Recently in [3-05] Critical Theory: Mannheim, Horkheimer & Adorno, Marcuse Category

"The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception" - Horkheimer & Adorno

2. Describe what the "culture industry" is, according to H & A. Through what primary technologies is mass culture produced? Discuss the authors' example of the technological advance from telephone to radio. What are they saying about how this transformation changes the position of the consumer? (p. 386). Think about the title of this article-- "Enlightenment as Mass Deception." What happened to the "freedoms" of the Enlightenment in the mass culture industry of advanced capitalism, according to H & A? In other words, are we really "free" in the culture industry, or what kind of freedoms do we really have? Do you agree with this theory?

The influence of pop culture is undeniable. Attempting to stray from forms of mass media, therefore, proves to be a difficult task. Pop culture appears nothing more than a factory producing meagre culture goods in order to reduce the masses to a state of emotionlessness and indifference. And by means of film, television, music, and magazines the people at large are brained washed by their consumption of such simple pleasures, resulting in a more lethargic and easy to shape, mould and manage, general public. While members of society desperately seek avenues to stand out as individuals, they are continually led into the machine that the Culture Industry, which is theorized in depth by Adorno and Horkheimer. It is through this industry that a culture is produced and force-fed to a population and begins the process of manipulating their interests. As culture becomes standardized, people become passive and contented by continually consuming mass media. Adorno drives this point home when he says, "freedom to choose an ideology-since ideology always reflects economic coercion-everywhere proves to be freedom to choose what is always the same" (pg. 389) With the ever-growing advertising industry, this statement is becoming harder to deny. As members of society continues to seek in individuality, Adorno emphasizes the growing blurring between what is artificial and what is real. People are constantly being convinced that if they invest in a certain product, that they will achieve power, control, distinction, or some other grand prize that will boost them above others. This is witnessed today in celebrity culture, with that elite class of people being the ideal. The path to this ideal, unfortunately, is no more unique for one person than the next. the producers with the culture industry simply employ the pleasure-seeker as another customer and treat him like the rest. Ultimately, the consumer of the Culture Industry is doomed for a continually degenerating sense of individualism."Technology acquires power over society is the power of those whose economic hold over society is the greatest.The step from the telephone to the radio has clearly distinguished the roles" (pg.386), in this age we are losing our subjectivity and we are all the time judged by the market value exchanged system which makes different between appearance and reality. Enlightenment brought the ideology of utility of art and encouraged mass production which eventually turned out to be a mass deception. I don't think that we are really "free" when the mass media shapes and influences our reality. It's not easy to make rational decisions of their own, when the mass media takes over consumers powers of imagination. I do agree with this theory because it only makes sense. Capitalist and Culture Industry has enormous control over society and changed the mind thinking of many consumers. They produce what is ideal but not reality. And with that being said, consumers tend to believe such illusion and easily deceived in believing such deception. It exist in our society. It had changed many traditions over the past years and pretty much developed and illusionary tradition and reality of their own.

Blog Entry # 2

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First Mannheim distinguishes two types of ideology, which are particular and total. Particular has more psychological character and mostly realized through ideas of certain people that implies skepticism toward those ideas. And total ideology is the one that characterize the mode of thought of an epoch. Then Mannheim introduces the term "utopia", which we usually understand as anything that transcends reality, e.g. unrealistic is utopian. Mannheim argues opposite. He introduces the difference by using two terms: ideology and utopia that are ideas that transcend reality. The difference between the two terms is a very difficult issue, but since some ideas that transcend reality today may become reality of tomorrow, those are close to be called ideologies. Mannheim suggests that if ideas "passed over into conduct, tend to shatter either partially or wholly, the order of things prevailing at the time", than those ideas would be called utopian. Ideologies can be incongruent with a given social order, but if passed into conduct, they would organically integrate into a world-view of a given time. Also, Mannheim suggests that there are unrealistic ideas that are unrealistic for only a given prevailing social order, and there are those that are unrealistic for any social order.
But even thought this distinction may seem obvious, Mannheim argues that there are differences in social situations that make later distinction to be blurred again. He suggests that from a perspective of people that at a given time are of different social circumstances, the meaning of "real" could be different. So, for people who represent prevailing social and intellectual order any idea that has to do with change is utopian, which is different for from people that are driven by opposition to a prevailing social order. For an opposition the same idea is more an ideology than utopia.
As was mentioned earlier, one of the distinction of utopia and ideology is utopian strives to burst the bonds of an existing order. But it turns out that this distinction is not perfect and the terms utopia and ideology are more of continuous rather than dichotic. Describing so called ascending bourgeoisie Mannheim finds a utopian idea with elements of ideology in the idea of freedom. In order to achieve Freedom in the setting of guild and class order, this idea had to burst asunder the bonds of the static order, which would make this idea to be a utopian one. As we know the change in accordance with the idea of freedom took place and turned out not to be a utopian after all. In this case Mannheim suggests that to realize an idea to be ideological or utopian is a prerogative of a social stratum that comes later after a change of an existing order.
After this argument Mannheim suggested that from point of view of later social stratum, ideas that only were distortions of a past social order would be considered ideological, versus those ideas that "were adequately realized in the succeeding social order would be considered relative utopias.

