THE CULTURE INDUSTRY: ENLIGHTENMENT
AS MASS DECEPTION

THEODOR ADORNO
AND MAX HORKHEIMER



The sociological theory that the loss of the support of objectively established religion, the

dissolution of the last remnants of precapitalism, together with technological and social

differentiation or specialization, have led to cultural chaos is disproved

every day; for culture now impresses the same stamp on everything.

Films, radio and magazines make up a system which is

uniform as a whole and in every part. Even the aesthetic activities of

political opposites are one in their enthusiastic obedience to the

rhythm of the iron system. The decorative industrial

management buildings and exhibition centers in authoritarian

countries are much the same as anywhere else. The huge gleaming towers

that shoot up everywhere are outward signs of the

ingenious planning of international concerns, toward which the

unleashed entrepreneurial system (whose monuments are a mass

of gloomy houses and business premises in grimy, spiritless

cities) was already hastening. Even now the older houses just

outside the concrete city centers look like slums, and the new

bungalows on the outskirts are at one with the flimsy structures

of world fairs in their praise of technical progress and their built-in

demand to be discarded after a short while like empty food cans.

Yet the city housing projects designed to perpetuate the individual

as a supposedly independent unit in a small hygienic dwelling

make him all the more subservient to his adversary - the absolute power of

capitalism. Because the inhabitants, as producers

and as consumers, are drawn into the center in search of work

and pleasure, all the living units crystallize into well-organized

complexes. The striking unity of microcosm and macrocosm

presents men with a model of their culture: the false identity of

the general and the particular. Under monopoly all mass culture

is identical, and the lines of its artificial framework begin to

show through. The people at the top are no longer so interested

in concealing monopoly: as its violence becomes more open, so

its power grows. Movies and radio need no longer pretend to be

art. The truth that they are just business is made into an ideology in

order to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce. They call

themselves industries; and when their directors' incomes are published,

any doubt about the social utility of the fini shed products is removed.

Interested parties explain the culture industry in technological

terms. It is alleged that because millions participate in it,

certain reproduction processes are necessary that inevitably require

identical needs in innumerable places to be satisfied with

identical goods. The technical contrast between the few production

centers and the large number of widely dispersed consumption points is

said to demand organization and planning by management. Furthermore, it

is claimed that standards were based in the first place on consumers'

needs, and for that reason were accepted with so little resistance. The

result is the circle of manipulation and retroactive need in

which the unity of the system grows ever stronger. No mention is made of

the fact that the basis on which technology acquires power over society

is the power of those whose economic hold over society is greatest. A

technological rationale is the rationale of domination itself. It is the

coercive nature of society alienated from itself. Automobiles, bombs, and

movies keep the whole thing together until their leveling element shows

its strength in the very wrong which it furthered.

It has made the technology of the culture industry no more than

the achievement of standardization and mass production, sacrificing

whatever involved a distinction between the logic of the

work and that of the social system. This is the result not of a

law of movement in technology as such but of its function in

today's economy. The need which might resist central control

has already been suppressed by the control of the individual

consciousness. The step from the telephone to the radio has

clearly distinguished the roles. The former still allowed the subscriber

to play the role of subject, and was liberal. The latter is

democratic: it turns all participants into listeners and authoritatively

subjects them to broadcast programs which are all exactly the same. No

machinery of rejoinder has been devised, and private broadcasters are

denied any freedom. They are confined to the apocryphal field of the

"amateur," and also have to accept organization from above. But any trace

of spontaneity from the public in official broadcasting is controlled and

absorbed by talent scouts, studio competitions and official programs of

every kind selected by professionals. Talented performers belong to the

industry long before it displays them; otherwise they would not be so

eager to fit in. The attitude of the public, which ostensibly and

actually favors the system of the culture industry, is a part of the

system and not an excuse for it. If one branch of art follows the same

formula as one with a very different medium and content; if the dramatic

intrigue of broadcast soap operas becomes no more than useful material

for showing how to master technical problems at both ends of

the scale of musical experienceÑreal jazz or a cheap imitation;

or if a movement from a Beethoven symphony is crudely

"adapted" for a film sound-track in the same way as a Tolstoy

novel is garbled in a film script: then the claim that this is done

to satisfy the spontaneous wishes of the public is no more than

hot air. We are closer to the facts if we explain these phenomena

as inherent in the technical and personnel apparatus which,

down to its last cog, itself forms part of the economic mechanism of

selection. In addition there is the agreementÑor at least the

determinationÑof all executive authorities not to produce or sanction

anything that in any way differs from their own rules,their own ideas

about consumers, or above all themselves.

In our age the objective social tendency is incarnate in the

hidden subjective purposes of company directors, the foremost

among whom are in the most powerful sectors of industryÑsteel,

petroleum, electricity, and chemicals. Culture monopolies are weak and

dependent in comparison. They cannot afford to neglect their appeasement

of the real holders of power if their sphere of activity in mass society

(a sphere producing a specific type of commodity which anyhow is stiU too

closely bound up with easygoing liberalism and Jewish intellectuals) is

not to undergo a series of purges. The dependence of the most powerful

broadcasting company on the electrical industry, or of the

motion picture industry on the banks, is characteristic of the

whole sphere, whose individual branches are themselves economically

interwoven. All are in such close contact that the

extreme concentration of mental forces allows demarcation

lines between different firms and technical branches to be ignored. The

ruthless unity in the culture industry is evidence of

what will happen in politics. Marked differentiations such as

those of A and B films, or of stories in magazines in different

price ranges, depend not so much on subject matter as on classifying,

organizing, and labeling consumers. Something is provided for all so

that none may escape; the distinctions are emphasized and extended. The

public is catered for with a hierarchical range of mass-produced products

of varying quality,thus advancing the rule of complete quantification.

Everybody must behave (as if spontaneously) in accordance with his

previously determined and indexed level, and choose the category of mass

product turned out for his type. Consumers appear as statistics on

research organization charts, and are divided by income groups into red,

green, and blue areas; the technique is that used for any type of propaganda.

How formalized the procedure is can be seen when the

mechanically differentiated products prove to be all alike in the

end. That the difference between the Chrysler range and General Motors

products is basically illusory strikes every child with a keen interest

in varieties. What connoisseurs discuss as good or bad points serve only

to perpetuate the semblance of competition and range of choice. The same

applies to the Warner Brothers and Metro Goldwyn Mayer productions. But

even the differences between the more expensive and cheaper models put

out by the same firm steadily diminish: for automobiles, there are such

differences as the number of cylinders, cubic capacity, details of

patented gadgets; and for films there are the number of stars, the

extravagant use of technology, labor, and equipment, and the

introduction of the latest psychological formulas. The universal

criterion of merit is the amount of "conspicuous production," of blatant

cash investment. The varying budgets in the culture industry do not bear

the slightest relation to factual values, to the meaning of the

products themselves. Even the technical media are relentlessly

forced into uniformity. Television aims at a synthesis of radio

and film, and is held up only because the interested parties have

not yet reached agreement, but its consequences will be quite

enormous and promise to intensify the impoverishment of aesthetic matter

so drastically, that by tomorrow the thinly veiled

identity of all industrial culture products can come triumphantly

out into the open, derisively fulfilling the Wagnerian dream of

the GesamtkunstwerkÑthe fusion of all the arts in one work.

The alliance of word, image, and music is all the more perfect

than in Tristan because the sensuous elements which all approvingly

reflect the surface of social reality are in principle

embodied in the same technical process, the unity of which becomes its

distinctive content. This process integrates all the

elements of the production, from the novel (shaped with an eye

to the film) to the last sound effect. It is the triumph of invested

capital, whose title as absolute master is etched deep into

the hearts of the dispossessed in the employment line; it is the

meaningful content of every film, whatever plot the production

team may have selected.

The man with leisure has to accept what the culture manufacturers offer

him. Kant's formalism still expected a contribution

from the individual, who was thought to relate the varied experiences of

the senses to fundamental concepts; but industry robs the individual of

his function. Its prime service to the customer is to do his

schematizing for him. Kant said that there was a secret mechanism in the

soul which prepared direct intuitions in such a way that they could be

fitted into the system of pure reason. But today that secret has been

deciphered. While the mechanism is to all appearances planned by those

who serve up the data of experience, that is, by the culture industry, it is

in fact forced upon the latter by the power of society, which

remains irrational, however we may try to rationalize it; and

this inescapable force is processed by commercial agencies so

that they give an artificial impression of being in command.

There is nothing left for the consumer to classify. Producers

have done it for him. Art for the masses has destroyed the

dream but still conforms to the tenets of that dreaming idealism

which critical idealism balked at. Everything derives from

consciousness: for Malebranche and Berkeley, from the consciousness of

God; in mass art, from the consciousness of the production team. Not

only are the hit songs, stars, and soap operas cyclically recurrent and

rigidly invariable types, but the specific content of the entertainment

itself is derived from them and only appears to change. The details are

interchangeable. The short interval sequence which was effective in a hit

song, the hero's momentary fall from grace (which he accepts as good

sport), the rough treatment which the beloved gets from the

male star, the latter's rugged defiance of the spoilt heiress, are,

like all the other details, ready-made cliches to be slotted in

anywhere; they never do anything more than fulfill the purpose

allotted them in the overall plan. Their whole raison d'etre is to

confirm it by being its constituent parts. As soon as the film begins,

it is quite clear how it will end, and who will be rewarded, punished,

or forgotten. In light music, once the trained ear has heard the first

notes of the hit song, it can guess what is coming and feel flattered

when it does come. The average length of the short story has to be

rigidly adhered to. Even gags, effects, and jokes are calculated like the

setting in which they are placed. They are the responsibility of special

experts and their narrow range makes it easy for them to be apportioned

in the office. The development of the culture industry has led to the

predominance of the effect, the obvious touch, and the technical detail

over the work itselfÑwhich once expressed an idea, but was liquidated

together with the idea. When the detail won its freedom, it became

rebellious and, in the period from Romanticism to Expressionism, asserted

itself as free expression, as a vehicle of protest against the

organization. In music the single harmonic effect obliterated the

awareness of form as a whole; in painting the individual color was

stressed at the expense of pictorial composition; and in the novel

psychology became more important than structure. The totality of the

culture industry has put an end to this. Though concerned exclusively

with effects, it crushes their insubordination and makes them subserve the

formula, which replaces the work. The same fate is inflicted on

whole and parts alike. The whole inevitably bears no relation to

the detailsÑjust like the career of a successful man into which

everything is made to fit as an illustration or a proof, whereas it

is nothing more than the sum of all those idiotic events. The

so-called dominant idea is like a file which ensures order but not

coherence. The whole and the parts are alike; there is no antithesis and

no connection. Their prearranged harmony is a mockery of what had to be

striven after in the great bourgeois works of art. In Germany the

graveyard stillness of the dictatorship already hung over the gayest

films of the democratic era.

