The Idea of the Culture Industry

Authored by: Juliane Rebentisch , Felix Trautmann

The Routledge Companion to the Frankfurt School

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138333246
eBook ISBN: 9780429443374
Adobe ISBN:


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The idea of the culture industry runs through many of the writings of the Frankfurt School. The term was coined by Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer in one of the chapters of their Dialectics of Enlightenment. While this may be the most prominent use of the term, the idea can be traced back to Alexis de Tocqueville and his study on democracy in early nineteenth-century America. Whereas the analysis of the commodification of culture and the homogenizing effect it has on the masses is of undisputed relevance until the present day, the critique of the culture industry as a mere distraction of the masses from their social and political condition has also been contested by authors like Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin. In order to grasp the different dimensions of the idea of the culture industry, this chapter discusses the concept with regard to its origin and critique as well as in relation to Adorno’s understanding of art.

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