A Chapter from Frankfurt School Theo. Ardono

Frankfurt School: The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception

drawing of adorno

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (1944)

The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception


Source: most of one chapter from Dialectic of Enlightenment;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden 1998;
proofed and corrected Feb. 2005.


THE sociological theory that the loss of the support of objectively
established religion, the dissolution of the last remnants of
pre-capitalism, together with technological and social differentiation
or specialisation, have led to cultural chaos is disproved every
day; for culture now impresses the same stamp on everything.

Films, radio and magazines make up a system which is uniform as
a whole and in every part. Even the aesthetic activities of political
opposites are one in their enthusiastic obedience to the rhythm
of the iron system. The decorative industrial management buildings
and exhibition centers in authoritarian countries are much the
same as anywhere else. The huge gleaming towers that shoot up
everywhere are outward signs of the ingenious planning of international
concerns, toward which the unleashed entrepreneurial system (whose
monuments are a mass of gloomy houses and business premises in
grimy, spiritless cities) was already hastening. Even now the
older houses just outside the concrete city centres look like
slums, and the new bungalows on the outskirts are at one with
the flimsy structures of world fairs in their praise of technical
progress and their built-in demand to be discarded after a short
while like empty food cans.

Yet the city housing projects designed to perpetuate the individual
as a supposedly independent unit in a small hygienic dwelling
make him all the more subservient to his adversary – the absolute
power of capitalism. Because the inhabitants, as producers and
as consumers, are drawn into the center in search of work and
pleasure, all the living units crystallise into well-organised
complexes. The striking unity of microcosm and macrocosm presents
men with a model of their culture: the false identity of the general
and the particular. Under monopoly all mass culture is identical,
and the lines of its artificial framework begin to show through.
The people at the top are no longer so interested in concealing
monopoly: as its violence becomes more open, so its power grows.
Movies and radio need no longer pretend to be art. The truth
that they are just business is made into an ideology in order
to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce. They call themselves
industries; and when their directors’ incomes are published, any
doubt about the social utility of the finished products is removed.

Interested parties explain the culture industry in technological
terms. It is alleged that because millions participate in it,
certain reproduction processes are necessary that inevitably require
identical needs in innumerable places to be satisfied with identical
goods. The technical contrast between the few production centers
and the large number of widely dispersed consumption points is
said to demand organisation and planning by management. Furthermore,
it is claimed that standards were based in the first place on
consumers’ needs, and for that reason were accepted with so little
resistance. The result is the circle of manipulation and retroactive
need in which the unity of the system grows ever stronger. No
mention is made of the fact that the basis on which technology
acquires power over society is the power of those whose economic
hold over society is greatest. A technological rationale is the
rationale of domination itself. It is the coercive nature of
society alienated from itself. Automobiles, bombs, and movies
keep the whole thing together until their leveling element shows
its strength in the very wrong which it furthered. It has made
the technology of the culture industry no more than the achievement
of standardisation and mass production, sacrificing whatever involved
a distinction between the logic of the work and that of the social
system.

This is the result not of a law of movement in technology as such
but of its function in today’s economy. The need which might
resist central control has already been suppressed by the control
of the individual consciousness. The step from the telephone
to the radio has clearly distinguished the roles. The former
still allowed the subscriber to play the role of subject, and
was liberal. The latter is democratic: it turns all participants
into listeners and authoritatively subjects them to broadcast
programs which are all exactly the same. No machinery of rejoinder
has been devised, and private broadcasters are denied any freedom.
They are confined to the apocryphal field of the “amateur,”
and also have to accept organisation from above.

But any trace of spontaneity from the public in official broadcasting
is controlled and absorbed by talent scouts, studio competitions
and official programs of every kind selected by professionals.
Talented performers belong to the industry long before it displays
them; otherwise they would not be so eager to fit in. The attitude
of the public, which ostensibly and actually favours the system
of the culture industry, is a part of the system and not an excuse
for it. If one branch of art follows the same formula as one
with a very different medium and content; if the dramatic intrigue
of broadcast soap operas becomes no more than useful material
for showing how to master technical problems at both ends of the
scale of musical experience – real jazz or a cheap imitation;
or if a movement from a Beethoven symphony is crudely “adapted”
for a film sound-track in the same way as a Tolstoy novel is garbled
in a film script: then the claim that this is done to satisfy
the spontaneous wishes of the public is no more than hot air.

We are closer to the facts if we explain these phenomena as inherent
in the technical and personnel apparatus which, down to its last
cog, itself forms part of the economic mechanism of selection.
In addition there is the agreement – or at least the determination
– of all executive authorities not to produce or sanction anything
that in any way differs from their own rules, their own ideas
about consumers, or above all themselves.

In our age the objective social tendency is incarnate in the hidden
subjective purposes of company directors, the foremost among whom
are in the most powerful sectors of industry – steel, petroleum,
electricity, and chemicals. Culture monopolies are weak and dependent
in comparison. They cannot afford to neglect their appeasement
of the real holders of power if their sphere of activity in mass
society (a sphere producing a specific type of commodity which
anyhow is still too closely bound up with easy-going liberalism
and Jewish intellectuals) is not to undergo a series of purges.
The dependence of the most powerful broadcasting company on the
electrical industry, or of the motion picture industry on the
banks, is characteristic of the whole sphere, whose individual
branches are themselves economically interwoven. All are in such
close contact that the extreme concentration of mental forces
allows demarcation lines between different firms and technical
branches to be ignored.

The ruthless unity in the culture industry is evidence of what
will happen in politics. Marked differentiations such as those
of A and B films, or of stories in magazines in different price
ranges, depend not so much on subject matter as on classifying,
organising, and labelling consumers. Something is provided for
all so that none may escape; the distinctions are emphasised and
extended. The public is catered for with a hierarchical range
of mass-produced products of varying quality, thus advancing the
rule of complete quantification. Everybody must behave (as if
spontaneously) in accordance with his previously determined and
indexed level, and choose the category of mass product turned
out for his type. Consumers appear as statistics on research
organisation charts, and are divided by income groups into red,
green, and blue areas; the technique is that used for any type
of propaganda.

How formalised the procedure is can be seen when the mechanically
differentiated products prove to be all alike in the end. That
the difference between the Chrysler range and General Motors products
is basically illusory strikes every child with a keen interest
in varieties. What connoisseurs discuss as good or bad points
serve only to perpetuate the semblance of competition and range
of choice. The same applies to the Warner Brothers and Metro
Goldwyn Mayer productions. But even the differences between the
more expensive and cheaper models put out by the same firm steadily
diminish: for automobiles, there are such differences as the number
of cylinders, cubic capacity, details of patented gadgets; and
for films there are the number of stars, the extravagant use of
technology, labor, and equipment, and the introduction of the
latest psychological formulas. The universal criterion of merit
is the amount of “conspicuous production,” of blatant
cash investment. The varying budgets in the culture industry
do not bear the slightest relation to factual values, to the meaning
of the products themselves.