The whole world is made to pass through the filter of the culture

industry. The old experience of the movie-goer, who sees

the world outside as an extension of the film he has just left (because

the latter is intent upon reproducing the world of everyday perceptions),

is now the producer's guideline. The more intensely and flawlessly his

techniques duplicate empirical objects, the easier it is today for the

illusion to prevail that the outside world is the straightforward

continuation of that presented on the screen. This purpose has been

furthered by mechanical reproduction since the lightning takeover by the

sound film.

Real life is becoming indistinguishable from the movies. The

sound film, far surpassing the theater of illusion, leaves no room

for imagination or reflection on the part of the audience, who is

unable to respond within the structure of the film, yet deviate

from its precise detail without losing the thread of the story;

hence the film forces its victims to equate it directly with reality.

The stunting of the mass-media consumer's powers of imagination and

spontaneity does not have to be traced back to any psychological

mechanisms; he must ascribe the loss of those attributes to the

objective nature of the products themselves, especially to the most

characteristic of them, the sound film. They are so designed that

quickness, powers of observation, and experience are undeniably needed to

apprehend them at all; yet sustained thought is out of the question if

the spectator is not to miss the relentless rush of facts. Even though

the effort required for his response is semi-automatic, no scope is left

for the imagination. Those who are so absorbed by the world of the

movieÑby its images, gestures, and wordsÑthat they are unable to supply

what really makes it a world, do not have to dwell on particular points

of its mechanics during a screening. All the other films and products of

the entertainment industry which they have seen have taught them what to

expect; they react automatically. The might of industrial society is

lodged in men's minds. The entertainments manufacturers know that their

products will be consumed with alertness even when the customer is

distraught, for each of them is a model of the huge economic machinery

which has always sustained the masses, whether at work or at

leisureÑwhich is akin to work. From every sound film and every broadcast

program the social effect can be inferred which is exclusive to none but

is shared by all alike. The culture industry as a whole has molded men as

a type unfailingly reproduced in every product. All the agents of this

process, from the producer to the women's clubs, take good care that the

simple reproduction of this mental state is not nuanced or extended in

any way.

The art historians and guardians of culture who complain of

the extinction in the West of a basic style-determining power

are wrong. The stereotyped appropriation of everything, even

the inchoate, for the purposes of mechanical reproduction surpasses the

rigor and general currency of any "real style," in the sense in which

cultural cognoscenti celebrate the organic precapitalist past. No

Palestrina could be more of a purist in eliminating every unprepared and

unresolved discord than the jazz arranger in suppressing any development

which does not conform to the jargon. When jazzing up Mozart he changes him

not only when he is too serious or too difflcult but when he

harmonizes the melody in a different way, perhaps more simply,

than is customary now. No medieval builder can have scrutinized the

subjects for church windows and sculptures more suspiciously than the

studio hierarchy scrutinizes a work by Balzac or Hugo before finally

approving it. No medieval theologian could have detemlined the degree of

the tomment to be suffered by the damned in accordance with the ordo of

divine love more meticulously than the producers of shoddy epics

calculate the torture to be undergone by the hero or the exact point to which

the leading lady's hemline shall be raised. The explicit and implicit,

exoteric and esoteric catalog of the forbidden and tolerated is so

extensive that it not only defines the area of freedom

but is all-powerful inside it. Everything down to the last detail is

shaped accordingly. Like its counterpart, avant-garde art, the

entertainment industry detem~ines its own language, down to its

very syntax and vocabulary, by the use of anathema. The constant

pressure to produce new effects (which must confomm to

the old pattem) serves merely as another rule to increase the

power of the conventions when any single effect threatens to slip

through the net. Every detail is so fimlly stamped with sameness

that nothing can appear which is not marked at birth, or does

not meet with approval at first sight. And the star perfommers,

whether they produce or reproduce, use this jargon as freely

and fluently and with as much gusto as if it were the very language

which it silenced long ago. Such is the ideal of what is

natural in this field of activity, and its influence becomes all the

more powerful, the more technique is perfected and diminishes

the tension between the finished product and everyday life. The

paradox of this routine, which is essentially travesty, can be

detected and is often predominant in everything that the culture

industry tums out. A jazz musician who is playing a piece of

serious music, one of Beethoven's simplest minuets, syncopates

it involuntarily and will smile superciliously when asked to follow the

normal divisions of the beat. This is the "nature" which,

complicated by the ever-present and extravagant demands of

the specific medium, constitutes the new style and is a "system

of non-culture, to which one might even concede a certain 'unity

of style' if it really made any sense to speak of stylized barbarity."1

The universal imposition of this stylized mode can even go

beyond what is quasi-offlcially sanctioned or forbidden; today a

hit song is more readily forgiven for not observing the 32 beats

or the compass of the ninth than for containing even the most

clandestine melodic or harmonic detail which does not confomm

to the idiom. Whenever Orson Welles offends against the tricks

of the trade, he is forgiven because his departures from the

norm are regarded as calculated mutations which serve all the

more strongly to confimm the validity of the system. The con-

straint of the technically-conditioned idiom which stars and

directors have to produce as "nature" so that the people can

appropriate it, extends to such fine nuances that they almost

attain the subtlety of the devices of an avant-garde work as

against those of truth. The rare capacity minutely to fulfill the

obligations of the natural idiom in all branches of the culture

industry becomes the criterion of efficiency. What and how they

say it must be measurable by everyday language, as in logical

positivism. The producers are experts. The idiom demands an

astounding productive power, which it absorbs and squanders.

In a diabolical way it has overreached the culturally conservative

distinction between genuine and artificial style. A style might be

called artificial which is imposed from without on the refractory

impulses of a fomm. But in the culture industry every element of

the subject matter has its origin in the same apparatus as that

jargon whose stamp it bears. The quarrels in which the artistic

experts become involved with sponsor and censor about a lie

going beyond the bounds of credibility are evidence not so

much of an inner aesthetic tension as of a divergence of interests. The

reputation of the specialist, in which a last remnant of

objective independence sometimes finds refuge, confiicts with

the business politics of the Church, or the concem which is

manufacturing the cultural commodity. But the thing itself has

been essentially objectified and made viable before the established

authorities began to argue about it. Even before Zanuck

acquired her, Saint Bemadette was regarded by her latter-day

hagiographer as brilliant propaganda for all interested parties.

That is what became of the emotions of the character. Hence

the style of the culture industry, which no longer has to test

itself against any refractory material, is also the negation of

style. The reconciliation of the general and particular, of the

rule and the specific demands of the subject matter, the achievement of

which alone gives essential, meaningful content to style,

is futile because there has ceased to be the slightest tension between

opposite poles: these concordant extremes are dismally identical; the

general can replace the particular, and vice versa.

Nevertheless, this caricature of style does not amount to

something beyond the genuine style of the past. In the culture

industry the notion of genuine style is seen to be the aesthetic

equivalent of domination. Style considered as mere aesthetic

regularity is a romantic dream of the past. The unity of style not

only of the Christian Middle Ages but of the Renaissance expresses in

each case the different structure of social power, and

not the obscure experience of the oppressed in which the general

was enclosed. The great artists were never those who embodied a

wholly flawless and perfect style, but those who used style as a

way of hardening themselves against the chaotic expression of

suffering, as a negative truth. The style of their works gave what

was expressed that force without which life flows away unheard. Those

very art fomms which are known as classical, such

as Mozart's music, contain objective trends which represent

something different to the style which they incamate. As late as

Schonberg and Picasso, the great artists have retained a mistrust

of style, and at crucial points have subordinated it to the logic of

the matter. What Dadaists and Expressionists called the untruth of style

as such triumphs today in the sung jargon of a crooner, in the carefully

contrived elegance of a film star, and even in the admirable expertise of

a photograph of a peasant's squalid hut. Style represents a promise in

every work of art.

That which is expressed is subsumed through style into the dominant

forms of generality, into the language of music, painting,

or words, in the hope that it will be reconciled thus with the idea

of true generality. This promise held out by the work of art that

it will create truth by lending new shape to the conventional

social forms is as necessary as it is hypocritical. It unconditionally

posits the real forms of life as it is by suggesting that fulfillment

lies in their aesthetic derivatives. To this extent the claim

of art is always ideology too. However, only in this confrontation with

tradition of which style is the record can art express

suffering. That factor in a work of art which enables it to transcend

reality certainly cannot be detached from style; but it does not consist

of the harmony actually realized, of any doubtful unity of form and

content, within and without, of individual and society; it is to be found

in those features in which discrepancy appears: in the necessary failure

of the passionate striving for identity. Instead of exposing itself to

this failure in which the style of the great work of art has always

achieved self-negation, the inferior work has always relied on its

similarity with others Ñ on a surrogate identity.

In the culture industry this imitation finally becomes absolute.

Having ceased to be anything but style, it reveals the latter's secret:

obedience to the social hierarchy. Today aesthetic

barbarity completes what has threatened the creations of the

spirit since they were gathered together as culture and neutralized. To

speak of culture was always contrary to culture. Culture as a common

denominator already contains in embryo that

schematization and process of cataloging and classification

which bring culture within the sphere of administration. And

it is precisely the industrialized, the consequent, subsumption

which entirely accords with this notion of culture. By subordinating in

the same way and to the same end all areas of intel

lectual creation, by occupying men's senses from the time they

leave the factory in the evening to the time they clock in again

the next moming with matter that bears the impress of the

labor process they themselves have to sustain throughout the

day, this subsumption mockingly satisfies the concept of a unified

culture which the philosophers of personality contrasted

with mass culture.

And so the culture industry, the most rigid of all styles, proves

to be the goal of liberalism, which is reproached for its lack of

style. Not only do its categories and contents derive from

liberalismÑdomesticated naturalism as well as operetta and revue

Ñbut the modern culture monopolies form the economic area

in which, together with the corresponding entrepreneurial types,

for the time being some part of its sphere of operation survives,

despite the process of disintegration elsewhere. It is still possible

to make one's way in entertainment, if one is not too obstinate

about one's own concems, and proves appropriately pliable.

Anyone who resists can only survive by fitting in. Once his particular

brand of deviation from the norm has been noted by the

industry, he belongs to it as does the land-refommer to capitalism.

Realistic dissidence is the trademark of anyone who has a

new idea in business. In the public voice of modern society

accusations are seldom audible; if they are, the perceptive can

already detect signs that the dissident will soon be reconciled.

The more immeasurable the gap between chorus and leaders,

the more certainly there is room at the top for everybody who

demonstrates his superiority by well-planned originality. Hence,

in the culture industry, too, the liberal tendency to give full

scope to its able men survives. To do this for the efficient today

is still the function of the market, which is otherwise proficiently

controlled; as for the market's freedom, in the high period of

art as elsewhere, it was freedom for the stupid to starve.

