‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception’, or, the Lifeblood of Capitalism – unrealistic.choices
The most troubling aspect of Capitalism I find to be its ability to permeate every corner of our reality, but specifically the cultural sphere. Capitalism has not always been the leading socio-political and economic system, and its advent was not sudden: it slowly colonized our minds, to the point that even art, that is supposed to be the noble expression of human nature, has been commodified. Philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, in Dialectic of Enlightenment, analyse the concept of enlightenment in their own socio-political context, World War II Germany. The chapter I will here discuss, ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception’ helps understand how capitalism came to be inseparable from reality through a mechanism of ‘regression’ that saw enlightenment convert to ideology. They illustrate this by minutely analysing various aspects of the culture industry, including contradictions and consequences. The fundamental feature of culture in the time of capitalism is sameness, with the purpose of mass control: ‘something is provided for all so that none can escape’. The market can cater for everyone’s needs, which means that one will always turn to it to satisfy needs and desires. The authors use the example of the movie-goer throughout the text to express the implication of this concept: the aim of cinematic producers is to use clichés to resemble real life to a certain extent, so that real life and movies become one to the movie-goer. Specifically, clichés will ease the audience from having to think at all; because everything is the same every time, active reflection is unnecessary. The culture industry does not encourage creativity or intellectual freedom. Its purpose being that of domestication, it only offers distractions: amusement is nothing but ‘the prolongation of work’, as its repetitiveness in contents and style reflects the alienating nature of work – the paradox here being that we turn to amusement to escape monotonous jobs when in fact they are not much different. We have again a paradox: we know we are being enticed, but we comply with it anyway. In conclusion, the culture industry is devoid of any meaning or substance, as it offers no ‘meaningful explanation of life’. On the contrary, it can be viewed as a weapon, born in function of mere “Economic” capitalism, that is, with the purpose to sell, and living on with the aim of sustaining the all-encompassing capitalism, that is, with the purpose to preserve social control. Adorno and Horkheimer point out how it concurred in establishing Fascism; now, in 2017, this essay is still meaningful, as it implicitly anticipated the extreme consequence of their times: capitalism is an accepted part of our life and ‘none can escape’.
Capitalism vs. the Climate
For more from The Nation, check out our latest issue. The Nation is reader supported: Chip in $10 or more to help us continue to write about the issues that matter. Be the first to hear about Nation Travels destinations, and explore the world with kindred spirits. Did you know you can support The Nation by drinking wine? There is a question from a gentleman in the fourth row. He tells the crowd that he ran for county commissioner in Maryland’s Carroll County because he had come to the conclusion that policies to combat global warming were actually “An attack on middle-class American capitalism.” His question for the panelists, gathered in a Washington, DC, Marriott Hotel in late June, is this: “To what extent is this entire movement simply a green Trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine?”. Here at the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, the premier gathering for those dedicated to denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet, this qualifies as a rhetorical question. Still, the panelists aren’t going to pass up an opportunity to tell the questioner just how right he is. Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who specializes in harassing climate scientists with nuisance lawsuits and Freedom of Information fishing expeditions, angles the table mic over to his mouth. “You can believe this is about the climate,” he says darkly, “And many people do, but it’s not a reasonable belief.” Horner, whose prematurely silver hair makes him look like a right-wing Anderson Cooper, likes to invoke Saul Alinsky: “The issue isn’t the issue.” The issue, apparently, is that “No free society would do to itself what this agenda requires. The first step to that is to remove these nagging freedoms that keep getting in the way.” Claiming that climate change is a plot to steal American freedom is rather tame by Heartland standards. That climate change is “a stalking horse for National Socialism”. That environmentalists are like Aztec priests, sacrificing countless people to appease the gods and change the weather. Most of all I will hear versions of the opinion expressed by the county commissioner in the fourth row: that climate change is a Trojan horse designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism. As conference speaker Larry Bell succinctly puts it in his new book Climate of Corruption, climate change “Has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution.”