Even the technical media are relentlessly forced into uniformity.
Television aims at a synthesis of radio and film, and is held
up only because the interested parties have not yet reached agreement,
but its consequences will be quite enormous and promise to intensify
the impoverishment of aesthetic matter so drastically, that by
tomorrow the thinly veiled identity of all industrial culture
products can come triumphantly out into the open, derisively fulfilling
the Wagnerian dream of the Gesamtkunstwerk – the fusion
of all the arts in one work.

The alliance of word, image, and music is all the more perfect
than in Tristan because the sensuous elements which all approvingly
reflect the surface of social reality are in principle embodied
in the same technical process, the unity of which becomes its
distinctive content. This process integrates all the elements
of the production, from the novel (shaped with an eye to the film)
to the last sound effect. It is the triumph of invested capital,
whose title as absolute master is etched deep into the hearts
of the dispossessed in the employment line; it is the meaningful
content of every film, whatever plot the production team may have
selected.

The man with leisure has to accept what the culture manufacturers
offer him. Kant’s formalism still expected a contribution from
the individual, who was thought to relate the varied experiences
of the senses to fundamental concepts; but industry robs the individual
of his function. Its prime service to the customer is to do his
schematising for him.

Kant said that there was a secret mechanism in the soul which
prepared direct intuitions in such a way that they could be fitted
into the system of pure reason. But today that secret has been
deciphered. While the mechanism is to all appearances planned
by those who serve up the data of experience, that is, by the
culture industry, it is in fact forced upon the latter by the
power of society, which remains irrational, however we may try
to rationalise it; and this inescapable force is processed by
commercial agencies so that they give an artificial impression
of being in command.

There is nothing left for the consumer to classify. Producers
have done it for him. Art for the masses has destroyed the dream
but still conforms to the tenets of that dreaming idealism which
critical idealism baulked at. Everything derives from consciousness:
for Malebranche and Berkeley, from the consciousness of God; in
mass art, from the consciousness of the production team. Not
only are the hit songs, stars, and soap operas cyclically recurrent
and rigidly invariable types, but the specific content of the
entertainment itself is derived from them and only appears to
change. The details are interchangeable. The short interval
sequence which was effective in a hit song, the hero’s momentary
fall from grace (which he accepts as good sport), the rough treatment
which the beloved gets from the male star, the latter’s rugged
defiance of the spoilt heiress, are, like all the other details,
ready-made clichés to be slotted in anywhere; they never do anything
more than fulfil the purpose allotted them in the overall plan.
Their whole raison d’être is to confirm it by being its
constituent parts. As soon as the film begins, it is quite clear
how it will end, and who will be rewarded, punished, or forgotten.
In light music, once the trained ear has heard the first notes
of the hit song, it can guess what is coming and feel flattered
when it does come. The average length of the short story has
to be rigidly adhered to. Even gags, effects, and jokes are calculated
like the setting in which they are placed. They are the responsibility
of special experts and their narrow range makes it easy for them
to be apportioned in the office.

The development of the culture industry has led to the predominance
of the effect, the obvious touch, and the technical detail over
the work itself – which once expressed an idea, but was liquidated
together with the idea. When the detail won its freedom, it became
rebellious and, in the period from Romanticism to Expressionism,
asserted itself as free expression, as a vehicle of protest against
the organisation. In music the single harmonic effect obliterated
the awareness of form as a whole; in painting the individual colour
was stressed at the expense of pictorial composition; and in the
novel psychology became more important than structure. The totality
of the culture industry has put an end to this.

Though concerned exclusively with effects, it crushes their insubordination
and makes them subserve the formula, which replaces the work.
The same fate is inflicted on whole and parts alike. The whole
inevitably bears no relation to the details – just like the career
of a successful man into which everything is made to fit as an
illustration or a proof, whereas it is nothing more than the sum
of all those idiotic events. The so-called dominant idea is like
a file which ensures order but not coherence. The whole and the
parts are alike; there is no antithesis and no connection. Their
prearranged harmony is a mockery of what had to be striven after
in the great bourgeois works of art. In Germany the graveyard
stillness of the dictatorship already hung over the gayest films
of the democratic era.

The whole world is made to pass through the filter of the culture
industry. The old experience of the movie-goer, who sees the
world outside as an extension of the film he has just left (because
the latter is intent upon reproducing the world of everyday perceptions),
is now the producer’s guideline. The more intensely and flawlessly
his techniques duplicate empirical objects, the easier it is today
for the illusion to prevail that the outside world is the straightforward
continuation of that presented on the screen. This purpose has
been furthered by mechanical reproduction since the lightning
takeover by the sound film.

Real life is becoming indistinguishable from the movies. The
sound film, far surpassing the theatre of illusion, leaves no
room for imagination or reflection on the part of the audience,
who is unable to respond within the structure of the film, yet
deviate from its precise detail without losing the thread of the
story; hence the film forces its victims to equate it directly
with reality. The stunting of the mass-media consumer’s powers
of imagination and spontaneity does not have to be traced back
to any psychological mechanisms; he must ascribe the loss of those
attributes to the objective nature of the products themselves,
especially to the most characteristic of them, the sound film.
They are so designed that quickness, powers of observation, and
experience are undeniably needed to apprehend them at all; yet
sustained thought is out of the question if the spectator is not
to miss the relentless rush of facts.

Even though the effort required for his response is semi-automatic,
no scope is left for the imagination. Those who are so absorbed
by the world of the movie – by its images, gestures, and words
– that they are unable to supply what really makes it a world,
do not have to dwell on particular points of its mechanics during
a screening. All the other films and products of the entertainment
industry which they have seen have taught them what to expect;
they react automatically.

The might of industrial society is lodged in men’s minds. The
entertainments manufacturers know that their products will be
consumed with alertness even when the customer is distraught,
for each of them is a model of the huge economic machinery which
has always sustained the masses, whether at work or at leisure
– which is akin to work. From every sound film and every broadcast
program the social effect can be inferred which is exclusive to
none but is shared by all alike. The culture industry as a whole
has moulded men as a type unfailingly reproduced in every product.
All the agents of this process, from the producer to the women’s
clubs, take good care that the simple reproduction of this mental
state is not nuanced or extended in any way.