Significantly, the system of the culture industry comes from the

more liberal industrial nations, and all its characteristic media,

such as movies, radio, jazz, and magazines, flourish there. Its

progress, to be sure, had its origin in the general laws of capital.

Gaumont and Pathe, Ullstein and Hugenberg followed the international

trend with some success; Europe's economic dependence on the United

States after war and inflation was a contributory factor. The belief

that the barbarity of the culture industry is a result of "cultural

lag," of the fact that the American consciousness did not keep up with

the growth of technology, is quite wrong. It was pre-Fascist Europe

which did not keep up with the trend toward the culture monopoly. But it was

this very lag which left intellect and creativity some degree of

independence and enabled its last representatives to existÑhowever

dismally. In Gemmany the failure of democratic control to

pemmeate life had led to a paradoxical situation. Many things

were exempt from the market mechanism which had invaded

the Western countries. The German educational system, universities,

theaters with artistic standards, great orchestras, and

museums enjoyed protection. The political powers, state and

municipalities, which had inherited such institutions from absolutism,

had left them with a measure of the freedom from the

forces of power which dominates the market, just as princes and

feudal lords had done up to the nineteenth century. This

strengthened art in this late phase against the verdict of supply

and demand, and increased its resistance far beyond the actual

degree of protection. In the market itse]f the tribute of a quality for

which no use had been found was tumed into purchasing

power; in this way, respectable literary and music publishers

could help authors who yielded little more in the way of profit

than the respect of the connoisseur. But what completely fettered the

artist was the pressure (and the accompanying drastic

threats), always to fit into business life as an aesthetic expert.

Fommerly, like Kant and Hume, they signed their letters "Your

most humble and obedient servant," and undemlined the foundations of

throne and altar. Today they address heads of government by their first

names, yet in every artistic activity they are subject to their

illiterate masters. The analysis Tocqueville offered a century ago has in

the meantime proved wholly accurate. Under the private culture monopoly

it is a fact that "tyranny leaves the body free and directs its attack at

the soul. The ruler no longer says: You must think as I do or die. He

says: You are free not to think as I do; your life, your property,

everything shall remain yours, but from this day on you are a

stranger among us."2 Not to conform means to be rendered

powerless, economically and therefore spirituallyÑto be "self-

employed." When the outsider is excluded from the concem, he

can only too easily be accused of incompetence. Whereas today

in material production the mechanism of supply and demand is

disintegrating, in the superstructure it still operates as a check

in the rulers' favor. The consumers are the workers and employees, the

fammers and lower middle class. Capitalist production so confines them,

body and soul, that they fall helpless victims to what is offered them.

As naturally as the ruled always took the morality imposed upon them more

seriously than did the rulers themselves, the deceived masses are today

captivated by the myth of success even more than the successful are.

Immovably, they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them.

The misplaced love of the common people for the wrong which

is done them is a greater force than the cunning of the authorities. It

is stronger even than the rigorism of the Hays Office, just

as in certain great times in history it has inflamed greater forces

that were tumed against it, namely, the terror of the tribunals.

It calls for Mickey Rooney in preference to the tragic Garbo,

for Donald Duck instead of Betty Boop. The industry submits

to the vote which it has itself inspired. What is a loss for the

fimm which cannot fully exploit a contract with a declining star

is a legitimate expense for the system as a whole. By craftily

sanctioning the demand for rubbish it inaugurates total harmony. The

connoisseur and the expert are despised for their pretentious claim to

know better than the others, even though culture is democratic and

distributes its privileges to all. In view of the ideological truce, the

conformism of the buyers and the effrontery of the producers who supply

them prevail. The result is a constant reproduction of the same thing.

A constant sameness govems the relationship to the past as

well. What is new about the phase of mass culture compared

with the late liberal stage is the exclusion of the new. The

machine rotates on the same spot. While detemmining consumption it

excludes the untried as a risk. The movie-makers distrust

any manuscript which is not reassuringly backed by a bestseller.

Yet for this very reason there is never-ending talk of ideas,

novelty, and surprise, of what is taken for granted but has never

existed. Tempo and dynamics serve this trend. Nothing remains

as of old; everything has to run incessantly, to keep moving. For

only the universal triumph of the rhythm of mechanical production and

reproduction promises that nothing changes, and nothing unsuitable will

appear. Any additions to the well-proven culture inventory are too much

of a speculation. The ossified formsÑsuch as the sketch, short story,

problem film, or hit songÑare the standardized average of late liberal

taste, dictated with threats from above. The people at the top in the

culture agencies, who work in harmony as only one manager

can with another, whether he comes from the rag trade or from

college, have long since reorganized and rationalized the objective

spirit. One might think that an omnipresent authority had

sifted the material and drawn up an official catalog of cultural

commodities to provide a smooth supply of available mass-

produced lines. The ideas are written in the cultural firmament

where they had already been numbered by PlatoÑand were indeed numbers,

incapable of increase and immutable.

Amusement and all the elements of the culture industry existed long

before the latter came into existence. Now they are taken over from above

and brought up to date. The culture industry can pride itself on having

energetically executed the previously clumsy transposition of art into

the sphere of consumption, on making this a principle, on divesting

amusement of its obtrusive naivetes and improving the type of

commodities. The more absolute it became, the more ruthless it was in forcing

every outsider either into bankruptcy or into a syndicate, and

became more refined and elevatedÑuntil it ended up as a synthesis of

Beethoven and the Casino de Paris. It enjoys a double

victory: the truth it extinguishes without it can reproduce at

will as a lie within. "Light" art as such, distraction, is not a

decadent form. Anyone who complains that it is a betrayal of

the ideal of pure expression is under an illusion about society.

The purity of bourgeois art, which hypostasized itself as a world

of freedom in contrast to what was happening in the material

world, was from the beginning bought with the exclusion of the

lower classesÑwith whose cause, the real universality, art keeps

faith precisely by its freedom from the ends of the false universality.

Serious art has been withheld from those for whom the

hardship and oppression of life make a mockery of seriousness,

and who must be glad if they can use time not spent at the production

line just to keep going. Light art has been the shadow

of autonomous art. It is the social bad conscience of serious art.

The truth which the latter necessarily lacked because of its

social premises gives the other the semblance of legitimacy. The

division itself is the truth: it does at least express the negativity

of the culture which the different spheres constitute. Least of all

can the antithesis be reconciled by absorbing light into serious

art, or vice versa. But that is what the culture industry attempts.

The eccentricity of the circus, peepshow, and brothel is as

embarrassing to it as that of Schonberg and Karl Kraus. And so

the jazz musician Benny Goodman appears with the Budapest

string quartet, more pedantic rhythrffically than any philharmonic

clarinettist, while the style of the Budapest players is as

uniform and sugary as that of Guy Lombardo. But what is significant is

not vulgarity, stupidity, and lack of polish. The culture industry did

away with yesterday's rubbish by its own perfection, and by forbidding

and domesticating the amateurish, although it constantly allows gross

blunders without which the standard of the exalted style cannot be

perceived. But what is new is that the irreconcilable elements of

culture, art and distraction, are subordinated to one end and subsumed

under one false formula: the totality of the culture industry. It

consists of repetition. That its characteristic innovations are never anything

more than improvements of mass reproduction is not extemal

to the system. It is with good reason that the interest of innumerable

consumers is directed to the technique, and not to the

contentsÑwhich are stubbomly repeated, outwom, and by now

half-discredited. The social power which the spectators worship

shows itself more effectively in the omnipresence of the stereotype

imposed by technical skill than in the stale ideologies for

which the ephemeral contents stand in.

Nevertheless the culture industry remains the entertainment

business. Its influence over the consumers is established by

entertainment; that will ultimately be broken not by an outright

decree, but by the hostility inherent in the principle of entertainment

to what is greater than itself. Since all the trends of the

culture industry are profoundly embedded in the public by the

whole social process, they are encouraged by the survival of

the market in this area. Demand has not yet been replaced by

simple obedience. As is well known, the major reorganization

of the film industry shortly before World War I, the material

prerequisite of its expansion, was precisely its deliberate acceptance

of the public's needs as recorded at the box-officeÑa procedure which

was hardly thought necessary in the pioneering days of the screen. The

same opinion is held today by the captains of the film industry, who

take as their criterion the more or less phenomenal song hits but wisely

never have recourse to the judgment of truth, the opposite criterion.

Business is their ideology. It is quite correct that the power of the

culture industry resides in its identification with a manufactured need, and

not in simple contrast to it, even if this contrast were one of

complete power and complete powerlessness. Amusement under

late capitalism is the prolongation of work. It is sought after as

an escape from the mechanized work process, and to recruit

strength in order to be able to cope with it again. But at the

same time mechanization has such power over a man's leisure

and happiness, and so profoundly detemlines the manufacture

of amusement goods, that his experiences are inevitably after-

images of the work process itself. The ostensible content is

merely a faded foreground; what sinks in is the automatic succession of

standardized operations. What happens at work, in

the factory, or in the office can only be escaped from by approximation

to it in one's leisure time. All amusement suffers

from this incurable malady. Pleasure hardens into boredom because, if it

is to remain pleasure, it must not demand any effort

and therefore moves rigorously in the wom grooves of association. No

independent thinking must be expected from the audience: the product

prescribes every reaction: not by its natural structure (which collapses

under reflection), but by signals. Any logical connection calling for

mental effort is painstakingly avoided. As far as possible, developments

must follow from the immediately preceding situation and never from the

idea of the whole. For the attentive movie-goer any individual scene

will give him the whole thing. Even the set pattem itself still

seems dangerous, offering some meaningÑwretched as it might

beÑwhere only meaninglessness is acceptable. Often the plot

is maliciously deprived of the development demanded by characters and

matter according to the old pattem. Instead, the next step is what the

script writer takes to be the most striking effect in the particular

situation. Banal though elaborate surprise interrupts the story-line.

The tendency mischievously to fall back on pure nonsense, which was a

legitimate part of popular art, farce and clowning, right up to Chaplin

and the Marx Brothers, is most obvious in the unpretentious kinds. This

tendency has completely asserted itself in the textof the novelty

song, in the thriller movie, and in cartoons, although in films

starring Greer Garson and Bette Davis the unity of the socio-

psychological case study provides something approximating a

claim to a consistent plot. The idea itself, together with the objects

of comedy and terror, is massacred and fragmented. Novelty songs have

always existed on a contempt for meaning which, as predecessors and

successors of psychoanalysis, they reduce to the monotony of sexual

symbolism. Today detective and adventure films no longer give the

audience the opportunity to experience the resolution. In

the non-ironic varieties of the genre, it has also to rest content with

the simple horror of situations which have almost ceased to be linked in

any way.

Cartoons were once exponents of fantasy as opposed to rationalism.

