The Concept of Cultural Industry

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Cultural industries existed long before the precolonial period and since then, they have undergone several notable changes that have made them more effective. UNESCO explains cultural industries as organized activity sectors whose primary mandate is to produce, promote, distribute, and to commercialize goods, services, as well as other cultural or heritage-based nature activities including arts (Woodward, 2017). Cultural industries served crucial roles in the community, among them being the management and circulation of creativity. The industries were fundamentally concerned with the selling of specific types of works. The cultural industries promoted the spread of arts, which was viewed to be one of the important kinds of human creativity whose value can still be seen in the present age. Other than just promoting creativity, there are other essential activities that were fully enhanced by the existence of cultural industries. Therefore, the cultural industries concepts were deemed significant and they were expected to be incorporated in various fields. The undertaking of this assignment, therefore, seeks to conduct a critical review of three academic articles to evaluate how effectively they have employed the concept of the cultural industry. The three articles to be reviewed include, “Circulating Culture” by Nixon, “The Culture Industry” by Horkheimer and Adorno, and “The concept of Culture Hegemony” by Jackson. The review will take into account the impacts created by the work, its value to the media studies, how the work relate to the concept of the cultural industry as well as how it employs the concept.

“Circulating Culture” by Sean Nixon

As earlier mentioned, cultural industries served important roles in the community, one of them being information centers (Woodward, 2017). In his article, “Circulating Culture,” Nixon proposes for the engagement of “Advertising Cultures.” He states that there is need to understand people’s workplace culture for the people engaged in creative advertising in order to gain maximum understanding of advertising as well as commercial creativity application that is currently regarded as “creative industries.” Nixon’s proposal is based on the compactly argued ethnographic review of the creative workers based in London agencies as well as well as the agencies’ workplace cultures (Nixon, 1997). From his ethnographic study, he draws out a valuable, but a unique series of observation on creativity, its relationship to masculinity, as well as the relationship between collaboration and competitiveness in high competitive commercial workplaces.

The important aspect addressed by the journal is value and norm in the cultural industries. Bolin (2016) argues that the concept of norms and values within a given culture is closely connected to the worldview idea but are more concerned with how the different thoughts shared between members of a cultural group affect their behavior. Therefore, from a critical review, the basic cultural industry concept presented by Nixon is a publishing-based cultural industry which provided advertisement platforms through creative advertising (Nixon, 1997). The work is useful to media studies since it provides a historical analysis of the origin of publication and advertising. It analyses the cultural production and their effectiveness for understanding media production in the contemporary world thus making it useful in media studies.

“The Culture Industry” by Horkheimer and Adorno

Horkheimer and Adorno in their article, “The Culture Industry,” present their concern on the manipulations taking place in the cultural media industry. Historical records indicate that mass communication was one of the ancient cultural concepts (Crane, Kawashima, & Kawasaki, 2016). Horkheimer and Adorno provide an account of the 20th-century proliferation of high technology mass communication forms as well as the emergence of a variety of entertainment industries that were geared towards profit creation via the distribution of the cultural products. The authors argue that the increasing cultural modifications in the modern capitalist society had transformed the original form of culture to ideological domination. Horkheimer and Adorno theorize that the cultural industry played a crucial role in strengthening its beneficiaries to the status quo (Horkheimer & Adorno, 2006). Besides, the theorists demonstrate that industries transformed the cultures to the ideological medium of domination.

The work done by Horkheimer and Adorno provides a definite illustration on the social conditions that led to the establishment of the different forms of arts and how various cultural roles, meaning, and functions have changed over time. This, therefore, creates an aspect of the important revolutions that have transpired in the media industry. However, there are negative implications associated with the cultural industry that the authors have shaded light on (Lash & Lury, 2007) Horkheimer and Adorno argue that culture industry cultivated false psychology needs which can only be satisfied and met by the capitalism product, thus causing an inherent danger. They argued that mass-produced are dangerous are intellectually and technically difficult high arts. As demonstrated by Kellner (2017), cultural industry previously enjoyed genuineness and autonomy and as a result, it had the potential to operate as emancipation tool based on the fact that it could offer diverse reality visions.

