Popular Culture's Subserviance To High Culture

816 words - 3 pages

Popular Culture's Subserviance to High Culture

For about a century, Western Culture has really been divided into two cultures, the traditional type of 'high culture' and a 'mass culture' manufactured wholesale for the market.
High culture is the arts that require some form of intellect to comprehend, so therefore can only reach a tiny segment of the population, whilst levelling accusations of elitism. High culture includes ballet; the forms of operas, operettas and symphonies; types of film; certain novels; theatre and plays.
Mass or popular culture is derived from high culture, so for every item in high culture, there is a corresponding item of lesser importance in popular culture. Forms of popular culture include television, comics and magazines, pop music and the cinema.
It is acknowledged that mass culture is to some extent a continuation of the old Folk Art that grew through the Industrial Revolution as the culture of the common people. The notifiable dissimilarity is its own spontaneity and ability to satisfy the needs of the people, without the benefit of high culture.
To satisfy the popular taste, as Robert Burns's poetry did, and to exploit tastes, in the manner of massive industries like Hollywood does, are very different indeed; folk art was a separate institution, created by and for the people; wheras businessmen's only interest in the cultural field is to produce profit- and even to maintain their class rule fabricate Mass culture.
It is accepted that mass culture began as, and to some extent still is, a cancerous growth on high culture, as shown when Clement Greenburg stated, 'Kitsch (German term for mass culture) takes advantage of. Fully matured cultural tradition, extracting its riches and putting nothing back'. Constantly evolving, kitsch reduces so far away from high culture as to appear quite disconnected from it.
Mass culture is imposed from above, as Karl Marx recognised, onto the passive susceptibility of the ignorant masses, to which decisions lie between consumption or no consumption. It is therefore, the 'Lords of kitsch' that are the sole beneficiaries; mass culture integrates the masses in a form of debased high culture.
This lack of control proves the power of the mass culture businessman, shown when during the 1929 depression, when capitalism was in chaos, focus was turned from the 'idols of production' to the 'idols of consumption' such as Hollywood movie stars, creating a 'dreamlikeworld', a marketing heaven, for the masses to aspire to.
Mass culture can therefore never be...

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