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Worksheet on ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception’ by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno

Worksheet Instruction: Answer the following questions; discuss in two sentences each.

A worksheet for my Media Theory class for the lecture on Ideology as Instrumental Rationality and the Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno essay “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”

1.      Why is the culture industry an industry? (p. 42)

The culture industry is an industry because it works as an amalgam of the different dominating aspects of culture and entertainment in the public sphere with the masses mainly targeted as its consumers. It produces culture industry products and services geared for the profit of capitalists. 

2.      How does the technology of the culture industry becomes a rationality of domination? (p. 42)

The culture industry demands reproduction processes that can meet the need “to produce for consumers coming from countless locations,” while doing such in only few but efficient production centers through access to technology. Since the capitalists are the ones in power and they own and control the technology, they dictate what the culture industry produces for the masses for their own benefit, which leads to confining the processes to standardization and mass production and dominating the system without regard to social, moral, logical, or even artistic concerns, for as long as they are ultimately entertaining and distracting the masses – and efficiently diverting them from attending to their alienation and misery.

3.    “The whole world is passed through the filter of the culture industry.” Provide examples for this in film in the time of pandemic. (p. 45)

The culture industry is now successfully entrenched into the public sphere – perhaps, only a few members of the society are not significantly influenced by it by completely or almost completely cutting themselves off modern communication platforms and media access. When the COVID-19 pandemic started and people were locked down inside their homes, as they looked for the most accessible ways to cope up with their dangerously uncertain future, they found watching films, particularly those with stories and themes they can relate with, as their means to carry on. 

4.      Why does the “principle of individuality” contradictory? How do you apply this to brands at present? (p. 63)

In creating products through the society’s economic and social apparatus, each product should find a way to reduce itself to an individual trait to be easily recognized – and this is very apparent in film and advertising. The “principle of individuality” becomes contradictory in the culture industry because its products (whether people or objects) follow this concept where a commodity’s assigned peculiarity or uniqueness, which is also related to the developing of a niche, trademark, or even brand in the culture industry market, allow them to be recognizable by the public despite each product being processed and presented in the same way – and they are practically the same inside with only an identifiably superficial mark separating each one on the outside.

5.      Discuss the second to the last sentence in the reading.

The power of advertising is now ingrained in people exposed to them in an enigmatic fashion as people tend to acknowledge advertising content as false, fake, or simple make-believe, yet they live their day to day simulating the context of these advertisements because of their ideological power over them. Since these ideologies are controlled by the ruling class who in turn control the culture industry, these ones in power further dominate the masses by focusing on reducing them into culture industry junkies.

Work Cited:

Horkheimer, M., & Adorno, T. (2012). The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception. In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 53-74.

Related Readings:

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Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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