The art historians and guardians of culture who complain of the
extinction in the West of a basic style-determining power are
wrong. The stereotyped appropriation of everything, even the
inchoate, for the purposes of mechanical reproduction surpasses
the rigour and general currency of any “real style,”
in the sense in which cultural cognoscenti celebrate the organic
pre-capitalist past. No Palestrina could be more of a purist
in eliminating every unprepared and unresolved discord than the
jazz arranger in suppressing any development which does not conform
to the jargon. When jazzing up Mozart he changes him not only
when he is too serious or too difficult but when he harmonises
the melody in a different way, perhaps more simply, than is customary
now. No medieval builder can have scrutinised the subjects for
church windows and sculptures more suspiciously than the studio
hierarchy scrutinises a work by Balzac or Hugo before finally
approving it. No medieval theologian could have determined the
degree of the torment to be suffered by the damned in accordance
with the order of divine love more meticulously than the producers
of shoddy epics calculate the torture to be undergone by the hero
or the exact point to which the leading lady’s hemline shall be
raised. The explicit and implicit, exoteric and esoteric catalogue
of the forbidden and tolerated is so extensive that it not only
defines the area of freedom but is all-powerful inside it. Everything
down to the last detail is shaped accordingly.

Like its counterpart, avant-garde art, the entertainment industry
determines its own language, down to its very syntax and vocabulary,
by the use of anathema. The constant pressure to produce new
effects (which must conform to the old pattern) serves merely
as another rule to increase the power of the conventions when
any single effect threatens to slip through the net. Every detail
is so firmly stamped with sameness that nothing can appear which
is not marked at birth, or does not meet with approval at first
sight. And the star performers, whether they produce or reproduce,
use this jargon as freely and fluently and with as much gusto
as if it were the very language which it silenced long ago. Such
is the ideal of what is natural in this field of activity, and
its influence becomes all the more powerful, the more technique
is perfected and diminishes the tension between the finished product
and everyday life. The paradox of this routine, which is essentially
travesty, can be detected and is often predominant in everything
that the culture industry turns out. A jazz musician who is playing
a piece of serious music, one of Beethoven’s simplest minuets,
syncopates it involuntarily and will smile superciliously when
asked to follow the normal divisions of the beat. This is the
“nature” which, complicated by the ever-present and
extravagant demands of the specific medium, constitutes the new
style and is a “system of non-culture, to which one might
even concede a certain ‘unity of style’ if it really made any
sense to speak of stylised barbarity.” [Nietzsche]

The universal imposition of this stylised mode can even go beyond
what is quasi-officially sanctioned or forbidden; today a hit
song is more readily forgiven for not observing the 32 beats or
the compass of the ninth than for containing even the most clandestine
melodic or harmonic detail which does not conform to the idiom.
Whenever Orson Welles offends against the tricks of the trade,
he is forgiven because his departures from the norm are regarded
as calculated mutations which serve all the more strongly to confirm
the validity of the system. The constraint of the technically-conditioned
idiom which stars and directors have to produce as “nature”
so that the people can appropriate it, extends to such fine nuances
that they almost attain the subtlety of the devices of an avant-garde
work as against those of truth. The rare capacity minutely to
fulfil the obligations of the natural idiom in all branches of
the culture industry becomes the criterion of efficiency. What
and how they say it must be measurable by everyday language, as
in logical positivism.

The producers are experts. The idiom demands an astounding productive
power, which it absorbs and squanders. In a diabolical way it
has overreached the culturally conservative distinction between
genuine and artificial style. A style might be called artificial
which is imposed from without on the refractory impulses of a
form. But in the culture industry every element of the subject
matter has its origin in the same apparatus as that jargon whose
stamp it bears. The quarrels in which the artistic experts become
involved with sponsor and censor about a lie going beyond the
bounds of credibility are evidence not so much of an inner aesthetic
tension as of a divergence of interests. The reputation of the
specialist, in which a last remnant of objective independence
sometimes finds refuge, conflicts with the business politics of
the Church, or the concern which is manufacturing the cultural
commodity. But the thing itself has been essentially objectified
and made viable before the established authorities began to argue
about it. Even before Zanuck acquired her, Saint Bernadette was
regarded by her latter-day hagiographer as brilliant propaganda
for all interested parties. That is what became of the emotions
of the character. Hence the style of the culture industry, which
no longer has to test itself against any refractory material,
is also the negation of style. The reconciliation of the general
and particular, of the rule and the specific demands of the subject
matter, the achievement of which alone gives essential, meaningful
content to style, is futile because there has ceased to be the
slightest tension between opposite poles: these concordant extremes
are dismally identical; the general can replace the particular,
and vice versa.

Nevertheless, this caricature of style does not amount to something
beyond the genuine style of the past. In the culture industry
the notion of genuine style is seen to be the aesthetic equivalent
of domination. Style considered as mere aesthetic regularity
is a romantic dream of the past. The unity of style not only
of the Christian Middle Ages but of the Renaissance expresses
in each case the different structure of social power, and not
the obscure experience of the oppressed in which the general was
enclosed. The great artists were never those who embodied a wholly
flawless and perfect style, but those who used style as a way
of hardening themselves against the chaotic expression of suffering,
as a negative truth. The style of their works gave what was expressed
that force without which life flows away unheard. Those very
art forms which are known as classical, such as Mozart’s music,
contain objective trends which represent something different to
the style which they incarnate.

As late as Schönberg and Picasso, the great artists have
retained a mistrust of style, and at crucial points have subordinated
it to the logic of the matter. What Dadaists and Expressionists
called the untruth of style as such triumphs today in the sung
jargon of a crooner, in the carefully contrived elegance of a
film star, and even in the admirable expertise of a photograph
of a peasant’s squalid hut. Style represents a promise in every
work of art. That which is expressed is subsumed through style
into the dominant forms of generality, into the language of music,
painting, or words, in the hope that it will be reconciled thus
with the idea of true generality. This promise held out by the
work of art that it will create truth by lending new shape to
the conventional social forms is as necessary as it is hypocritical.
It unconditionally posits the real forms of life as it is by
suggesting that fulfilment lies in their aesthetic derivatives.
To this extent the claim of art is always ideology too.

However, only in this confrontation with tradition of which style
is the record can art express suffering. That factor in a work
of art which enables it to transcend reality certainly cannot
be detached from style; but it does not consist of the harmony
actually realised, of any doubtful unity of form and content,
within and without, of individual and society; it is to be found
in those features in which discrepancy appears: in the necessary
failure of the passionate striving for identity. Instead of exposing
itself to this failure in which the style of the great work of
art has always achieved self-negation, the inferior work has always
relied on its similarity with others – on a surrogate identity.

