(a) From Volk to cultureindustry
Previous chapters have emphasized the utility of approaching critical theorizations of populism via their assessment of fascism. As we saw in Chapter 5 , both Gramsci and the Institute linked these assessments with the domain of aesthetic culture. In both cases the relevant realm of the aesthetic was socially broadened beyond compositions identified within philosophical aesthetics: for Gramsci, the national-popular; for the Institute, the cultureindustry.
Repetition, Innovation, and Hollywood‘s Hit Film Formula
This article explores the rise of the Hollywood sequel in the 1970s and 1980s,
analysing contemporary industrial and popular discourses surrounding the sequel,
sequelisation, and film seriality. Drawing on recent sequel scholarship as well as a
wide range of film examples and paratexts it examines how industry insiders, trade
papers, and film critics tried to make sense of the burgeoning sequel trend. The
ensuing discourses and cultural practices, this article argues, not only shaped the
contexts of sequel production and reception at the time but also played into the
movies‘ serialisation strategies and their increasingly self-referential
Critical theory and demagogic populism provides a detailed analysis of the relevance of the Frankfurt School’s work to understanding contemporary populism. It draws on the research that the Institute for Social Research conducted concerning domestic demagogues during its period of ‘exile’ in the USA. The book argues that the figure of the demagogue has been neglected in both orthodox ‘populism studies’ and in existing critical approaches to populism such as that of Ernesto Laclau. Demagogic ‘capture’ of populist movements and their legacies is thus a contingent prospect for ‘left’ and ‘right’ populist movements. An account of ‘modern demagogy’ is thus detailed, from the Institute’s own dedicated demagogy studies through to their dialogue with Weber’s work on charismatic leadership, the US liberal critique of demagogy and Freud’s group psychology. The Institute’s linkage of ‘modern demagogy’ to the culture industry speaks to the underestimation in ‘populism studies’ of the significance of two other ‘modern phenomena. The first is ‘cultural populism’ – the appeal to a folkloric understanding of ‘the people’ and/or ‘their culture’. The second is the pivotal role of modern means of communication, not only in the recent prominence of social media but demagogic exploitation of all media since the rise of literacy and the widening of the suffrage in the nineteenth century. The dialectical dimensions of these processes are also highlighted in reconstructing the Institute’s work and in extending these analyses through to the present. The book so concludes by weighing up potential counter-demagogic forces within and beyond the culture industry.
( 2016 ), ‘ The Romance of Work: Gender and
Aspirational Labour in the Digital CultureIndustries ’, International Journal of Cultural
Studies , 19 : 4 ,
441 – 57 , doi: 10.1177/1367877915572186 .
( 2019 ), The Migrant Union: Digital Livelihoods for
direct borrowings from, or reactions to, content on the Fox news channel, widely reported to be one of Trump's chief sources of information. His retweeting of others might be considered one form of demagogic recombinacy. Less commented on but still well-documented is the role of the cultureindustry format of reality television in his rise.
So, Trump can definitely be seen as a product of the cultureindustry. In that sense, the early headline that ‘The Frankfurt School Knew
and demagogic capture is digitally reproduceable. Moreover, in both their ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ forms, they enable accelerated digital production and circulation of cultureindustry montage-practices.
If we consider this integral role of mediation within populism historically, it becomes clearer why the USA is such a pivotal case. As we saw in Chapter 1 , the complementary work of the New York Intellectuals developed a more detailed historical frame for the USA's distinct capacity to generate populist movements and charismatic modes of
These discussions of the project have focused on its analysis of antisemitism, which was certainly its primary purpose. However, the project expanded beyond this remit to examine broader ‘prejudice’. Likewise, while the demagogues studied all professed anti-Semitic views, the model of ‘modern demagogy’ (as I will call it) that emerged covered a wider range of demagogic practices. Crucially, Adorno and Lowenthal also connected demagogy to the cultureindustry.
This latter dimension has received least attention to date
We were always talking about and looking out for native, grass-roots fascism. One thing that people overlooked is that Fascism always had attractive elements of populism in it.
Kazan and Schulberg's extensive pre-production research deliberately sought out these ‘attractive elements’ within the USA as well as the emergent cultureindustry: ‘We went to Madison Avenue like explorers going into
history – would surely fall into the category
of the ‘cultureindustry’. Though Adorno and Horkheimer, Benjamin, Brecht and
Bloch may have given us a rich conceptual apparatus with which to understand the workings of
power, its sources, purposes and effects, dystopian fictions cannot be simply read through
that apparatus. They do not belong to it in any unmediated way no matter how tempting it may
be to see this or that fictional innovation confirming or illustrating some thesis about
instrumentally-driven science or thought, or
narrative, and its visual
and musical treatment of samba, Berlim na batucada rejected the
symbolic economy of space generated by the state and the cultureindustry.
Sharon Zukin describes a city’s symbolic economy as ‘its visible
ability to produce both symbols and space’ ( 1995 : 2). This is fuelled by the growth of cultural consumption and the
industries that cater to it. Like Berlim na batucada , Carlos
Diegues’s 1966 film