the standard to taste without any serious challenge have experienced a collapse.
  • collapse of traditional authority comes at the same time as mass democracy (anarchy)
  • nostalgia for an era when the masses exhibited an unquestioning deference to (cultural) authority
  • popular culture offers addictive forms of distraction and compensation
  • emergence of mass democracy

Frankfurt School
  • institute of social research, University of Frankfurt, 1923 - 33
  • University of Colombia New York, 1933 - 47
  • University of Frankfurt, 1949 - 
  • argued that popular culture maintains social order
  • doesn't present a challenge but strengthens the system that we live in
  • isn't a threat to social order
  • Reinterpreted Marx for the 20th Century  - era of 'late capitalism'
  • defined the culture industry, two main products: homogeneity and predictability
  • 'all mass culture is identical'
  • 'as soon as the film begins, it is quite clear how it will end, and who will be rewarded, punished to forgotten'
  • all uniform and identical: films, tv, music
  • people are fed a monotonous stream
  • why are people so pacified in the modern world? endless stream of popular culture, reaches you prescribed views stops you trying to change it
  • culture acts as a fog that makes things seem ok

Authentic culture v popular culture
  • contemporary 'culture industry' 
    • x-factor - sympathy stories, creating a system that is self perpetuating, teaching us that way out is to go on a talent show and be judged, not saying the way forward is to start a revolution
    • hollyoaks calendar - presented as sexual objects
    • big brother
  • Adorno 'On popular music'
    • programmes us
    • hates all music
    • standardised
    • pre-programmed
    • easy to produce

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