The Myth of Mass Culture  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Myth of Mass Culture is a 1977 popular culture studies book by Alan Swingewood

He points out in the aristocratic theory of mass society is linked to the moral crisis caused by the weakening of traditional centers of authority such as family and religion. The society predicted by José Ortega y Gasset, T.S. Eliot and others would be dominated by philistine masses, without centers or hierarchies of moral or cultural authority. In such a society, art can only survive by cutting its links with the masses, by withdrawing as an asylum for threatened values. Throughout the 20th century, this type of theory has modulated on the opposition between disinterested, pure autonomous art and commercialized mass culture.

Swingewood points out that there is no question of domination by popular culture here anymore, popular culture does not threaten high culture, but is an authentic expression of the needs of the people. He emphasizes that the Frankfurt theory has to be seen in the light of left-wing frustrations about the failure of proletarian revolutions early this century, and the easy submission of the European nations to fascism. He also points out that the ideological messages the mass media receive are already mediated by a complex network of institutions and discourses. The media, themselves divided over innumerable specific discourses, transform them again. And finally the public meaningfully relates those messages to individual existences through the mediation of social groups, family networks, etc., which they belong to.

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