They ensured that justice was done to the creatures and objects they

electrified, by giving the maimed specimens a second life. All they do

today is to confimm the victory of technological reason over truth. A

few years ago they had a consistent plot which only broke up in the

final moments in a crazy chase, and thus resembled the old slapstick

comedy. Now, however, time relations have shifted. In the very first

sequence a motive is stated so that in the course of the action

destruction can get to work on it: with the audience in pursuit, the

protagonist becomes the worthless object of general violence. The

quantity of organized amusement changes into the quality of

organized cruelty. The self-elected censors of the film industry

(with whom it enjoys a close relationship) watch over the unfolding of

the crime, which is as drawn-out as a hunt. Fun replaces the pleasure

which the sight of an embrace would allegedly afford, and postpones

satisfaction till the day of the pogrom. Insofar as cartoons do any more

than accustom the senses to the new tempo, they hammer into every brain the

old lesson that continuous friction, the breaking down of all

individual resistance, is the condition of life in this society.

Donald Duck in the cartoons and the unfortunate in real life get

their thrashing so that the audience can learn to take their own

punishment.

The enjoyment of the violence suffered by the movie character turns

into violence against the spectator, and distraction into exertion.

Nothing that the experts have devised as a stimulant must escape the

weary eye; no stupidity is allowed in the

face of all the trickery; one has to follow everything and even

display the smart responses shown and recommended in the

film. This raises the question whether the culture industry fulfills the

function of diverting minds which it boasts about so

loudly. If most of the radio stations and movie theaters were

closed down, the consumers would probably not lose so very

much. To walk from the street into the movie theater is no

longer to enter a world of dream; as soon as the very existence

of these institutions no longer made it obligatory to use them,

there would be no great urge to do so. Such closures would not

be reactionary machine wrecking. The disappointment would

be felt not so much by the enthusiasts as by the slow-witted,

who are the ones who suffer for everything anyhow. In spite of

the films which are intended to complete her integration, the

housewife finds in the darkness of the movie theater a place of

refuge where she can sit for a few hours with nobody watching,

just as she used to look out of the window when there were still

homes and rest in the evening. The unemployed in the great

cities find coolness in summer and warmth in winter in these

temperature-controlled locations. Otherwise, despite its size,

this bloated pleasure apparatus adds no dignity to man's lives.

The idea of "fully exploiting" available technical resources and

the facilities for aesthetic mass consumption is part of the economic

system which refuses to exploit resources to abolish hunger.

The culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what

it perpetually promises. The promissory note which, with its

plots and staging, it draws on pleasure is endlessly prolonged;

the promise, which is actually all the spectacle consists of, is

illusory: all it actually confirms is that the real point will never

be reached, that the diner must be satisfied with the menu. In

front of the appetite stimulated by all those brilliant names and

images there is finally set no more than a commendation of the

depressing everyday world it sought to escape. Of course works

of art were not sexual exhibitions either. However, by representing

deprivation as negative, they retracted, as it were, the

prostitution of the impulse and rescued by mediation what was

denied. The secret of aesthetic sublimation is its representation

of fulfillment as a broken promise. The culture industry does

not sublimate; it represses. By repeatedly exposing the objects

of desire, breasts in a clinging sweater or the naked torso of the

athletic hero, it only stimulates the unsublimated forepleasure

which habitual deprivation has long since reduced to a masochistic

semblance. There is no erotic situation which, while

insinuating and exciting, does not fail to indicate unmistakably

that things can never go that far. The Hays Offlce merely confirms the

ritual of Tantalus that the culture industry has established anyway.

Works of art are ascetic and unashamed; the culture industry is

pornographic and prudish. Love is downgraded to rom

ance. And, after the descent, much is permitted;

even license as a marketable speciality has its quota bearing

the trade description "daring." The mass production of the

sexual automatically achieves its repression. Because of his

ubiquity, the film star with whom one is meant to fall in love is

from the outset a copy of himself. Every tenor voice comes to

sound like a Caruso record, and the "natural" faces of Texas

girls are like the successful models by whom Hollywood has

typecast them. The mechanical reproduction of beauty, which

reactionary cultural fanaticism wholeheartedly serves in its methodical

idolization of individuality, leaves no room for that

unconscious idolatry which was once essential to beauty. The

triumph over beauty is celebrated by humorÑthe Schadenfreude that every

successful deprivation calls forth. There is

laughter because there is nothing to laugh at. Laughter, whether

conciliatory or terrible, always occurs when some fear passes.

It indicates liberation either from physical danger or from the

grip of logic. Conciliatory laughter is heard as the echo of an

escape from power; the wrong kind overcomes fear by capitulating to the

forces which are to be feared. It is the echo of power as something

inescapable. Fun is a medicinal bath. The pleasure industry never fails

to prescribe it. It makes laughter the instrument of the fraud practised

on happiness. Moments of happiness are without laughter; only operettas

and films portray sex to the accompaniment of resounding laughter. But

Baudelaire is as devoid of humour as Holderlin. In the false society

laughter is a disease which has attacked happiness and is drawing it

into its worthless totality. To laugh at something is always

to deride it, and the life which, according to Bergson, in laughter

breaks through the barrier, is actually an invading barbaric

life, self-assertion prepared to parade its liberation from any

scruple when the social occasion arises. Such a laughing audience is a

parody of humanity. Its members are monads, all

dedicated to the pleasure of being ready for anything at the expense of

everyone else. Their harmony is a caricature of solidarity. What is

fiendish about this false laughter is that it is a compelling parody of

the best, which is conciliatory. Delight is austere: res severa verum

gaudium. The monastic theory that not asceticism but the sexual act

denotes the renunciation of attainable bliss receives negative

confirmation in the gravity of the lover who with foreboding commits his

life to the fleeting moment. In the culture industry, jovial denial takes

the place of the pain found in ecstasy and in asceticism. The supreme

law is that they shall not satisfy their desires at any price; they

must laugh and be content with laughter. In every product of

the culture industry, the permanent denial imposed by civilization is

once again unmistakably demonstrated and inflicted on

its victims. To offer and to deprive them of something is one

and the same. This is what happens in erotic films. Precisely because it

must never take place, everything centers upon copulation. In films it

is more strictly forbidden for an illegitimate relationship to be

admitted without the parties being punished than for a millionaire's

future son-in-law to be active in the labor movement. In contrast to the

liberal era, industrialized as well as popular culture may wax indignant

at capitalism, but it cannot renounce the threat of castration. This is

fundamental. It outlasts the organized acceptance of the uniformed seen in

the films which are produced to that end, and in reality. What is

decisive today is no longer puritanism, although it still asserts

itself in the form of women's organizations, but the necessity

inherent in the system not to leave the customer alone, not for a

moment to allow him any suspicion that resistance is possible.

The principle dictates that he should be shown all his needs as

capable of-fulfillment, but that those needs should be so predetermined

that he feels himself to be the eternal consumer, the object of the

culture industry. Not only does it make him believe that the deception it

practices is satisfaction, but it goes further and implies that, whatever

the state of affairs, he must put up with what is offered. The escape

from everyday drudgery which the whole culture industry promises may be

compared to the daughter's abduction in the cartoon: the father is

holding the ladder in the dark. The paradise offered by the culture industry

is the same old drudgery. Both escape and elopement are pre-

designed to lead back to the starting point. Pleasure promotes

the resignation which it ought to help to forget.

Amusement, if released from every restraint, would not only

be the antithesis of art but its extreme role. The Mark Twain

absurdity with which the American culture industry flirts at

times might be a corrective of art. The more seriously the latter

regards the incompatibility with life, the more it resembles the

seriousness of life, its antithesis; the more effort it devotes to

developing wholly from its own formal law, the more effort

it demands from the intelligence to neutralize its burden. In

some revue films, and especially in the grotesque and the funnies, the

possibility of this negation does glimmer for a few moments. But of

course it cannot happen. Pure amusement in its consequence, relaxed

self-surrender to all kinds of associations and

happy nonsense, is cut short by the amusement on the market: instead, it

is interrupted by a surrogate overall meaning

which the culture industry insists on giving to its products, and

yet misuses as a mere pretext for bringing in the stars. Biographies and

other simple stories patch the fragments of nonsense into an idiotic

plot. We do not have the cap and bells of the jester but the bunch of

keys of capitalist reason, which even scree

ns the pleasure of achieving success. Every kiss in the

revue film has to contribute to the career of the boxer, or some

hit song expert or other whose rise to fame is being glorified. The

deception is not that the culture industry supplies amusement

but that it ruins the fun by allowing business considerations to

involve it in the ideological cliches of a culture in the process

of self-liquidation. Ethics and taste cut short unrestrained amusement

as "naive"Ñnaivete is thought to be as bad as intellectualismÑand even

restrict technical possibilities. The culture

industry is corrupt; not because it is a sinful Babylon but because it

is a cathedral dedicated to elevated pleasure. On all

levels, from Hemingway to Emil Ludwig, from Mrs. Miniver to

the Lone Ranger, from Toscanini to Guy Lombardo, there is

untruth in the intellectual content taken ready-made from art

and science. The culture industry does retain a trace of some-

thing better in those features which bring it close to the circus,

in the self-justifying and nonsensical skill of riders, acrobats

and clowns, in the "defense and justification of physical as

against intellectual art."3 But the refuges of a mindless artistry

which represents what is human as opposed to the social mechanism are

being relentlessly hunted down by a schematic reason

which compels everything to prove its significance and effect.

The consequence is that the nonsensical at the bottom disappears as

utterly as the sense in works of art at the top.

The fusion of culture and entertainment that is taking place

today leads not only to a depravation of culture, but inevitably

to an intellectualization of amusement. This is evident from the

fact that only the copy appears: in the movie theater, the photograph;

on the radio, the recording. In the age of liberal expansion,

amusement lived on the unshaken belief in the future: things

would remain as they were and even improve. Today this belief

is once more intellectualized; it becomes so faint that it loses

sight of any goal and is little more than a magic-lantern show

for those with their backs to reality. It consists of the meaningful

emphases which, parallel to life itself, the screen play puts

on the smart fellow, the engineer, the capable girl, ruthlessness

disguised as character, interest in sport, and finally automobiles

and cigarettes, even where the entertainment is not put down to

the advertising account of the immediate producers but to that

of the system as a whole. Amusement itself becomes an ideal,

taking the place of the higher things of which it completely deprives

the masses by repeating them in a manner even more

stereotyped than the slogans paid for by advertising interests.

Inwardness, the subjectively restricted form of truth, was always

more at the mercy of the outwardly powerful than they imagined. The

culture industry turns it into an open lie. It has now

become mere twaddle which is acceptable in religious best-

sellers, psychological films, and women's serials as an embarrassingly

agreeable garnish, so that genuine personal emotion in

real life can be all the more reliably controlled. In this sense

amusement carries out that purgation of the emotions which

Aristotle once attributed to tragedy and Mortimer Adler now

allows to movies. The culture industry reveals the truth about

catharsis as it did about style.

