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High culture and popular culture

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Crystal Tipps

on 28 September 2016

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Transcript of High culture and popular culture

Herbert J. Gans
Popular Culture and High Culture. An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste
(1974)

High culture and popular culture
Lecture 3

Background
US - cultural struggle

heterogenous societies
allocation of power and resources


high culture - popular culture
"mass culture critique"
at stake:
"the nature of the good life"
which culture/whose culture should dominate/represent in society

19th century onwards - USA


free time activities
alcohol (taverns, music halls ...)
illicit sex
spectator sports
television
1960s - new "enemy":
"youth culture"
Kennedy &
Johnson

- growing power, income, influence of intellectuals
art increasingly separated from class?
increasingly
autonomous
?

"middlebrow"?

differences
between
high culture
and
low culture
do not disappear

youth culture
-> (commercial) popular culture

1970s movements: feminism, civil rights
egalitarian
ideas threaten the position of pro-Establishment intellectuals
Gans predicts the return of mass culture critique


1980s - Raegan, Conservativism, "backlash"
Definitions
mass culture
symbolic products used by the
"uncultured" majority
mass consumption
popular culture
popular arts
more positive
problem: works of high culture can also be popular
taste cultures
consist of values, the cultural forms that express these values, and the media in which these are expressed;
they include the values, forms and media of the natural and social sciences and philosophy -
including their commercial popularization and "folk wisdom"; they have political values, even if not expressed explicitly
taste cultures are cultures based on
choices
(a narrower culture concept than that of anthropology)

partial
cultures: they provide values and products for a part of life - but tied to the rest of culture

vicarious
cultures (vs lived)


The Critique of Mass Culture
1. the negative character of
popular culture creation
2. the negative effects on
high culture
3. the negative effects on popular culture
audience
4. the negative effects on
society
1. Popular culture's defects as a commercial enterprise
mass culture is an industry organized for profit
in order to be profitable, it must create a
homogenous and standardized product
that appeals to a mass audience
the industry transforms the creator into a worker on a mass production assembly line

high culture is implicitly the opposite: where personal artistic concerns dominate

Is profit not a concern within
the sphere of high culture?
Gans: each culture is
sensitive to its own diversity

hence the significance of ...
cultural studies, television studies, popular music studies, fan studies

creator orientation vs user orientation
creator freedom
experimentation - expected but also with difficulties - in both cultures
classicization (e.g. sixties' pop culture)
2. Popular culture's danger to high culture
popular culture borrows cot from high culture with the consequence of debasing it
by offering economic incentives, popular culture is able to lure away potential high culture creators
Gans: (1) reverse is also true - high culture borrows from popular culture
folk
popular
high art
(2) not all high culture creators can produce popular culture
3. Popular culture's impact on its audience
1.
emotionally
destructive: provides spurious gratification; brutalizes through its emphasis on violence and sex
2.
intellectually
destructive: escapist
3.
culturally
destructive: impairing people's ability to partake in high culture
Gans:
poverty
is a better explanation
(isolation, depression, narcoticization, violence)


media - impact studies
theoretical turn: not Pavlovian conditioning
- but: social embeddedness, socialization, social network, selective perception
school shooting debates
4. Popular culture's harmfulness to society
1. popular culture lowers the taste level of society as a whole, thus impairing its quality as a civilization
2. mass media can "narcoticize" and "atomize" people and thus render them susceptible to techniques of mass persuasion (propaganda)
http://www.boredpanda.com/airline-food-business-vs-economy-compared/
"distance from necessity"
Full transcript