In the culture industry this imitation finally becomes absolute.
Having ceased to be anything but style, it reveals the latter’s
secret: obedience to the social hierarchy. Today aesthetic barbarity
completes what has threatened the creations of the spirit since
they were gathered together as culture and neutralised. To speak
of culture was always contrary to culture. Culture as a common
denominator already contains in embryo that schematisation and
process of cataloguing and classification which bring culture
within the sphere of administration. And it is precisely the
industrialised, the consequent, subsumption which entirely accords
with this notion of culture. By subordinating in the same way
and to the same end all areas of intellectual creation, by occupying
men’s senses from the time they leave the factory in the evening
to the time they clock in again the next morning with matter that
bears the impress of the labor process they themselves have to
sustain throughout the day, this subsumption mockingly satisfies
the concept of a unified culture which the philosophers of personality
contrasted with mass culture.

And so the culture industry, the most rigid of all styles, proves
to be the goal of liberalism, which is reproached for its lack
of style. Not only do its categories and contents derive from
liberalism – domesticated naturalism as well as operetta and revue
– but the modern culture monopolies form the economic area in
which, together with the corresponding entrepreneurial types,
for the time being some part of its sphere of operation survives,
despite the process of disintegration elsewhere.

It is still possible to make one’s way in entertainment, if one
is not too obstinate about one’s own concerns, and proves appropriately
pliable. Anyone who resists can only survive by fitting in.
Once his particular brand of deviation from the norm has been
noted by the industry, he belongs to it as does the land-reformer
to capitalism. Realistic dissidence is the trademark of anyone
who has a new idea in business. In the public voice of modern
society accusations are seldom audible; if they are, the perceptive
can already detect signs that the dissident will soon be reconciled.
The more immeasurable the gap between chorus and leaders, the
more certainly there is room at the top for everybody who demonstrates
his superiority by well-planned originality. Hence, in the culture
industry, too, the liberal tendency to give full scope to its
able men survives.

To do this for the efficient today is still the function of the
market, which is otherwise proficiently controlled; as for the
market’s freedom, in the high period of art as elsewhere, it was
freedom for the stupid to starve. Significantly, the system of
the culture industry comes from the more liberal industrial nations,
and all its characteristic media, such as movies, radio, jazz,
and magazines, flourish there. Its progress, to be sure, had
its origin in the general laws of capital. Gaumont and Pathe,
Ullstein and Hugenberg followed the international trend with some
success; Europe’s economic dependence on the United States after
war and inflation was a contributory factor. The belief that
the barbarity of the culture industry is a result of “cultural
lag,” of the fact that the American consciousness did not
keep up with the growth of technology, is quite wrong. It was
pre-Fascist Europe which did not keep up with the trend toward
the culture monopoly.

But it was this very lag which left intellect and creativity some
degree of independence and enabled its last representatives to
exist – however dismally. In Germany the failure of democratic
control to permeate life had led to a paradoxical situation.
Many things were exempt from the market mechanism which had invaded
the Western countries. The German educational system, universities,
theatres with artistic standards, great orchestras, and museums
enjoyed protection. The political powers, state and municipalities,
which had inherited such institutions from absolutism, had left
them with a measure of the freedom from the forces of power which
dominates the market, just as princes and feudal lords had done
up to the nineteenth century. This strengthened art in this late
phase against the verdict of supply and demand, and increased
its resistance far beyond the actual degree of protection. In
the market itself the tribute of a quality for which no use had
been found was turned into purchasing power; in this way, respectable
literary and music publishers could help authors who yielded little
more in the way of profit than the respect of the connoisseur.

But what completely fettered the artist was the pressure (and
the accompanying drastic threats), always to fit into business
life as an aesthetic expert. Formerly, like Kant and Hume, they
signed their letters “Your most humble and obedient servant,”
and undermined the foundations of throne and altar. Today they
address heads of government by their first names, yet in every
artistic activity they are subject to their illiterate masters.

The analysis Tocqueville offered a century ago has in the meantime
proved wholly accurate. Under the private culture monopoly it
is a fact that “tyranny leaves the body free and directs
its attack at the soul. The ruler no longer says: You must think
as I do or die. He says: You are free not to think as I do; your
life, your property, everything shall remain yours, but from this
day on you are a stranger among us.” Not to conform means
to be rendered powerless, economically and therefore spiritually
– to be “self-employed.” When the outsider is excluded
from the concern, he can only too easily be accused of incompetence.

Whereas today in material production the mechanism of supply and
demand is disintegrating, in the superstructure it still operates
as a check in the rulers’ favour. The consumers are the workers
and employees, the farmers and lower middle class. Capitalist
production so confines them, body and soul, that they fall helpless
victims to what is offered them. As naturally as the ruled always
took the morality imposed upon them more seriously than did the
rulers themselves, the deceived masses are today captivated by
the myth of success even more than the successful are. Immovably,
they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them. The misplaced
love of the common people for the wrong which is done them is
a greater force than the cunning of the authorities. It is stronger
even than the rigorism of the Hays Office, just as in certain
great times in history it has inflamed greater forces that were
turned against it, namely, the terror of the tribunals. It calls
for Mickey Rooney in preference to the tragic Garbo, for Donald
Duck instead of Betty Boop. The industry submits to the vote
which it has itself inspired. What is a loss for the firm which
cannot fully exploit a contract with a declining star is a legitimate
expense for the system as a whole. By craftily sanctioning the
demand for rubbish it inaugurates total harmony. The connoisseur
and the expert are despised for their pretentious claim to know
better than the others, even though culture is democratic and
distributes its privileges to all. In view of the ideological
truce, the conformism of the buyers and the effrontery of the
producers who supply them prevail. The result is a constant reproduction
of the same thing.

A constant sameness governs the relationship to the past as well.
What is new about the phase of mass culture compared with the
late liberal stage is the exclusion of the new. The machine rotates
on the same spot. While determining consumption it excludes the
untried as a risk. The movie-makers distrust any manuscript which
is not reassuringly backed by a bestseller. Yet for this very
reason there is never-ending talk of ideas, novelty, and surprise,
of what is taken for granted but has never existed. Tempo and
dynamics serve this trend. Nothing remains as of old; everything
has to run incessantly, to keep moving. For only the universal
triumph of the rhythm of mechanical production and reproduction
promises that nothing changes, and nothing unsuitable will appear.
Any additions to the well-proven culture inventory are too much
of a speculation. The ossified forms – such as the sketch, short
story, problem film, or hit song – are the standardised average
of late liberal taste, dictated with threats from above. The
people at the top in the culture agencies, who work in harmony
as only one manager can with another, whether he comes from the
rag trade or from college, have long since reorganised and rationalised
the objective spirit. One might think that an omnipresent authority
had sifted the material and drawn up an official catalogue of
cultural commodities to provide a smooth supply of available
mass-produced lines. The ideas are written in the cultural firmament
where they had already been numbered by Plato – and were indeed
numbers, incapable of increase and immutable.