The stronger the positions of the culture industry become, the

more summarily it can deal with consumers' needs, producing

them, controlling them, disciplining them, and even withdrawing

amusement: no limits are set to cultural progress of this kind. But the

tendency is immanent in the principle of amusement itself, which is

enlightened in a bourgeois sense. If the need for a

musement was in large measure the creation of industry, which used the

subject as a means of recommending the work to the massesÑthe oleograph

by the dainty morsel it depicted, or the cake mix by a picture of a cako

amusement always reveals the influence of business, the sales talk, the

quack's spiel. But the original affinity of business and amusement is

shown in the latter's specific significance: to defend society. To be

pleased means to say Yes. It is possible only by insulation

from the totality of the social process, by desensitization and,

from the first, by senselessly sacrificing the inescapable claim of

every work, however inane, within its limits to reflect the whole.

Pleasure always means not to think about anything, to forget

suffering even where it is shown. Basically it is helplessness. It

is flight; not, as is asserted, flight from a wretched reality, but from

the last remaining thought of resistance. The liberation which

amusement promises is freedom from thought and from negation.

The effrontery of the rhetorical question, "What do people

want?" lies in the fact that it is addressedÑas if to reflective

individualsÑto those very people who are deliberately to be deprived

of this individuality. Even when the public doesÑexceptionallyÑ

rebel against the pleasure industry, all it can muster is that feeble

resistance which that very industry has inculcated in it. Nevertheless,

it has become increasingly difflcult to keep people in this condition.

The rate at which they are reduced to stupidity must not fall behind the

rate at which their intelligence is increasing. In this age of

statistics the masses are too sharp to identify

themselves with the millionaire on the screen, and too slow-witted to

ignore the law of the largest number. Ideology conceals itself in the

calculation of probabilities. Not everyone will be lucky one dayÑbut the

person who draws the winning ticket, or rather the one who is marked out

to do so by a higher powerÑusually by the pleasure industry itself,

which is represented as unceasingly in search of talent. Those discovered by

talent scouts and then publicized on a vast scale by the studio

are ideal types of the new dependent average. Of course, the

starlet is meant to symbolize the typist in such a way that the

splendid evening dress seems meant for the actress as distinct

from the real girl. The girls in the audience not only feel that

they could be on the screen, but realize the great gulf separating

them from it. Only one girl can draw the lucky ticket, only one

man can win the prize, and if, mathematically, all have the

same chance, yet this is so infinitesimal for each one that he or

she will do best to write it off and rejoice in the other's success,

which might just as well have been his or hers, and somehow

never is. Whenever the culture industry still issues an invitation

naively to identify, it is immediately withdrawn. No one can

escape from himself any more. Once a member of the audience

could see his own wedding in the one shown in the film. Now

the lucky actors on the screen are copies of the same category

as every member of the public, but such equality only demonstrates the

insurmountable separation of the human elements.

The perfect similarity is the absolute difference. The identity of

the categoq forbids that of the individual cases. Ironically, man

as a member of a species has been made a reality by the culture

industry. Now any person signifies only those attributes by

which he can replace everybody else: he is interchangeable, a

copy. As an individual he is completely expendable and utterly

insignificant, and this is just what he finds out when time deprives him

of this similarity. This changes the inner structure of

the religion of successÑotherwise strictly maintained. Increasing

emphasis is laid not on the path per aspera ad astra (which

presupposes hardship and effort), but on winning a prize. The

element of blind chance in the routine decision about which

song deserves to be a hit and which e~tra a heroine is stressed

by the ideology. Movies emphasize chance. By stopping at nothing to

ensure that all the characters are essentially alike, with

the exception of the villain, and by excluding non-conforming

faces (for example, those which, like Garbo's, do not look as

if you could say "Hello sister!" to them), life is made easier for

movie-goers at first. They are assured that they are all right as

they are, that they could do just as well and that nothing beyond their

powers will be asked of them. But at the same time they are given a hint

that any effort would be useless because even bourgeois luck no longer

has any connection with the calculable effect of their own work. They

take the hint. Fundamentally they all recognize chance (by which one

occasionally makes his fortune) as the other side of planning. Precisely

because the forces of society are so deployed in the direction of

rationality that anyone might become an engineer or manager, it has

ceased entirely to be a rational matter who the one will be in whom

society will invest training or confidence for such functions. Chance

and planning become one and the same thing, because, given men's

equality, individual success and failureÑright up to the topÑlose any

economic meaning. Chance itself is planned, not because it affects any

particular individual but precisely because it is believed to play a

vital part. It serves the planners as an alibi, and makes it seem that

the complex of transactions and measures into which life has been transformed

leaves scope for spontaneous and direct relations between man.

This freedom is symbolized in the various media of the culture

industry by the arbitrary selection of average individuals. In a

magazine's detailed accounts of the modestly magnificent pleasure-trips

it has arranged for the lucky person, preferably a stenotypist (who has

probably won the competition because of her contacts with local

bigwigs), the powerlessness of all is reflected

. They are mere matterÑso much so that those in control can take someone

up into their heaven and throw him out again: his rights and his work

count for nothing. Industry is interested in people merely as customers

and employees, and has in fact reduced mankind as a whole and each of its

elements to this all-embracing formula. According to the ruling aspect at

the time, ideology emphasizes plan or chance, technology or

life, civilization or nature. As employees, men are reminded of

the rational organization and urged to fit in like sensible people.

As customers, the freedom of choice, the charm of novelty, is

demonstrated to them on the screen or in the press by means of

the human and personal anecdote. In either case they remain

objects.

The less the culture industry has to promise, the less it can

offer a meaningful explanation of life, and the emptier is the

ideology it disseminates. Even the abstract ideals of the harmony and

beneficence of society are too concrete in this age of

universal publicity. We have even learned how to identify abstract

concepts as sales propaganda. Language based entirely on truth simply

arouses impatience to get on with the business deal

it is probably advancing. The words that are not means appear

senseless; the others seem to be fiction, untrue. Value judgments are

taken either as advertising or as empty talk. Accordingly ideology has

been made vague and noncommittal, and thus neither clearer nor weaker.

Its very vagueness, its almost scientific aversion from committing

itself to anything which cannot be verified, acts as an instrument of

domination. It becomes a vigorous and prearranged promulgation of the status

quo. The culture industry tends to make itself the embodiment of

authoritative pronouncements, and thus the irrefutable

prophet of the prevailing order. It skilfully steers a winding

course between the cliffs of demonstrable misinformation and

manifest truth, faithfully reproducing the phenomenon whose

opaqueness blocks any insight and installs the ubiquitous and

intact phenomenon as ideal. Ideology is split into the photograph

of stubborn life and the naked lie about its meaningÑwhich is

not expressed but suggested and yet drummed in. To demonstrate its

divine nature, reality is always repeated in a purely cynical way. Such

a photological proof is of course not stringent, but it is overpowering.

Anyone who doubts the power of monotony is a fool. The culture industry

refutes the objection made against it just as well as that against the

world which it impartially duplicates. The only choice is either to join

in or to be left behind: those provincials who have recourse to eternal

beauty and the amateur stage in preference to the cinema and

the radio are alreadyÑpoliticallyÑat the point to which mass

culture drives its supporters. It is sufficiently hardened to deride as

ideology, if need be, the old wish-fulfillments, the father-ideal and

absolute feeling. The new ideology has as its objects the world as such.

It makes use of the worship of facts by no more than elevating a

disagreeable existence into the world of facts in representing it

meticulously. This transference makes existence itself a substitute for

meaning and right. Whatever the camera reproduces is beautiful. The

disappointment of the prospect that one might be the typist who wins the

world trip is matched by the disappointing appearance of the accurately

photographed areas which the voyage might include. Not Italy

is offered, but evidence that it exists. A film can even go so far

as to show the Paris in which the American girl thinks she will

still her desire as a hopelessly desolate place, thus driving her

the more inexorably into the arms of the smart American boy

she could have met at home anyhow. That this goes on, that, in

its most recent phase, the system itself reproduces the life of

those of whom it consists instead of immediately doing away

with them, is even put down to its credit as giving it meaning

and worth. Continuing and continuing to join in are given as

justification for the blind persistence of the system and even for

its immutability. What repeats itself is healthy, like the natural

or industrial cycle. The same babies grin eternally out of the

magazines; the jazz machine will pound away for ever. In spite

of all the progress in reproduction techniques, in controls and

the specialities, and in spite of all the restless industry, the bread

which the culture industry offers man is the stone of the stereotype. It

draws on the life cycle, on the well-founded amazement that mothers, in

spite of everything, still go on bearing children and that the wheels

still do not grind to a halt. This serves to confirm the immutability of

circumstances. The ears of corn blowing in the wind at the end of

Chaplin's The Great Dictator give the lie to the anti-Fascist plea for

freedom. They are like the blond hair of the German girl whose camp life

is photographed by the Nazi film company in the summer breeze. Nature is

viewed by the mechanism of social domination as a healthy contrast to

society, and is theNfore denatured. Pictures showing green tre

es, a blue sky, and moving clouds make these aspects of nature into so

many cryptograms for factory chimneys and service stations. On the other

hand, wheels and machine components must seem expressive, having been degraded

to the status of agents of the spirit of trees and clouds. Nature

and technology are mobilized against all opposition; and we

have a falsified memento of liberal society, in which people supposedly

wallowed in erotic plush-lined bedrooms instead of taking open-air baths

as in the case today, or experiencing breakdowns in prehistoric Benz

models instead of shooting off with the speed of a rocket from A (where

one is anyhow) to B (where everything is just the same). The triumph of

the gigantic concern over the initiative of the entrepreneur is praised by

the culture industry as the persistence of entrepreneurial initiative.

The enemy who is already defeated, the thinking individual,

is the enemy fought. The resurrection in Germany of the anti-

bourgeois "Haus Sonnenstosser," and the pleasure felt when

watching Life with Father, have one and the same meaning.