In a review of how the concept relate to the history and current context, Horkheimer and Adorno demonstrate that the emergence of the modern culture industry has succeeded to overthrow the autonomous culture. The theorists in their articles present reasonable critique against the cultural industry. Nevertheless, their critique has successfully managed to illustrate how culture attained the form of a domination tool. They provide a view that the culture industry has rationalized and standardized cultural forms. Consequently, it robs people from thinking autonomously and independently (Horkheimer, & Adorno, 2006). In this context, it becomes very useful in media studies since it enlightens the learners on the need as well as the cultural production controllers to formulate and create the people’s tastes and desires.

Harris (2016) demonstrates that all the Hollywood productions meet the taste and the value of its clients, and thus, it gives the best illustration on the point. In relation to the historical concept, Adorno’s subject demonstrates that far from radios, televisions, films, and magazines that formed the primary elements of the culture industry, high technological media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter have emerged and they have since made communication quite efficient and effective (Horkheimer & Adorno, 2006). The electronic media used in the culture industry were highly monitored by the capitalists and the information and news were subjected to maximum control and, therefore, people did not have enough freedom to use them. However, Horkheimer and Adorno describe that the advent of the internet eventually became a better communication tool through which people could speak individual views and remain secure. It has offered people the great opportunity to express themselves and to formulate independent contents that are not directed by capitalists. From the analysis of the article, it is quite evident that Horkheimer and Adorno perceived that the culture industry contributed to the rationalization and standardization of cultural forms and through that, the ability of an individual to think critically and in an autonomous way had been atrophied, weakened, and destroyed. Therefore, although cultural industries were significant in terms of mass communication, there are underlying critiques demonstrated by Horkheimer and Adorno which should be closely reviewed by the media industries.

The Concept of Culture Hegemony by Lears

A cultural hegemony basically refers to the domination of the ruling class in a culturally diverse society. The ruling group manipulate the society’s cultures including their beliefs, perception, explanation, as well as values in order to make their imposed norms to be universally accepted worldwide. Culture Hegemony is a crisis that trails back in the 20th century and in its influence to mass media (Skovmand & Schrøder, 2016). As Lears describes, the age was embedded by both corporate and state propagandists who frequently used the mass media to promote their rightness and valor of clinching to the global edge US hegemony. The author demonstrates that the cultural mass media industry was overtaken by the selfish individuals who primarily used the media to serve their personal interests. He further explains that the large number of critics who opposed the use of mass persuasion practices were discredited quickly by the emergent communication research fields (Lears, 1985).

A close analysis of the article indicates that it served a significant impact in the sense that it brings to the attention of the autonomic power of the ruling class and how they used their power for their selfish gains. In relation to the importance of the work of the work to media studies, it is imperative to not that Lears used the book as in illustration of the ill-happenings that were experienced by media houses in the cultural industries (Lears, 1985). Evident from the article, Lears describes that mass media hegemony was also evident among the reporters since they only reported on what they deemed of positive benefits to their societies. As he claims, the prejudiced news reporting hindered both local and international social change. Arguments posted by (Skovmand, & Schrøder, 2016) demonstrates that prejudiced media negatively shape foreign countries. Therefore, it is imperative to state that media hegemony is a very powerful force influencing and shaping social values of life.


Bolin, G. (2016). Value and the media: Cultural production and consumption in digital markets. London: Routledge.

Crane, D., Kawashima, N., & Kawasaki, K.I. (Eds.). (2016). Global culture: Media, arts, policy, and globalization. London: Routledge.

Harris, T. (2016). The Catastrophe of cliché: Karl Kraus, Cruiskeen Lawn, and the Culture Industry. The Parish Review, 3(2), 6-15.

Horkheimer, M., & Adorno, T.W. (2006). The culture industry: Enlightenment as mass deception. Media and cultural studies: Keyworks, 41-72.

Kellner, D. (2017). The Elvis spectacle and the culture industry. In Sonic Synergies: Music, Technology, Community, Identity (pp. 79-90). London: Routledge.

Lash, S., & Lury, C. (2007). Global culture industry: The mediation of things. Historian, 403.

Lears, T. J. (1985). The concept of cultural hegemony: Problems and possibilities. The American Historical Review, 567-593.

Nixon, S. (1997) Circulating culture. In du Gay (ed.) Production of Culture/Cultures of Production (pp.177-234). Milton Keynes, UK: Open University.

Skovmand, M., & Schrøder, K. C. (2016). Media cultures: Reappraising transnational media. London: Routledge.

Woodward, K. (2017). Lived actualities of cultural experience and social worlds: Representing David Bowie. Continuum, 31(4), 499-508.

September 11, 2023

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