Amusement and all the elements of the culture industry existed
long before the latter came into existence. Now they are taken
over from above and brought up to date. The culture industry
can pride itself on having energetically executed the previously
clumsy transposition of art into the sphere of consumption, on
making this a principle, on divesting amusement of its obtrusive
naïvetes and improving the type of commodities. The more
absolute it became, the more ruthless it was in forcing every
outsider either into bankruptcy or into a syndicate, and became
more refined and elevated – until it ended up as a synthesis of
Beethoven and the Casino de Paris. It enjoys a double victory:
the truth it extinguishes without it can reproduce at will as
a lie within. “Light” art as such, distraction, is
not a decadent form. Anyone who complains that it is a betrayal
of the ideal of pure expression is under an illusion about society.
The purity of bourgeois art, which hypostasised itself as a world
of freedom in contrast to what was happening in the material world,
was from the beginning bought with the exclusion of the lower
classes – with whose cause, the real universality, art keeps faith
precisely by its freedom from the ends of the false universality.
Serious art has been withheld from those for whom the hardship
and oppression of life make a mockery of seriousness, and who
must be glad if they can use time not spent at the production
line just to keep going. Light art has been the shadow of autonomous
art. It is the social bad conscience of serious art. The truth
which the latter necessarily lacked because of its social premises
gives the other the semblance of legitimacy. The division itself
is the truth: it does at least express the negativity of the culture
which the different spheres constitute. Least of all can the
antithesis be reconciled by absorbing light into serious art,
or vice versa. But that is what the culture industry attempts.

The eccentricity of the circus, peepshow, and brothel is as embarrassing
to it as that of Schönberg and Karl Kraus. And so the jazz
musician Benny Goodman appears with the Budapest string quartet,
more pedantic rhythmically than any philharmonic clarinettist,
while the style of the Budapest players is as uniform and sugary
as that of Guy Lombardo. But what is significant is not vulgarity,
stupidity, and lack of polish.

The culture industry did away with yesterday’s rubbish by its
own perfection, and by forbidding and domesticating the amateurish,
although it constantly allows gross blunders without which the
standard of the exalted style cannot be perceived. But what is
new is that the irreconcilable elements of culture, art and distraction,
are subordinated to one end and subsumed under one false formula:
the totality of the culture industry. It consists of repetition.
That its characteristic innovations are never anything more than
improvements of mass reproduction is not external to the system.
It is with good reason that the interest of innumerable consumers
is directed to the technique, and not to the contents – which
are stubbornly repeated, outworn, and by now half-discredited.
The social power which the spectators worship shows itself more
effectively in the omnipresence of the stereotype imposed by technical
skill than in the stale ideologies for which the ephemeral contents
stand in.

Nevertheless the culture industry remains the entertainment business.
Its influence over the consumers is established by entertainment;
that will ultimately be broken not by an outright decree, but
by the hostility inherent in the principle of entertainment to
what is greater than itself. Since all the trends of the culture
industry are profoundly embedded in the public by the whole social
process, they are encouraged by the survival of the market in
this area. Demand has not yet been replaced by simple obedience.
As is well known, the major reorganisation of the film industry
shortly before World War I, the material prerequisite of its expansion,
was precisely its deliberate acceptance of the public’s needs
as recorded at the box-office – a procedure which was hardly thought
necessary in the pioneering days of the screen. The same opinion
is held today by the captains of the film industry, who take as
their criterion the more or less phenomenal song hits but wisely
never have recourse to the judgment of truth, the opposite criterion.
Business is their ideology. It is quite correct that the power
of the culture industry resides in its identification with a manufactured
need, and not in simple contrast to it, even if this contrast
were one of complete power and complete powerlessness.

Amusement under late capitalism is the prolongation of work.
It is sought after as an escape from the mechanised work process,
and to recruit strength in order to be able to cope with it again.
But at the same time mechanisation has such power over a man’s
leisure and happiness, and so profoundly determines the manufacture
of amusement goods, that his experiences are inevitably after-images
of the work process itself. The ostensible content is merely
a faded foreground; what sinks in is the automatic succession
of standardised operations. What happens at work, in the factory,
or in the office can only be escaped from by approximation to
it in one’s leisure time.

All amusement suffers from this incurable malady. Pleasure hardens
into boredom because, if it is to remain pleasure, it must not
demand any effort and therefore moves rigorously in the worn grooves
of association. No independent thinking must be expected from
the audience: the product prescribes every reaction: not by its
natural structure (which collapses under reflection), but by signals.
Any logical connection calling for mental effort is painstakingly
avoided. As far as possible, developments must follow from the
immediately preceding situation and never from the idea of the
whole. For the attentive movie-goer any individual scene will
give him the whole thing. Even the set pattern itself still seems
dangerous, offering some meaning – wretched as it might be – where
only meaninglessness is acceptable. Often the plot is maliciously
deprived of the development demanded by characters and matter
according to the old pattern. Instead, the next step is what
the script writer takes to be the most striking effect in the
particular situation. Banal though elaborate surprise interrupts
the story-line.

The tendency mischievously to fall back on pure nonsense, which
was a legitimate part of popular art, farce and clowning, right
up to Chaplin and the Marx Brothers, is most obvious in the unpretentious
kinds. This tendency has completely asserted itself in the text
of the novelty song, in the thriller movie, and in cartoons, although
in films starring Greer Garson and Bette Davis the unity of the
socio-psychological case study provides something approximating
a claim to a consistent plot. The idea itself, together with
the objects of comedy and terror, is massacred and fragmented.
Novelty songs have always existed on a contempt for meaning which,
as predecessors and successors of psychoanalysis, they reduce
to the monotony of sexual symbolism. Today, detective and adventure
films no longer give the audience the opportunity to experience
the resolution. In the non-ironic varieties of the genre, it
has also to rest content with the simple horror of situations
which have almost ceased to be linked in any way.

Cartoons were once exponents of fantasy as opposed to rationalism.
They ensured that justice was done to the creatures and objects
they electrified, by giving the maimed specimens a second life.
All they do today is to confirm the victory of technological
reason over truth. A few years ago they had a consistent plot
which only broke up in the final moments in a crazy chase, and
thus resembled the old slapstick comedy. Now, however, time relations
have shifted. In the very first sequence a motive is stated so
that in the course of the action destruction can get to work on
it: with the audience in pursuit, the protagonist becomes the
worthless object of general violence. The quantity of organised
amusement changes into the quality of organised cruelty. The
self-elected censors of the film industry (with whom it enjoys
a close relationship) watch over the unfolding of the crime, which
is as drawn-out as a hunt. Fun replaces the pleasure which the
sight of an embrace would allegedly afford, and postpones satisfaction
till the day of the pogrom. Insofar as cartoons do any more than
accustom the senses to the new tempo, they hammer into every brain
the old lesson that continuous friction, the breaking down of
all individual resistance, is the condition of life in this society.
Donald Duck in the cartoons and the unfortunate in real life
get their thrashing so that the audience can learn to take their
own punishment.