In one respect, admittedly, this hollow ideology is in deadly

earnest: everyone is provided for. "No one must go hungry or

thirsty; if anyone does, he's for the concentration camp!" This

joke from Hitler's Germany might shine forth as a maxim from

above all the portals of the culture industry. With sly naivete,

it presupposes the most recent characteristic of society: that it

can easily find out who its supporters are. Everybody is guaranteed

formal freedom. No one is officially responsible for what

he thinks. Instead everyone is enclosed at an early age in a system of

churches, clubs, professional associations, and other such

concerns, which constitute the most sensitive instrument of social

control. Anyone who wants to avoid ruin must see that he is not found

wanting when weighed in the scales of this apparatus. Otherwise he will

lag behind in life, and finally perish. In every career, and especially

in the liberal professions, expert knowledge is linked with prescribed

standards of conduct; this can easily lead to the illusion that expert

knowledge is the only thing that counts. In fact, it is part of the

irrational planning of this society that it reproduces to a certain

degree only the lives of its faithful members. The standard of life

enjoyed corresponds very closely to the degree to which classes and

individuals are essentially bound up with the system. The manager can be

relied upon, as can the lesser employee DagwoodÑas he is in the comic

pages or in real life. Anyone who goes cold and hungry, even if his

prospects were once good, is branded. He is an outsider; and, apart from

certain capital crimes, the most mortal of sins is to be an outsider. In

films he sometimes, and as an exception, becomes an original, the object

of maliciously indulgent humor; but usually he is the villain, and is

identified as such at first appearance, long before the action really gets

going: hence avoiding any suspicion that society would turn on

those of good will. Higher up the scale, in fact, a kind of wel

fare state is coming into being today. In order to keep their

own positions, men in top posts maintain the economy in which

a highly-developed technology has in principle made the masses

redundant as producers. The workers, the real bread-winners,

are fed (if we are to believe the ideology) by the managers of

the economy, the fed. Hence the individual's position becomes

precarious. Under liberalism the poor were thought to be lazy;

now they are automatically objects of suspicion. Anybody who

is not provided for outside should be in a concentration camp,

or at any rate in the hell of the most degrading work and the

slums. The culture industry, however, reflects positive and negative

welfare for those under the administrators' control as direct

human solidarity of men in a world of the efficient. No one is

forgotten; everywhere there are neighbors and welfare workers,

Dr. Gillespies and parlor philosophers whose hearts are in the

right place and who, by their kind intervention as of man to

man, cure individual cases of socially-perpetuated distressÑ

always provided that there is no obstacle in the personal depravity of

the unfortunate. The promotion of a friendly atmosphere as advised by

management experts and adopted by every factory to increase output,

brings even the last private impulse under social control precisely

because it seems to relate men's circumstances directly to production,

and to reprivatize them. Such spiritual charity casts a conciliatory

shadow onto the products of the culture industry long before it emerges from

the factory to invade society as a whole. Yet the great benefactors of

mankind, whose scientific achievements have to be written up as acts of

sympathy to give them an artificial human interest, are substitutes for

the national leaders, who finally decree the abolition of sympathy and

think they can prevent any recurrence when the last invalid has been

exterminated.

By emphasizing the "heart of gold," society admits the suffering it

has created: everyone knows that he is now helpless in the system, and

ideology has to take this into account. Far from concealing suffering

under the cloak of improvised fellowship, the culture industry takes

pride in looking it in the face like a man, however great the strain on

self-control. The pathos of composure justifies the world which makes it

necessary. That is lifeÑvery hard, but just because of that so wonderful

and so healthy. This lie does not shrink from tragedy. Mass culture

deals with it, in the same way as centralized society does not

abolish the suffering of its members but records and plans it.

That it is why it borrows so persistently from art. This provides

the tragic substance which pure amusement cannot itself supply,

but which it needs if it is somehow to remain faithful to the

principle of the exact reproduction of phenomena. Tragedy

made into a carefully calculated and accepted aspect of the

world is a blessing. It is a safeguard against the reproach that

truth is not respected, whereas it is really being adopted with

cynical re~ret. To the consumer whoÑculturallyÑhas seen

better days it offers a substitute for long-discarded profundities.

It provides the regular movie-goer with the scraps of culture he

must have for prestige. It comforts all with the thought that a

tough, genuine human fate is still possible, and that it must at

all costs be represented uncompromisingly. Life in all the aspects which

ideology today sets out to duplicate shows up all

the more gloriously, powerfully and magnificently, the more it

is redolent of necessary suffering. It begins to resemble fate.

Tragedy is reduced to the threat to destroy anyone who does

not cooperate, whereas its paradoxical significance once lay in a

hopeless resistance to mythic destiny. Tragic fate becomes just

punishment, which is what bourgeois aesthetics always tried to

turn it into. The morality of mass culture is the cheap form of

yesterday's children's books. In a first-class production, for example,

the villainous character appears as a hysterical woman

who (with presumed clinical accuracy) tries to ruin the happiness of her

opposite number, who is truer to reality, and herself suffers a quite

untheatrical death. So much learning is of

course found only at the top. Lower down less trouble is taken.

Tragedy is made harmless without recourse to social psychology.

Just as every Viennese operetta worthy of the name had to have

its tragic finale in the second act, which left nothing for the

third except to clear up misunderstandings, the culture industry

assigns tragedy a fixed place in the routine. The well-known

existence of the recipe is enough to allay any fear that there is

no restraint on tragedy. The description of the dramatic formula

by the housewife as "getting into trouble and out again" embraces the

whole of mass culture from the idiotic women's serial

to the top production. Even the worst ending which began with

good intentions confirms the order of things and corrupts the

tragic force, either because the woman whose love runs counter

to the laws of the game plays with her death for a brief spell of

happiness, or because the sad ending in the film all the more

cleady stresses the indestructibility of actual life. The tragic

film becomes an institution for moral improvement. The masses,

demoralized by their life under the pressure of the system, and

who show signs of civilization only in modes of behavior which

have been forced on them and through which fury and recalcitrance show

everywhere, are to be kept in order by the sight of

an inexorable life and exemplary behavior. Culture has always

played its part in taming revolutionary and barbaric instincts.

Industrial culture adds its contribution. It shows the condition

under which this merciless life can be lived at all. The individual who

is thoroughly weary must use his weariness as energy for his surrender

to the collective power which wears him out. In films, those permanently

desperate situations which crush the sp

ectator in ordinary life somehow become a promise that one can go on

living. One has only to become aware of one's own nothingness, only to

recognize defeat and one is one with it all.

Society is full of desperate people and therefore a prey to rackets.

In some of the most significant German novels of the pre-

Fascist era such as Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz and Fallada's

Kleiner Mann, Was Nun, this trend was as obvious as in the

average film and in the devices of jazz. What all these things

have in common is the self-derision of man. The possibility of

becoming a subject in the economy, an entrepreneur or a proprietor, has

been completely liquidated. Right down to the

humblest shop, the independent enterprise, on the management

and inheritance of which the bourgeois family and the position

of its head had rested, became hopelessly dependent. Everybody

became an employee; and in this civilization of employees the

dignity of the father (questionable anyhow) vanishes. The attitude of

the individual to the racket, business, profession or

party, before or after admission, the Fuhrer's gesticulations before the

masses, or the suitor's before his sweetheart, assume

specifically masochistic traits. The attitude into which everybody is

forced in order to give repeated proof of his moral

suitability for this society reminds one of the boys who, during

tribal initiation, go round in a circle with a stereotyped smile on

their faces while the priest strikes them. Life in the late capitalist

era is a constant initiation rite. Everyone must show that he

wholly identifies himself with the power which is belaboring

him. This occurs in the principle of jazz syncopation, which

simultaneously derides stumbling and makes it a rule. The

eunuch-like voice of the crooner on the radio, the heiress's

smooth suitor, who falls into the swimming pool in his dinner

jacket, are models for those who must become whatever the

system wants. Everyone can be like this omnipotent society;

everyone can be happy, if only he will capitulate fully and sacrifice

his claim to happiness. In his weakness society recognizes

its strength, and gives him some of it. His defenselessness makes

him reliable. Hence tragedy is discarded. Once the opposition

of the individual to society was its substance. It glorified "the

bravery and freedom of emotion before a powerful enemy, an

exalted affliction, a dreadful problem."4 Today tragedy has

melted away into the nothingness of that false identity of society

and individual, whose terror still shows for a moment in the

empty semblance of the tragic. But the miracle of integration,

the permanent act of grace by the authority who receives the

defenseless personÑonce he has swallowed his rebelliousness

Ñsignifies Fascism. This can be seen in the humanitarianism

which Doblin uses to let his Biberkopf find refuge, and again in

socially-slanted films. The capacity to find refuge, to survive

one's own ruin, by which tragedy is defeated, is found in the

new generation; they can do any work because the work process

does not let them become attached to any. This is reminiscent

of the sad lack of conviction of the homecoming soldier with no

interest in the war, or of the casual laborer who ends up by

joining a paramilitary organization. This liquidation of tragedy

confirms the abolition of the individual.

In the culture industry the individual is an illusion not merely

because of the standardization of the means of production. He

is tolerated only so long as his complete identification with the

generality is unquestioned. Pseudo individuality is rife: from the

standardized jazz improvization to the exceptional film star

whose hair curls over her eye to demonstrate her originality.

What is individual is no more than the generality's power to

stamp the accidental detail so firmly that it is accepted as such.

The defiant reserve or elegant appearance of the individual on

show is mass-produced like Yale locks, whose only difference

can be measured in fractions of millimeters. The peculiarity of

the self is a monopoly commodity determined by society; it is

falsely represented as natural. It is no more than the moustache,

the French accent, the deep voice of the woman of the world,

the Lubitsch touch: finger prints on identity cards which are

otherwise exactly the same, and into which the lives and faces of

every single person are transformed by the power of the generality.

Pseudo individuality is the prerequisite for comprehending

tragedy and removing its poison: only because individuals have

ceased to be themselves and are now merely centers where the

general tendencies meet, is it possible to receive them again,

whole and entire, into the generality. In this way mass culture

discloses the fictitious character of the "individual" in the bourgeois

era, and is merely unjust in boasting on account of this

dreary harmony of general and particular. The principle of individuality

was always full of contradiction. Individuation has

never really been achieved. Self-preservation in the shape of

class has kept everyone at the stage of a mere species being.

Every bourgeois characteristic, in spite of its deviation and indeed

because of it, expressed the same thing: the harshness of

the competitive society. The individual who supported society

bore its disfiguring mark; seemingly free, he was actually the

product of its economic and social apparatus. Power based itself on the

prevailing conditions of power when it sought the

approval of persons affected by it. As it progressed, bourgeois

society did also develop the individual. Against the will of its

leaders, technology has changed human beings from children

into persons. However, every advance in individuation of this

ktnd took place at the el~pense of the individuality in whose

name it occurred, so that nothing was left but the resolve to

pursue one's own particular purpose. The bourgeois whose existence is

split into a business and a private life, whose private life is split

into keeping up his public image and intimacy, whose intimacy is split

into the surly partnership of marriage and t

he bitter comfort of being quite alone, at odds with himself and

everybody else, is already virtually a Nazi, replete both

with enthusiasm and abuse; or a modern city-dweller who can

now only imagine friendship as a "social contact": that is, as

being in social contact with others with whom he has no inward

contact. The only reason why the culture industry can deal so

successfully with individuality is that the latter has always reproduced

the fragility of society. On the faces of private individuals and movie

heroes put together according to the patterns on magazine covers

vanishes a pretense in which no one now belie

ves; the popularity of the hero models comes partly from a secret

satisfaction that the effort to achieve individuation has at

last been replaced by the effort to imitate, which is admittedly more

breathless. It is idle to hope that this self-contradictory,

disintegrating "person" will not last for generations, that the

system must collapse because of such a psychological split, or

that the deceitful substitution of the stereotype for the individual

will of itself become unbearable for mankind. Since

Shakespeare's Hamlet, the unity of the personality has been

seen through as a pretense. Synthetically produced physiognomies show

that the people of today have already forgotten that

there was ever a notion of what human life was. For centuries

society has been preparing for Victor Mature and Mickey

Rooney. By destroying they come to fulfill.