Blog Post #1 - Critical Theory: Mannheim, Horkheimer & Adorno, Marcuse

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For Mannheim, there are two "distinct and separable meanings" of ideology. The first is the particular conception of ideology. The particular conception of ideology plays out on a more personal scale. Mannheim defines it as "[denoting] that we are skeptical of the ideas and representations advanced by our opponents" (336). In a sense, Mannheim describes the act of pointing out this conception of ideology much as one who discovers a liar; we recognize the "true" nature of the situation, whereas our opponent "disguises the real nature of situation" in order to account more fully for his or her interests. The second definition is the "total conception" of ideology. In this "total" conception of ideology, Mannheim is referring to the "ideology of an age or of a concrete historico-social group, e.g. of a class." In this sense, it refers somewhat to Marx's idea of ruling class, ruling ideas. The first conception of ideology is in some way a function of psychology, whereas the second, "total," conception is a function of noology, or a way of knowing. What is meant though by this term, ideology? Mannheim says that knowledge is distorted and ideological when it fails to take account of the new realities applying to a situation, and when it attempts to conceal them by thinking of them in categories which are inappropriate" (340). The term "utopia" is in itself very similar because it too is incongruous with reality. However, Mannheim gives a very precise definition by saying, "Only those orientations transcending reality will be referred to by us as utopian which, when they pass over into conduct, tend to shatter either partially or wholly, the order of things prevailing at the time" (341). We see first that both idea, ideology and utopia, are seen as "transcending reality," but what does this mean? They are considered "transcendent" or "unreal" because "their contents can never be realized in the societies in which they exist, and because one could not live and act according to them within the limits of the existing social order" (342). There are differences, again, between these thoughts. Ideologies are transcendent ideas which never succeed in the realization of their content. As an example, Mannheim gives the idea of Christian brotherly love, to which he says, "the individual... is always compelled to fall short of his own nobler motives" (342). Utopias also "transcend reality" because of their orientation to elements which reality does not contain. However, utopias break from ideology, and as described by Mannheim "they are not ideologies in the measure and in so far as they succeed through counteractivity in transforming the existing historical reality into one more in accord with their own conceptions" (343). Therefore, a position becomes truly utopian when its realization would change the very "reality" at that historical moment. This differs from a merely ideological position in the measure that ideologies can never be realized fully and have a sort of conservative effect. For Mannheim, that which makes a utopia truly distinct from an ideology depends on historico-social reality and the groups therein. Mannheim says that, "the representatives of a given order will label as utopian all conceptions of existence which from their point of view can in principle never be realized" (343). This is an important distinction because their rejection of the utopian functions to serve their interest in maintaining the status quo, in which they already hold a certain position. The representatives of a given order discount all utopias as not only impossible to realize in the given social order but also in every social order, in order to suppress all utopias as impossible ideas. However in the same way that these representatives have a "utopia-blindness," there is an equal blindness to the existing order in those too emphasizing utopia and revolution, or anarchists who promote a false authoritarian vs. libertarian dichotomy. The distinction between ideology and utopia is further blurred by the fact that utopian ideals can also contain ideological elements. This is seen in Mannheim's example of bourgeois freedom. In this example, the bourgeoisie's ideal of freedom was a truly utopian ideal, because it sought to destroy the bonds of the guild system and create a new social order. However, this bourgeois class also made concessions to "equality," which was contradictory to their ideals of freedom and set up goals in opposition to the truly utopian notion of freedom, so the idea of equality was in this sense the ideological element which is a part of their truly utopian goals.

Critical Theory and the Sociology of Knowledge - Reading Questions

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Critical Theory and the Sociology of Knowledge: Reading Questions

"Ideology and Utopia" - Karl Mannheim

1. Explain Mannheim's notions of "ideology" and "utopia"-- how do both of these types of thought "transcend the situation" of real life? (p. 342). According to Mannheim, when can a position be defined as "ideological thought," and at what point does it become truly "utopian?" Why does one's position in the social order matter for defining something as ideology v. utopia? (p. 343-4). Mannheim identifies another problem with distinguishing ideology from utopia: A utopian ideal can also contain ideological elements. Explain what this means by referring to Mannheim's example of the bourgeois utopia of "freedom" (p. 346).

"The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception" - Horkheimer & Adorno

2. Describe what the "culture industry" is, according to H & A. Through what primary technologies is mass culture produced? Discuss the authors' example of the technological advance from telephone to radio. What are they saying about how this transformation changes the position of the consumer? (p. 386). Think about the title of this article-- "Enlightenment as Mass Deception." What happened to the "freedoms" of the Enlightenment in the mass culture industry of advanced capitalism, according to H & A? In other words, are we really "free" in the culture industry, or what kind of freedoms do we really have? Do you agree with this theory?

"One-Dimensional Man" - Herbert Marcuse

3. Like Horkheimer and Adorno, Marcuse is deeply critical of technical progress in advanced industrial capitalism. What is Marcuse's argument, in the opening of the piece, regarding the meaning of our "rights and liberties" in the modern era (p. 390-91)? Explain Marcuse's concepts of "false needs," "sublimation," "desublimation," and "Happy Consciousness." (Give it your best shot!)

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the [3-05] Critical Theory: Mannheim, Horkheimer & Adorno, Marcuse category.

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