The enjoyment of the violence suffered by the movie character
turns into violence against the spectator, and distraction into
exertion. Nothing that the experts have devised as a stimulant
must escape the weary eye; no stupidity is allowed in the face
of all the trickery; one has to follow everything and even display
the smart responses shown and recommended in the film. This raises
the question whether the culture industry fulfils the function
of diverting minds which it boasts about so loudly. If most of
the radio stations and movie theatres were closed down, the consumers
would probably not lose so very much. To walk from the street
into the movie theatre is no longer to enter a world of dream;
as soon as the very existence of these institutions no longer
made it obligatory to use them, there would be no great urge to
do so. Such closures would not be reactionary machine wrecking.
The disappointment would be felt not so much by the enthusiasts
as by the slow-witted, who are the ones who suffer for everything
anyhow. In spite of the films which are intended to complete
her integration, the housewife finds in the darkness of the movie
theatre a place of refuge where she can sit for a few hours with
nobody watching, just as she used to look out of the window when
there were still homes and rest in the evening. The unemployed
in the great cities find coolness in summer and warmth in winter
in these temperature-controlled locations. Otherwise, despite
its size, this bloated pleasure apparatus adds no dignity to man’s
lives. The idea of “fully exploiting” available technical
resources and the facilities for aesthetic mass consumption is
part of the economic system which refuses to exploit resources
to abolish hunger.

The culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what
it perpetually promises. The promissory note which, with its
plots and staging, it draws on pleasure is endlessly prolonged;
the promise, which is actually all the spectacle consists of,
is illusory: all it actually confirms is that the real point will
never be reached, that the diner must be satisfied with the menu.
In front of the appetite stimulated by all those brilliant names
and images there is finally set no more than a commendation of
the depressing everyday world it sought to escape. Of course
works of art were not sexual exhibitions either. However, by
representing deprivation as negative, they retracted, as it were,
the prostitution of the impulse and rescued by mediation what
was denied.

The secret of aesthetic sublimation is its representation of fulfilment
as a broken promise. The culture industry does not sublimate;
it represses. By repeatedly exposing the objects of desire, breasts
in a clinging sweater or the naked torso of the athletic hero,
it only stimulates the unsublimated forepleasure which habitual
deprivation has long since reduced to a masochistic semblance.
There is no erotic situation which, while insinuating and exciting,
does not fail to indicate unmistakably that things can never go
that far. The Hays Office merely confirms the ritual of Tantalus
that the culture industry has established anyway. Works of art
are ascetic and unashamed; the culture industry is pornographic
and prudish. Love is downgraded to romance. And, after the descent,
much is permitted; even license as a marketable speciality has
its quota bearing the trade description “daring.” The
mass production of the sexual automatically achieves its repression.
Because of his ubiquity, the film star with whom one is meant
to fall in love is from the outset a copy of himself. Every tenor
voice comes to sound like a Caruso record, and the “natural”
faces of Texas girls are like the successful models by whom Hollywood
has typecast them. The mechanical reproduction of beauty, which
reactionary cultural fanaticism wholeheartedly serves in its methodical
idolisation of individuality, leaves no room for that unconscious
idolatry which was once essential to beauty.

The triumph over beauty is celebrated by humour – the Schadenfreude
that every successful deprivation calls forth. There is laughter
because there is nothing to laugh at. Laughter, whether conciliatory
or terrible, always occurs when some fear passes. It indicates
liberation either from physical danger or from the grip of logic.
Conciliatory laughter is heard as the echo of an escape from
power; the wrong kind overcomes fear by capitulating to the forces
which are to be feared. It is the echo of power as something
inescapable. Fun is a medicinal bath. The pleasure industry
never fails to prescribe it. It makes laughter the instrument
of the fraud practised on happiness. Moments of happiness are
without laughter; only operettas and films portray sex to the
accompaniment of resounding laughter. But Baudelaire is as devoid
of humour as Hölderlin. In the false society laughter is a disease
which has attacked happiness and is drawing it into its worthless
totality. To laugh at something is always to deride it, and the
life which, according to Bergson, in laughter breaks through the
barrier, is actually an invading barbaric life, self-assertion
prepared to parade its liberation from any scruple when the social
occasion arises. Such a laughing audience is a parody of humanity.
Its members are monads, all dedicated to the pleasure of being
ready for anything at the expense of everyone else. Their harmony
is a caricature of solidarity. What is fiendish about this false
laughter is that it is a compelling parody of the best, which
is conciliatory. Delight is austere: res severa verum gaudium.
The monastic theory that not asceticism but the sexual act denotes
the renunciation of attainable bliss receives negative confirmation
in the gravity of the lover who with foreboding commits his life
to the fleeting moment. In the culture industry, jovial denial
takes the place of the pain found in ecstasy and in asceticism.
The supreme law is that they shall not satisfy their desires
at any price; they must laugh and be content with laughter. In
every product of the culture industry, the permanent denial imposed
by civilisation is once again unmistakably demonstrated and inflicted
on its victims. To offer and to deprive them of something is
one and the same. This is what happens in erotic films. Precisely
because it must never take place, everything centres upon copulation.
In films it is more strictly forbidden for an illegitimate relationship
to be admitted without the parties being punished than for a millionaire’s
future son-in-law to be active in the labour movement. In contrast
to the liberal era, industrialised as well as popular culture
may wax indignant at capitalism, but it cannot renounce the threat
of castration. This is fundamental. It outlasts the organised
acceptance of the uniformed seen in the films which are produced
to that end, and in reality. What is decisive today is no longer
puritanism, although it still asserts itself in the form of women’s
organisations, but the necessity inherent in the system not to
leave the customer alone, not for a moment to allow him any suspicion
that resistance is possible.

The principle dictates that he should be shown all his needs as
capable of-fulfilment, but that those needs should be so predetermined
that he feels himself to be the eternal consumer, the object of
the culture industry. Not only does it make him believe that
the deception it practices is satisfaction, but it goes further
and implies that, whatever the state of affairs, he must put up
with what is offered. The escape from everyday drudgery which
the whole culture industry promises may be compared to the daughter’s
abduction in the cartoon: the father is holding the ladder in
the dark. The paradise offered by the culture industry is the
same old drudgery. Both escape and elopement are pre-designed
to lead back to the starting point. Pleasure promotes the resignation
which it ought to help to forget.