The idolization of the cheap involves making the average the

heroic. The highest-paid stars resemble pictures advertising unspecified

proprietary articles. Not without good purpose are

they often selected from the host of commercial models. The

prevailing taste takes its ideal from advertising, the beauty in

consumption. Hence the Socratic saying that the beautiful is the

useful has now been fulfilledÑironically. The cinema makes

propaganda for the culture combine as a whole; on radio, goods

for whose sake the cultural commodity exists are also recommended

individually. For a few coins one can see the film which

cost millions, for even less one can buy the chewing gum whose

manufacture involved immense richesÑa hoard increased still

further by sales. In absentia, but by universal suffrage, the

treasure of armies is revealed, but prostitution is not allowed

inside the country. The best orchestras in the worldÑclearly

not soÑare brought into your living room free of charge. It is

all a parody of the never-never land, just as the national society

is a parody of the human society. You name it, we supply it. A

man up from the country remarked at the old Berlin Metropol

theater that it was astonishing what they could do for the

money; his comment has long since been adopted by the culture

industry and made the very substance of production. This is

always coupled with the triumph that it is possible; but this, in

large measure, is the very triumph. Putting on a show means

showing everybody what there is, and what can be achieved.

Even today it is still a fair, but incurably sick with culture. Just

as the people who had been attracted by the fairground barkers

overcame their disappointment in the booths with a brave smile,

because they really knew in advance what would happen, so the

movie-goer sticks knowingly to the institution. With the cheapness of

mass-produce luxury goods and its complement, the

universal swindle, a change in the character of the art commodity itself

is coming about. What is new is not that it is a

commodity, but that today it deliberately admits it is one; that

art renounces its own autonomy and proudly takes its place

among consumption goods constitutes the charm of novelty. Art

as a separate sphere was always possible only in a bourgeois

society. Even as a negation of that social purposiveness which is

spreading through the market, its freedom remains essentially

bound up with the premise of a commodity economy. Pure

works of art which deny the commodity society by the very

fact that they obey their own law were always wares all the

same. In so far as, until the eighteenth century, the buyer's patronage

shielded the artist from the market, they were dependent

on the buyer and his objectives. The purposelessness of the

great modern work of art depends on the anonymity of the

market. Its demands pass through so many intermediaries that

the artist is exempt from any definite requirementsÑthough

admittedly only to a certain degree, for throughout the whole

history of the bourgeoisie his autonomy was only tolerated, and

thus contained an element of untruth which ultimately led to

the social liquidation of art. When mortally sick, Beethoven

hurled away a novel by Sir Walter Scott with the cry: "Why,

the fellow writes for money," and yet proved a most experi-

enced and stubborn businessman in disposing of the last quar-

tets, which were a most extreme renunciation of the market; he

is the most outstanding example of the unity of those opposites,

market and independence, in bourgeois art. Those who succumb to the

ideology are precisely those who cover up the contradiction instead of

taking it into the consciousness of their own production as Beethoven

did: he went on to express in music his anger at losing a few pence, and

derived the metaphysical Es Muss Sein (which attempts an aesthetic banishment

of the pressure of the world by taking it into itself) from the

housekeeper's demand for her monthly wages. The principle of idealistic

aestheticsÑpurposefulness without a purposeÑreverses the scheme of

things to which bourgeois art conforms socially: purposelessness for the

purposes declared by the market. At last, in the demand for entertainment

and relaxation, purpose has absorbed the realm of purposelessness. But

as the insistence that art should be disposable in terms of money

becomes absolute, a shift in the internal structure of cultural

commodities begins to show itself. The use which men in this

antagonistic society promise themselves from the work of art is

itself, to a great extent, that very existence of the useless which

is abolished by complete inclusion under use. The work of art,

by completely assimilating itself to need, deceitfully deprives

men of precisely that liberation from the principle of utility which it

should inaugurate. What might be called use value in the reception of

cultural commodities is replaced by exchange value; in place of

enjoyment there are gallery-visiting and factual knowledge: the prestige

seeker replaces the connoisseur. The consumer becomes the ideology of the

pleasure industry, whose institutions he cannot escape. One simply "has

to" have seen Mrs. Miniver, just as one "has to" subscribe to Life and

Time. Everything is looked at from only one aspect: that it can

be used for something else, however vague the notion of this use

may be. No object has an inherent value; it is valuable only to

the extent that it can be exchanged. The use value of art, its

mode of being, is treated as a fetish; and the fetish, the work's

social rating (misinterpreted as its artistic status) becomes its

use valueÑthe only quality which is enjoyed. The commodity

function of art disappears only to be wholly realized when art

becomes a species of commodity instead, marketable and inter-

changeable like an industrial product. But art as a type of

product which existed to be sold and yet to be unsaleable is

wholly and hypocritically converted into "unsaleability" as soon

as the transaction ceases to be the mere intention and becomes

its sole principle. No tickets could be bought when Toscanini

conducted over the radio; he was heard without charge, and

every sound of the symphony was accompanied, as it were, by

the sublime puff that the symphony was not interrupted by any

advertising: "This concert is brought to you as a public service." The

illusion was made possible by the profits of the united automobile and

soap manufacturers, whose payments keep the radio stations goingÑand, of

course, by the increased sales of the electrical industry, which

manufactures the radio sets. Radio, the progressive latecomer of mass

culture, draws all the consequences at present denied the film by its

pseudomarket. The technical structure of the commercial radio system

makes it immune from liberal deviations such as those the

movie industrialists can still permit themselves in their own

sphere. It is a private enterprise which really does represent the

sovereign whole and is therefore some distance ahead of the

other individual combines. Chesterfield is merely the nation's

cigarette, but the radio is the voice of the nation. In bringing

cultural products wholly into the sphere of commodities, radio

does not try to dispose of its culture goods themselves as commodities

straight to the consumer. In America it collects no fees from the public,

and so has acquired the illusory form of disinterested, unbiased

authority which suits Fascism admirably. The radio becomes the universal

mouthpiece of the Fuhrer; his voice rises from street loud-speakers to

resemble the howling of sirens announcing panicÑfrom which modern

propaganda can scarcely be distinguished anyway. The National Socialists knew

that the wireless gave shape to their cause just as the printing

press did to the Reformation. The metaphysical charisma of the

Fuhrer invented by the sociology of religion has finally turned

out to be no more than the omnipresence of his speeches on the

radio, which are a demoniacal parody of the omnipresence of

the divine spirit. The gigantic fact that the speech penetrates

everywhere replaces its content, just as the benefaction of the

Toscanini broadcast takes the place of the symphony. No lis-

tener can grasp its true meaning any longer, while the Fuehrer's

speech is lies anyway. The inherent tendency of radio is to

make the speaker's word, the false commandment, absolute. A

recommendation becomes an order. The recommendation of the

same commodities under different proprietary names, the scientifically

based praise of the laxative in the announcer's smooth

voice between the overture from La Traviata and that from

Rienzi is the only thing that no longer works, because of its

silliness. One day the edict of production, the actual advertisement

(whose actuality is at present concealed by the pretense of a choice)

can turn into the open command of the Fuehrer. In a society of huge

Fascist rackets which agree among themselves wha

t part of the social product should be allotted to the nation's needs,

it would eventually seem anachronistic to recommend the use of a

particular soap powder. The Fuehrer is more up-to-date in

unceremoniously giving direct orders for both the holocaust a

nd the supply of rubbish.

Even today the culture industry dresses works of art like political

slogans and forces them upon a resistant public at reduced prices; they

are as accessible for public enjoyment as a park. But the disappearance

of their genuine commodity character does not mean that they have been

abolished in the life of a free society, but that the last defense

against their reduction to culture goods has fallen. The abolition of

educational privilege by the device of clearance sales does not open for

the masses the spheres from which they were formerly excluded, but, given

existing social conditions, contributes directly to the decay of

education and the progress of barbaric meaninglessness. Those

who spent their money in the nineteenth or the early twentieth

century to see a play or to go to a concert respected the performance as

much as the money they spent. The bourgeois who wanted to get something

out of it tried occasionally to establish some rapport with the work.

Evidence for this is to be found in the literary "introductions" to

works, or in the commentaries on Faust. These were the first steps

toward the biographical coating and other practices to which a work of

art is subjected today. Even in the early, prosperous days of business,

exchange- value did carry use value as a mere appendix but had developed

it as a prerequisite for its own existence; this was socially helpful

for works of art. Art exercised some restraint on the bourgeois as long

as it cost money. That is now a thing of the past. Now that it has lost

every restraint and there is no need to pay any money, the proximity of

art to those who are exposed to it completes the alienation and

assimilates one to the other under the banner of triumphant objectivity.

Criticism and respect disappear in the culture industry; the former

becomes a mechanical expertise, the latter is succeeded by a shallow

cult of leading personalities. Consumers now find nothing expensive.

Nevertheless, they suspect that the less anything costs, the less it is

being given them. The double mistrust of traditional culture as

ideology is combined with mistrust of industrialized culture as a

swindle. When thrown in free, the now debased works of art,

together with the rubbish to which the medium assimilates

them, are secretly rejected by the fortunate recipients, who are

supposed to be satisfied by the mere fact that there is so much

to be seen and heard. Everything can be obtained. The screenos

and vaudevilles in the movie theater, the competitions for guessing

music, the free books, rewards and gifts offered on certain

radio programs, are not mere accidents but a continuation of

the practice obtaining with culture products. The symphony becomes a

reward for listening to the radio, andÑif technology

had its wayÑthe film would be delivered to people's homes as

happens with the radio. It is moving toward the commercial

system. Television points the way to a development which might

easily enough force the Warner Brothers into what would certainly be the

unwelcome position of serious musicians and cultural conservatives. But

the gift system has already taken hold among consumers. As culture is

represented as a bonus with undoubted private and social advantages, they

have to seize the chance. They rush in lest they miss something. Exactly

what, is not clear, but in any case the only ones with a chance

are the participants. Fascism, however, hopes to use the training the

culture industry has given these recipients of gifts, in

order to organize them into its own forced battalions.

