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Frankfurt School

Max Horkheimer (1895—1973) German philosopher and sociologist

critical theory

Theodor Adorno (1903—1969) German philosopher, sociologist, and musicologist

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culture industry


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1. For Adorno and the critical theorists of the Frankfurt school, the mass-media entertainment industry and commercialized popular culture, which they saw as primarily concerned with producing not only symbolic goods but also needs and consumers, serving the ideological function of diversion (see also diversion function), and thus depoliticizing the working class. Note the provocative collocation of these traditionally antithetical terms, as in art vs commerce, aesthetics vs entertainment, or even rock vs pop. See also commodification; commodity fetishism; consciousness industries; mass culture; compare consumer society; cultural industries.

2. For British and American cultural theorists, the press and broadcasting media framed as regulators of information flow in relation to political issues of media ownership and control. See also cross-media ownership; market model; media controls; political economy; public service broadcasting.


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