The of the West in general and the United

The end of the cold
war marked the beginning of a ‘cultural turn’ in the globalized world. The
worldwide dissemination of the values and attitudes of the West in general and
the United States of America in particular has been the focus of attention for
not only academicians but also for ordinary people from across the world. There
have been intense debates over the impact of globalization and the consequent
transformations in the realm of culture from a number of conflicting
standpoints. The idea of cultural imperialism has been particularly influential
in the understanding of the profound transformations that are taking place in
the sphere of culture. Regardless of the difference among these contesting
perspectives on the characterization of this cultural turn, there exists a
consensus on the incredible role of global media as carrier of the
unprecedented changes pertinent to culture at both global and local levels. However, culture should no longer be perceived as a locally bounded
‘whole way of life’ as the components of culture themselves have profoundly
changed. It has been suggested that culture should not be viewed as
introverted, tied to place and inward looking as it used to be in history.
Rather, culture is seen as an outward-looking ‘translocal learning process’ (Nederveen,
2009).

 

The intangibility is one of the important factor in defining a
cultural product or commodity. Certainly, the content of cultural commodities is
immeasurable and ‘cultural’ in nature.  Here,
cultural means that the use value of a cultural commodity is satisfying some of
the mental, psychological needs of a user in one way or another from a
culturally determined standpoint. Speaking from the opposite, a cultural
commodity has no ‘physical’ value apart from its ability to gratify given cultural
tastes of a consumer. In broad terms, cultural industries are characterised by
the production, creation, transmission, dissemination, registration,
protection, participation and mass consumption of cultural and creative types
of intangible and immeasurable contents, which are available in the market as
exchangeable commodities or services. Globalisation represents not only the
competitive distribution but also the co-operative sharing of cultural and
creative goods.

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Cultural industries deal with the mechanisms of production,
distribution and use of cultural goods. Laws and provisions concerning
copyright and intellectual property rights are used to protect and ensure the value
based exchangeability of such commodities and services in the marketplace. The
term ‘cultural industries’ denotes that culture is part of the economic sector.
The state considerably regulates the cultural industry as a sector of economy
but not without political implications. Crafts, designs, printed and published
materials, multimedia creations, pornographic productions, designs of various
types, photographic articles, music, audiovisual and cinematographic creations and
artistic performances are some of the popular forms of cultural and creative
commodities.  Cultural and creative
industries encompass activities that are part of cultural and artistic
production. It does not mean that cultural industry and creative industry are,
as analytical categories, synonymous or interchangeable. Based on the
predominant quantity of artistic or creative content, creative industry can
effectively be differentiated from culture industry. Therefore, while
advertising and architecture are part of creative industries, television
programmes and cinemas are part of cultural commodities. Creative industries
include distinctive fields such as advertising, architecture, art and antiques
markets, crafts, design, designer fashion, film and video, interactive leisure
software, music, performing arts, publishing, software and computer services
and television and radio. Content creation, production, distribution and
consumption are the four principal areas of cultural industries.  

 

The advances in technology and the developments in information
technologies, digital media, e-commerce and new communication channels have
profoundly changed the character of cultural and creative industries in twenty
first century. Cultural and creative industries have a major share in the
international trade and a deep impact over cultural lives of peoples of
different countries. The international flow of cultural goods and services are
higher than ever. Cultural trade flows include the transnational and
cross-border distribution of books, television programmes, audio and video CDs,
films, documentaries, internet data and information, videogames, paintings and
sculptures.

 

It has been argued by a number of
theorists that the postmodernist culture is affirmative. On the contrary,
Adorno (1991) criticises the mass culture merely as a product of what he
understands as ‘culture industry’. While seeing mass culture as retrogressive
and making passive effects on the spectators, Adorno underestimates the
positive aspects of popular culture and its potentialities for democratising
the culture itself. He fails to see the democratic transformation of culture
through the medium of mass culture. Therefore, postmodernists have come up with
the argument that Adorno holds an elitist appraisal of pure artistic modernism
against a culture of the people. Adorno’s perspective is regrettably one-sided
in only seeing the alienation and ideology in the cultural contents produced by
culture industry. Adorno’s (1991) critical theory considers the existence of an
alienated and alienating culture industry as a product of the capitalist
commodity fetishism. Capitalism contains the forces of fragmentation and
reification, which take form through industrially produced cultural commodities
and lessens the possibilities for integral freedom. Obviously, Adorno was
staunch proponent of modernist high culture vis-à-vis the consumerist, populist
mass culture.

 

For Adorno, fascism was the full
scale realisation of western rationality and full-fledged instrumental reason.
Culture industry too is a tool for capitalist driven integration and
unification, which has catastrophic effects on entire humanity. In the same
fashion, Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment too reveals the self destructive
tendencies inherent in the whole project of modernity. According to Horkheimer,
the very work of emancipation from various fetters would itself lead to an inevitable return to new forms of regression and domination. The
enlightened reason subsumes the particular for universal and thus neglects the
intrinsic qualities of things. For capitalist development, all production is under
the logic of market, in which the production is not oriented towards meeting
the real needs of people, but to multiply capital, that is nothing but the objectification
of human beings. While capitalist class unlimitedly acquires capital, it also
gains unaccounted and illegitimate political power that is inherently
retrogressive and destructive vis-à-vis the working class. Therefore,
production becomes isolated from use value and becomes for the sole purpose of
exchange. In other words, the universality of exchange value under capitalism objectively subsumes the particularity of use value. It is also an act of replacing the intrinsic values of thing with
its extrinsic values. The art generated by culture industry does not provide
happiness but gives entertainment as a relief from labour, which is in essence most
creative form of human activity. Art is detached from practice and is a product
of the inevitable division between physical and mental labour in any given
class divided society. The production of leisure good is not only a systemic
outcome but also systemic necessity for its own reproduction. The artistic
amusement one gets from the products of cultural industry constitutes a
continuity and discontinuity with work.

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