Even today the culture industry dresses works of art like political
slogans and forces them upon a resistant public at reduced prices;
they are as accessible for public enjoyment as a park. But the
disappearance of their genuine commodity character does not mean
that they have been abolished in the life of a free society, but
that the last defence against their reduction to culture goods
has fallen. The abolition of educational privilege by the device
of clearance sales does not open for the masses the spheres from
which they were formerly excluded, but, given existing social
conditions, contributes directly to the decay of education and
the progress of barbaric meaninglessness. Those who spent their
money in the nineteenth or the early twentieth century to see
a play or to go to a concert respected the performance as much
as the money they spent. The bourgeois who wanted to get something
out of it tried occasionally to establish some rapport with the
work. Evidence for this is to be found in the literary “introductions”
to works, or in the commentaries on Faust. These were the first
steps toward the biographical coating and other practices to which
a work of art is subjected today.

Even in the early, prosperous
days of business, exchange-value did carry use value as a mere
appendix but had developed it as a prerequisite for its own existence;
this was socially helpful for works of art. Art exercised some
restraint on the bourgeois as long as it cost money. That is
now a thing of the past. Now that it has lost every restraint
and there is no need to pay any money, the proximity of art to
those who are exposed to it completes the alienation and assimilates
one to the other under the banner of triumphant objectivity.
Criticism and respect disappear in the culture industry; the former
becomes a mechanical expertise, the latter is succeeded by a shallow
cult of leading personalities. Consumers now find nothing expensive.
Nevertheless, they suspect that the less anything costs, the
less it is being given them. The double mistrust of traditional
culture as ideology is combined with mistrust of industrialised
culture as a swindle. When thrown in free, the now debased works
of art, together with the rubbish to which the medium assimilates
them, are secretly rejected by the fortunate recipients, who are
supposed to be satisfied by the mere fact that there is so much
to be seen and heard. Everything can be obtained. The screenos
and vaudevilles in the movie theatre, the competitions for guessing
music, the free books, rewards and gifts offered on certain radio
programs, are not mere accidents but a continuation of the practice
obtaining with culture products. The symphony becomes a reward
for listening to the radio, and – if technology had its way –
the film would be delivered to people’s homes as happens with
the radio. It is moving toward the commercial system. Television
points the way to a development which might easily enough force
the Warner Brothers into what would certainly be the unwelcome
position of serious musicians and cultural conservatives. But
the gift system has already taken hold among consumers. As culture
is represented as a bonus with undoubted private and social advantages,
they have to seize the chance. They rush in lest they miss something.
Exactly what, is not clear, but in any case the only ones with
a chance are the participants. Fascism, however, hopes to use
the training the culture industry has given these recipients of
gifts, in order to organise them into its own forced battalions.

Culture is a paradoxical commodity. So completely is it subject
to the law of exchange that it is no longer exchanged; it is so
blindly consumed in use that it can no longer be used. Therefore
it amalgamates with advertising. The more meaningless the latter
seems to be under a monopoly, the more omnipotent it becomes.
The motives are markedly economic.

One could certainly live
without the culture industry, therefore it necessarily creates
too much satiation and apathy. In itself, it has few resources
itself to correct this. Advertising is its elixir of life. But
as its product never fails to reduce to a mere promise the enjoyment
which it promises as a commodity, it eventually coincides with
publicity, which it needs because it cannot be enjoyed. In a
competitive society, advertising performed the social service
of informing the buyer about the market; it made choice easier
and helped the unknown but more efficient supplier to dispose
of his goods. Far from costing time, it saved it.

Today, when
the free market is coming to an end, those who control the system
are entrenching themselves in it. It strengthens the firm bond
between the consumers and the big combines. Only those who can
pay the exorbitant rates charged by the advertising agencies,
chief of which are the radio networks themselves; that is, only
those who are already in a position to do so, or are co-opted
by the decision of the banks and industrial capital, can enter
the pseudo-market as sellers. The costs of advertising, which
finally flow back into the pockets of the combines, make it unnecessary
to defeat unwelcome outsiders by laborious competition. They
guarantee that power will remain in the same hands – not unlike
those economic decisions by which the establishment and running
of undertakings is controlled in a totalitarian state. Advertising
today is a negative principle, a blocking device: everything that
does not bear its stamp is economically suspect. Universal publicity
is in no way necessary for people to get to know the kinds of
goods – whose supply is restricted anyway. It helps sales only
indirectly. For a particular firm, to phase out a current advertising
practice constitutes a loss of prestige, and a breach of the discipline
imposed by the influential clique on its members. In wartime,
goods which are unobtainable are still advertised, merely to keep
industrial power in view. Subsidising ideological media is more
important than the repetition of the name. Because the system
obliges every product to use advertising, it has permeated the
idiom – the “style” – of the culture industry. Its
victory is so complete that it is no longer evident in the key
positions: the huge buildings of the top men, floodlit stone advertisements,
are free of advertising; at most they exhibit on the rooftops,
in monumental brilliance and without any self-glorification, the
firm’s initials. But, in contrast, the nineteenth-century houses,
whose architecture still shamefully indicates that they can be
used as a consumption commodity and are intended to be lived in,
are covered with posters and inscriptions from the ground right
up to and beyond the roof: until they become no more than backgrounds
for bills and sign-boards. Advertising becomes art and nothing
else, just as Goebbels – with foresight – combines them: l’art
pour l’art
, advertising for its own sake, a pure representation
of social power. In the most influential American magazines,
Life and Fortune, a quick glance can now scarcely distinguish
advertising from editorial picture and text. The latter features
an enthusiastic and gratuitous account of the great man (with
illustrations of his life and grooming habits) which will bring
him new fans, while the advertisement pages use so many factual
photographs and details that they represent the ideal of information
which the editorial part has only begun to try to achieve.

The assembly-line character of the culture industry, the synthetic,
planned method of turning out its products (factory-like not only
in the studio but, more or less, in the compilation of cheap biographies,
pseudo-documentary novels, and hit songs) is very suited to advertising:
the important individual points, by becoming detachable, interchangeable,
and even technically alienated from any connected meaning, lend
themselves to ends external to the work. The effect, the trick,
the isolated repeatable device, have always been used to exhibit
goods for advertising purposes, and today every monster close-up
of a star is an advertisement for her name, and every hit song
a plug for its tune. Advertising and the culture industry merge
technically as well as economically. In both cases the same thing
can be seen in innumerable places, and the mechanical repetition
of the same culture product has come to be the same as that of
the propaganda slogan. In both cases the insistent demand for
effectiveness makes technology into psycho-technology, into a
procedure for manipulating men. In both cases the standards are
the striking yet familiar, the easy yet catchy, the skilful yet
simple; the object is to overpower the customer, who is conceived
as absent-minded or resistant.

By the language he speaks, he makes his own contribution to culture
as publicity. The more completely language is lost in the announcement,
the more words are debased as substantial vehicles of meaning
and become signs devoid of quality; the more purely and transparently
words communicate what is intended, the more impenetrable they
become.