Culture is a paradoxical commodity. So completely is it subject

to the law of exchange that it is no longer exchanged; it is so

blindly consumed in use that it can no longer be used. Therefore it

amalgamates with advertising. The more meaningless the latter seems to be

under a monopoly, the more omnipotent it becomes. The motives are

markedly economic. One could certainly live without the culture

industry, therefore it necessarily creates too much satiation and apathy.

In itself, it has few resources itself to correct this. Advertising is

its elixir of life. But as its product never fails to reduce to a mere

promise the enjoyment which it promises as a commodity, it eventually

coincides with publicity, which it needs because it cannot be enjoyed.

In a competitive society, advertising performed the social service of

informing the buyer about the market; it made choice

easier and helped the unknown but more efficient supplier to

dispose of his goods. Far from costing time, it saved it. Today,

when the free market is coming to an end, those who control

the system are entrenching themselves in it. It strengthens the

firm bond between the consumers and the big combines. Only

those who can pay the exorbitant rates charged by the advertising

agencies, chief of which are the radio networks themselves; that is,

only those who are already in a position to do

so, or are co-opted by the decision of the banks and industrial

capital, can enter the pseudo-market as sellers. The costs of

advertising, which finally flow back into the pockets of the

combines, make it unnecessary to defeat unwelcome outsiders

by laborious competition. They guarantee that power will remain in the

same handsÑnot unlike those economic decisions

by which the establishment and running of undertakings is controlled in

a totalitarian state. Advertising today is a negative

principle, a blocking device: everything that does not bear its

stamp is economically suspect. Universal publicity is in no way

necessary for people to get to know the kinds of goodsÑwhose

supply is restricted anyway. It helps sales only indirectly. For a

particular firm, to phase out a current advertising practice constitutes

a loss of prestige, and a breach of the discipline imposed by the

influential clique on its members. In wartime, goods which are

unobtainable are still advertised, merely to keep ind

ustrial power in view. Subsidizing ideological media is

more important than the repetition of the name. Because the

system obliges every product to use advertising, it has permeated

the idiomÑthe "style"Ñof the culture industry. Its victory is

so complete that it is no longer evident in the key positions:

the huge buildings of the top men, floodlit stone advertisements,

are free of advertising; at most they exhibit on the rooftops, in

monumental brilliance and without any self-glorification, the

firm's initials. But, in contrast, the nineteenth-century houses,

whose architecture still shamefully indicates that they can be

used as a consumption commodity and are intended to be lived

in, are covered with posters and inscriptions from the ground

right up to and beyond the roof: until they become no more

than backgrounds for bills and sign-boards. Advertising becomes art and

nothing else, just as GoebbelsÑwith foresightÑ

combines them: l'art pour l'art, advertising for its own sake, a

pure representation of social power. In the most influential

American magazines, Life and Fortune, a quick glance can now

scarcely distinguish advertising from editorial picture and text.

The latter features an enthusiastic and gratuitous account of the

great man (with illustrations of his life and grooming habits)

which will bring him new fans, while the advertisement pages

use so many factual photographs and details that they represent

the ideal of information which the editorial part has only begun

to try to achieve. The assembly-line character of the culture industry,

the synthetic, planned method of turning out its products (factory-like

not only in the studio but, more or less, in the compilation of cheap

biographies, pseudodocumentary novels, and hit songs) is very suited to

advertising: the important individual points, by becoming detachable,

interchangeable, and even technically alienated from any connected

meaning, lend themselves to ends external to the work. The effect, the trick,

the isolated repeatable device, have always been used to exhibit

goods for advertising purposes, and today every monster

close-up of a star is an advertisement for her name, and every

hit song a plug for its tune. Advertising and the culture industry

merge technically as well as economically. In both cases the

same thing can be seen in innumerable places, and the mechanical

repetition of the same culture product has come to be the

same as that of the propaganda slogan. In both cases the insistent

demand for effectiveness makes technology into psycho-

technology, into a procedure for manipulating men. In both

cases the standards are the striking yet familiar, the easy yet

catchy, the skillful yet simple; the object is to overpower the

customer, who is conceived as absent-minded or resistant.

By the language he speaks, he makes his own contribution to

culture as publicity. The more completely language is lost in

the announcement, the more words are debased as substantial

vehicles of meaning and become signs devoid of quality; the

more purely and transparently words communicate what is intended, the

more impenetrable they become. The demytholo-

gization of language, taken as an element of the whole process

of enlightenment, is a relapse into magic. Word and essential

content were distinct yet inseparable from one another. Concepts like

melancholy and history, even life, were recognized in

the word, which separated them out and preserved them. Its

form simultaneously constituted and reflected them. The absolute

separation, which makes the moving accidental and its

relation to the object arbitrary, puts an end to the superstitious

fusion of word and thing. Anything in a determined literal sequence

which goes beyond the correlation to the event is rejected as unclear

and as verbal metaphysics. But the result is

that the word, which can now be only a sign without any meaning, becomes

so fixed to the thing that it is just a petrified formula. This affects

language and object alike. Instead of making

the object experiential, the purified word treats it as an abstract

instance, and everything else (now excluded by the demand for

ruthless clarity from expressionÑitself now banished) fades

away in reality. A left-half at football, a black-shirt, a member

of the Hitler Youth, and so on, are no more than names. If be-

fore its rationalization the word had given rise to lies as well as

to longing, now, after its rationalization, it is a straitjacket for

longing more even than for lies. The blindness and dumbness

of the data to which positivism reduces the world pass over into

language itself, which restricts itself to recording those data.

Terms themselves become impenetrable; they obtain a striking

force, a power of adhesion and repulsion which makes them

like their extreme opposite, incantations. They come to be a

kind of trick, because the name of the prima donna is cooked

up in the studio on a statistical basis, or because a welfare state

is anathematized by using taboo terms such as "bureaucrats"

or "intellectuals," or because base practice uses the name of the

country as a charm. In general, the nameÑto which magic most

easily attachesÑis undergoing a chemical change: a metamorphosis into

capricious, manipulable designations, whose effect

is admittedly now calculable, but which for that very reason is

just as despotic as that of the archaic name. First names, those

archaic remnants, have been brought up to date either by stylization as

advertising trade-marks (film stars' surnames have

become first names), or by collective standardization. In comparison,

the bourgeois family name which, instead of being a

trade-mark, once individualized its bearer by relating him to his

own past history, seems antiquated. It arouses a strange embarrassment

in Americans. In order to hide the awkward distance

between individuals, they call one another "Bob" and "Harry,"

as interchangeable team members. This practice reduces re-

lations between human beings to the good fellowship of the

sporting community and is a defense against the true kind of

relationship. Signification, which is the only function of a word

admitted by semantics, reaches perfection in the sign. Whether

folksongs were rightly or wrongly called upper-class culture in

decay, their elements have only acquired their popular form

through a long process of repeated transmission. The spread of

popular songs, on the other hand, takes place at lightning

speed. The American expression "fad," used for fashions which

appear like epidemicsÑthat is, inflamed by highly-concentrated

economic forcesÑdesignated this phenomenon long before totalitarian

advertising bosses enforced the general lines of culture. When the

German Fascists decide one day to launch a wordÑsay, "intolerable"Ñover

the loudspeakers the next day the whole nation is saying "intolerable."

By the same pattern, the nations against whom the weight of the German

"blitzkrieg" was thrown took the word into their own jargon. The general

repetition of names for measures to be taken by the authorities

makes them, so to speak, familiar, just as the brand name on

everybody's lips increased sales in the era of the free market.

The blind and rapidly spreading repetition of words with special

designations links advertising with the totalitarian watchword. The

layer of experience which created the words for

their speakers has been removed; in this swift appropriation

language acquires the coldness which until now it had only on

billboards and in the advertisement columns of newspapers. Innumerable

people use words and expressions which they have

either ceased to understand or employ only because they trigger

off conditioned reflexes; in this sense, words are trade-marks

which are finally all the more firmly linked to the things they

denote, the less their linguistic sense is grasped. The minister for

mass education talks incomprehendingly of "dynamic forces,"

and the hit songs unceasingly celebrate "reverie" and "rhapsody,"

yet base their popularity precisely on the rnagic of the unintel-

ligible as creating the thrill of a more exalted life. Other stereo-

types, such as memory, are still partly comprehended, but

escape from the experience which might allow them content.

They appear like enclaves in the spoken language. On the radio

of Flesch and Hitler they may be recognized from the affected

pronunciation of the announcer when he says to the nation,

"Good night, everybody!" or "This is the Hitler Youth," and

even intones "the Fuehrer" in a way imitated by millions. In such

cliches the last bond between sedimentary experience and language is

severed which still had a reconciling effect in dialect in

the nineteenth century. But in the prose of the journalist whose

adaptable attitude led to his appointment as an all-German editor, the

German words become petrified, alien terms. Every

word shows how far it has been debased by the Fascist pseudo-

folk community. By now, of course, this kind of language is

already universal, totalitarian. All the violence done to words is

so vile that one can hardly bear to hear them any longer. The

announcer does not need to speak pompously; he would indeed

be impossible if his inflection were different from that of his

particular audience. But, as against that, the language and gestures of

the audience and spectators are colored more strongly

than ever before by the culture industry, even in fine nuances

which cannot yet be explained experimentally. Today the culture industry

has taken over the civilizing inheritance of the

entrepreneurial and frontier democracyÑwhose appreciation of

intellectual deviations was never very finely attuned. All are

free to dance and enjoy themselves, just as they have been free,

since the historical neutralization of religion, to join any of the

innumerable sects. But freedom to choose an ideologyÑsince

ideology always reflects economic coercionÑeverywhere proves

to be freedom to choose what is always the same. The way in

which a girl accepts and keeps the obligatory date, the inflection

on the telephone or in the most intimate situation, the choice of

words in conversation, and the whole inner life as classified by

the now somewhat devalued depth psychology, bear witness to

man's attempt to make himself a proficient apparatus, similar

(even in emotions) to the model served up by the culture industry. The

most intimate reactions of human beings have been so thoroughly reified

that the idea of anything specific to themselves now persists only as an

utterly abstract notion: personality scarcely signifies anything more

than shining white teeth and freedom from body odor and emotions. The

triumph of advertising in the culture industry is that consumers feel

compelled to buy and use its products even though they see through them.





1. Nietzsche, Unzeirgemfisse Betrachtungen, Werke, Vol. I (Leipzig, 1917), p. 187.
2. Alexis de Tocqueville, De la Democracie en Amerique, Vol. II (Paris, 1864), p. 151.
3. Frank Wedekind, Gesammelte Werke, Vol. IX (Munich, 1921), p. 426.
4. Nietzsche, Gotzenddmmerung, Werke, Vol. VIII, p. 136.

(from Dialectic of Enlightenment, New York: Continuum,1993)
(Originally published as Dialektik der Aufklarung, 1944)


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