February 2003, Polity
Unravelling Horkheimer and Adorno’s complex prose,
Steinert sets out to explain precisely what is meant by the term
‘culture industry’. Writing in a clear and engaging
style, he provides an accessible exposition of the key themes and
concepts. This close textual analysis is combined with wide-ranging
case studies showing how the concept of culture industry can be
used to approach more recent cultural phenomena. Examining
contemporary film, pop music and art, as well as dating agencies
and the paparazzi, Steinert reveals the ways in which culture is
This is an original book that provides a fresh critical perspective on culture and the media. It will be essential reading for students of media and cultural studies, sociology and of the humanities in general.
Introduction: the pleasures of criticism.
Chapter 1: Approaching culture industry: recommended equipment.
Tools 1: The text: Horkheimer and Adorno’s ‘Culture Industry’ of 1944/1947.
Tools II: Cultural experience: analysing the products of culture industry.
Tools III: Reflexivity: writing field notes.
Field notes I: Why are you smiling, Leonardo?.
Autonomy and mass deception – a case of Dialectic of Enlightenment.
Field notes II: The President as the bad guy – Clint Eastwood’s ‘absolute power'.
The structure of the ‘Culture Industry’ essay.
Field notes III: Heartburn and Telephone Sex.
Chapter 2: On method: look carefully, think thoroughly, and do not let yourself be taken in.
Skoteinos, or how to read Adorno.
Texts that do not need readers.
Authoritarian realism versus reflexive dialectics.
Field notes IV: Woody Allen, or the film critics’ blindness to irony.
Countertransference and analysing the working alliance.
The everyday and the reflexive approach to texts.
Analysing the working alliance.
How to conduct a thorough and skilful interpretation.
Field notes V: Talk Radio – insulting the audience.
Chapter 3: The production of cultural commodities.
Problems involved in producing cultural commodities.
Fordist standardization: ‘Uniform as a whole and in every part.
Fordist cultural commodities.
Organized markets – organized production.
Developments in the mode of production.
Field notes VI: Exoticism and Music.
Working alliances in the cultural history of the twentieth century: bourgeois, modern, avant-garde and reflexive.
The development of reflexivity in the twentieth century.
Field notes VII: The obsolescence of high culture’s critique of society: the case of Carolee Schneemann.
Chapter 4: What is wrong with consensual entertainment?.
Amusement – ‘released from every restraint’ or the ‘prolongation of work’?.
Field notes VIII: Clowns, performers and shows – the not quite so respectable arts.
Culture as advertising – advertising as potlatch.
Field Notes IX: Ahlers Collection on Tour: The Art Event.
Chapter 5: The conditions of belonging: the appropriation of the audience.
‘Ironically, man as a member of a species has been made a reality by the culture industry [monopoly capitalism]’.
Field notes X: Can we find Hitler funny?.
What can the public want?.
‘It’s good to see you here in such numbers tonight!’.
Culture industry’s impact on consumers.
Analysing ‘the audience’ from the audience’s perspective.
Field notes XI: Total control of your life.
Chapter 6: Culture industry politics.
Field notes XII: Why Princess Diana’s death was so moving.
Chapter 7: Intellectuals in the supermarket: perplexed.
Professional and lay critics of media and society.
Wrong television cannot be viewed rightly.
Social criticism and culture.
Critical theory in enhanced culture industry.
Field Notes XIII: Woody Allen’s Manhattan Operettas.
Select bibliography of works by Adorno and Horkheimer.
Sets out to explain precisely what is meant by the term 'culture
industry', providing an accessible exposition of the key themes and
Textual analysis is combined with a series of wide-ranging
case-studies designed to show how the theory of the culture
industry can be used to approach more recent cultural
Examining contemporary film, pop music and art, as well as dating agencies and the paparazzi, Steinert provides lively examples that reveal the ways in which culture is commodified today.
--Douglas Kellner, University of California at Los Angeles
"Understanding "culture industry" is central to both critical
theory and contemporary public life. Heinz Steinert's account is
both the best introduction to the subject and an important update
for a new era. It should be read widely."
--Craig Calhoun, New York University