The demythologisation of language, taken as an element
of the whole process of enlightenment, is a relapse into magic.
Word and essential content were distinct yet inseparable from
one another. Concepts like melancholy and history, even life,
were recognised in the word, which separated them out and preserved
them. Its form simultaneously constituted and reflected them.
The absolute separation, which makes the moving accidental and
its relation to the object arbitrary, puts an end to the superstitious
fusion of word and thing.

Anything in a determined literal sequence
which goes beyond the correlation to the event is rejected as
unclear and as verbal metaphysics. But the result is that the
word, which can now be only a sign without any meaning, becomes
so fixed to the thing that it is just a petrified formula. This
affects language and object alike. Instead of making the object
experiential, the purified word treats it as an abstract instance,
and everything else (now excluded by the demand for ruthless clarity
from expression – itself now banished) fades away in reality.
A left-half at football, a black-shirt, a member of the Hitler
Youth, and so on, are no more than names. If before its rationalisation
the word had given rise to lies as well as to longing, now, after
its rationalisation, it is a straitjacket for longing more even
than for lies.

The blindness and dumbness of the data to which
positivism reduces the world pass over into language itself, which
restricts itself to recording those data. Terms themselves become
impenetrable; they obtain a striking force, a power of adhesion
and repulsion which makes them like their extreme opposite, incantations.
They come to be a kind of trick, because the name of the prima
donna is cooked up in the studio on a statistical basis, or because
a welfare state is anathematised by using taboo terms such as
“bureaucrats” or “intellectuals,” or because
base practice uses the name of the country as a charm.

In general, the name – to which magic most easily attaches – is undergoing
a chemical change: a metamorphosis into capricious, manipulable
designations, whose effect is admittedly now calculable, but which
for that very reason is just as despotic as that of the archaic
name. First names, those archaic remnants, have been brought
up to date either by stylisation as advertising trade-marks (film
stars’ surnames have become first names), or by collective standardisation.

In comparison, the bourgeois family name which, instead of being
a trade-mark, once individualised its bearer by relating him to
his own past history, seems antiquated. It arouses a strange
embarrassment in Americans. In order to hide the awkward distance
between individuals, they call one another “Bob” and
“Harry,” as interchangeable team members. This practice
reduces relations between human beings to the good fellowship
of the sporting community and is a defence against the true kind
of relationship.

Signification, which is the only function of
a word admitted by semantics, reaches perfection in the sign.
Whether folk-songs were rightly or wrongly called upper-class
culture in decay, their elements have only acquired their popular
form through a long process of repeated transmission. The spread
of popular songs, on the other hand, takes place at lightning
speed. The American expression “fad,” used for fashions
which appear like epidemics – that is, inflamed by highly-concentrated
economic forces – designated this phenomenon long before totalitarian
advertising bosses enforced the general lines of culture. When
the German Fascists decide one day to launch a word – say, “intolerable”
– over the loudspeakers the next day the whole nation is saying
“intolerable.” By the same pattern, the nations against
whom the weight of the German blitzkrieg was thrown
took the word into their own jargon. The general repetition of
names for measures to be taken by the authorities makes them,
so to speak, familiar, just as the brand name on everybody’s lips
increased sales in the era of the free market. The blind and
rapidly spreading repetition of words with special designations
links advertising with the totalitarian watchword. The layer
of experience which created the words for their speakers has been
removed; in this swift appropriation language acquires the coldness
which until now it had only on billboards and in the advertisement
columns of newspapers. Innumerable people use words and expressions
which they have either ceased to understand or employ only because
they trigger off conditioned reflexes; in this sense, words are
trade-marks which are finally all the more firmly linked to the
things they denote, the less their linguistic sense is grasped.
The minister for mass education talks incomprehendingly of “dynamic
forces,” and the hit songs unceasingly celebrate “reverie”
and “rhapsody,” yet base their popularity precisely
on the magic of the unintelligible as creating the thrill of a
more exalted life. Other stereotypes, such as memory, are still
partly comprehended, but escape from the experience which might
allow them content. They appear like enclaves in the spoken language.
On the radio of Flesch and Hitler they may be recognised from
the affected pronunciation of the announcer when he says to the
nation, “Good night, everybody!” or “This is the
Hitler Youth,” and even intones “the Fuehrer” in
a way imitated by millions. In such cliches the last bond between
sedimentary experience and language is severed which still had
a reconciling effect in dialect in the nineteenth century. But
in the prose of the journalist whose adaptable attitude led to
his appointment as an all-German editor, the German words become
petrified, alien terms. Every word shows how far it has been
debased by the Fascist pseudo-folk community.

By now, of course, this kind of language is already universal, totalitarian. All
the violence done to words is so vile that one can hardly bear
to hear them any longer. The announcer does not need to speak
pompously; he would indeed be impossible if his inflection were
different from that of his particular audience. But, as against
that, the language and gestures of the audience and spectators
are coloured more strongly than ever before by the culture industry,
even in fine nuances which cannot yet be explained experimentally.

Today the culture industry has taken over the civilising inheritance
of the entrepreneurial and frontier democracy – whose appreciation
of intellectual deviations was never very finely attuned. All
are free to dance and enjoy themselves, just as they have been
free, since the historical neutralisation of religion, to join
any of the innumerable sects. But freedom to choose an ideology
– since ideology always reflects economic coercion – everywhere
proves to be freedom to choose what is always the same. The way
in which a girl accepts and keeps the obligatory date, the inflection
on the telephone or in the most intimate situation, the choice
of words in conversation, and the whole inner life as classified
by the now somewhat devalued depth psychology, bear witness to
man’s attempt to make himself a proficient apparatus, similar
(even in emotions) to the model served up by the culture industry.

The most intimate reactions of human beings have been so thoroughly
reified that the idea of anything specific to themselves now persists
only as an utterly abstract notion: personality scarcely signifies
anything more than shining white teeth and freedom from body odour
and emotions. The triumph of advertising in the culture industry
is that consumers feel compelled to buy and use its products even
though they see through them.


Further Reading:
Theodor Adorno Archive |
Biography |
Barthes |
Nietzsche |
Lukacs

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About homelessholocaust

Tijuana Hobo , Hebrew Hobo Railroad Rabbi, The Truth Teller Tell True Truth Truthfully. If the Truth is Repugnant to you, You are a Reagan Cultist. Ronald Reagan was Taught by L. Ron Hubbard, Reagan & Hubbard FOUNDED THE SCIENCE FICTION MIND FUCKING GAME- SCIENTOLOGY- then REAGAN USED NERO LINGUIST PROGRAMMING as PRESIDENT to MURDER THE MINDS of AMERICANS!
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