I believe that people can always find a way to be different when it comes to the way a certain society operates, regardless of what they buy. This involves what music a person listen to, what clothes they put on, or the activities that they do in which they pay for. There are always going to be larger entities controlling our market. They profit, and they will for a long time. But people are individuals for a reason; their train of thought and personalities shape them. They are not entirely controlled by our marketing culture.
Culture will surely seep inward, whether it is pondered about or not. Whether one would prefer it to or not. The culture derived from our past and what the future beholds is quite literally everywhere one looks; on a television, computer, wall, or billboard. Products, product marketing, and buyers are in all places. Some have a strong resentment for the current market of products along with mass production. While others have embraced mass production and its positive effects, according to those who have embraced. A good deal of the people who are the ones embracing this marketing culture are on the younger side. A few people who seem to resent our current culture happen to be authors; Max Horkheimer and Teodor Adorno. Horkheimer and Adorno are the authors of the piece “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.” When I say resentment, in this case, I mean it as a realization of fitting in among citizens. Horkheimer and Adorno find that the adaption of current citizens is an extreme centralization; in other words, every citizen will subconsciously become one of the same.
This drift towards everyone being the same is what “The Culture Industry” mainly focuses on; which is becoming the same. Not only by wearing the same clothing and taking part in the same activities, but by holding the same morals, beliefs, and interests is what Horkheimer and Adorno seem to fear. They seem to know that millions are somewhat controlled by the larger entities.
There are entities consisting of elite members in the government and the monopolies in our capitalistic market economy. They produce what the whole of the consumer want and they control the buying game. They profit to an extreme and live lavishly, while most of the population has a sub-par well being. The pyramid of power in our society becomes steep and the powerful continue to rise up. “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” (18). As the dominant grow, so does their control. Control here is their organizing and management skills described in the quote. Horkheimer and Adorno also state that “the result is the circle of manipulation and retroactive need in which the unity of the system grows even stronger” (18). Here, one can see the summarization of the power pyramid and how they gain off of working the buying culture. Everything is bought, and everything that is sold is mass produced, and everything that is mass produced is arranged by powerful groups of individuals.
What Horkheimer and Adorno had put aside is the perspective that everyone wants a choice. Sure a lot of people like the same artist or clothing line; but they like them because it fulfilled their choice. A conference is held every year where great ideas are told to a large audience; this conference is called the Ted Conference. In the 2004 Conference, Malcolm Gladwell –a well-known author and staff writer of The New Yorker– gave an eighteen minute speech about the spaghetti sauce industry. He explained how Prego Sauce became the leader in spaghetti sauce sales through a simple societal idea and fact. Prego was the first to offer a plethora of sauces. The wide variety of products sold like crazy immediately upon entering stores and markets. And why did this happen? Because people wanted exactly what they were craving. Whether that choice was chunky or basil and garlic. Consumers are appealed by the choices. So it was a no-brainer to produce more than just one flavor. People will never all end up buying the exact same product or style; it is certainly out of the supply and demand boundaries. A multitude of suppliers shall compete in markets around the globe and fluctuations seem to be the never-ending result; due to the simply nature of choice.
Then comes about the counter argument: Gladwell uses a great quote about marketing and why it is successful. “And everyone’s take-home lesson from that was that the way to get to make people happy is to give them something that is more expensive, something to aspire to” (Gladwell). He acknowledges that much profit is being made toward the food market elites; and that mainstream marketing is incredibly large. But there is a method behind the madness. It is a way to give the people what they want; sauce in this case.
When Horkheimer and Adorno see the mass production culture pulling everyone together, making them the same; I see the complete opposite. A driving force, a firework-esque explosion releasing colorful sparks in every direction. People are developing into their own identity through what they do, what they enjoy doing, and what they spend their time and money on.
I see it as a hybrid way of thinking. A little bit of both; knowing not to change morals or for that matter, yourself. Yet at the same time embracing what our evolved society has to offer. Take technology and internet for example. The technology that is able to be purchased helps to communicate and keeps everyone updated with whatever interests them. People who refuse to use any sort of technology do not baffle me by any means. I understand and even respect their choice to turn away from it. It is not natural and costs a bit, yet it is becoming more and more affordable; or sometimes just doesn’t seem appealing to current moods. Also, they may see the advance in technology as a new world. They fear that their world will be left behind and the things that made their world good will be forgotten. But there are so many positives, so many intriguing things to keep humans happy. There is the ease of communication; telephones, facebook, skype, and E-Mail. If one is ever feeling a bit lonely, just push a few buttons and you could be speaking to your best friend of family member. There is an ease of entertainment; games, music, movies, and shows. There is also an ease of documentation; factual knowledge, online books, and basically anything you want to find out about. It is comfortably easy; sometimes therapeutic. One day I was waiting at the airport and I felt the random urge to learn more about snow leopards. So I hopped on my laptop and discovered everything to know about its habits, appearance, and location density. I was bored and I found it to be very interesting. It proves my point that technology can fulfill the need of whatever you wish to use it for.
These great variations in the things we buy in our markets are an intricate part of the always changing economy. It just wouldn’t happen; millions of choice-driven individuals would not all become the same in this culture; too many choices. “There are only different kinds of mustards that suit different kinds of people” (Gladwell). Our culture revolves around making our individuals in societies happy and functional. Yes it is somewhat of an industrialized structure, but the variations in human choices will keep away from a conformed society.
We buy on a daily basis because of the convenience and satisfaction of getting exactly what we want and what is needed. And yes there are individuals out there who allow the media to control them more than not, but it isn’t an overwhelming rate of persons. Horkheimer and Adorno make a great case that the mass producing culture has its hold on our society; because of the economic dominance. But the extent isn’t as great as they so certainly believe so. Some use our culture to much better their lifestyles. I feel deeply about this due to the fact that I use it to my own advantage; I don’t let the industries use me to their advantage. My moods and interests decide what I buy. If I feel like some fatty fast food, then I will craftily buy the greatest quantity of food as possible for fewer than five dollars at the nearest Taco Bell. Or I will buy a seemingly interesting book from one of my favorite authors off of Amazon.com, if I feel like enjoying some tasty fiction. The culture industry attends to me, not the other way around. I have my choice. I can only hope that whoever stumbles upon my writing can make a personal choice as well.
Adorno, Teodor and Max Horkheimer. “The Culture Industry.” English 101 Course Pack. Mairin Barney, ed. Roosevelt University, Spring 2011: 18-36
Gladwell, Malcolm. “Malcolm Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce | Video on TED.com.” TED: Ideas worth Spreading. Ted Conference 2004, Sept. 2006. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <http://www.ted.com/talks/malcolm_gladwell_on_spaghetti_sauce.html>.