The Contemporary Role of ‘Popular Culture’

Pop culture, also referred to as popular culture, describes the ideas, perspectives, and practices that are considered to be part of the mainstream of a specific culture, such as the most popular or up-and-coming one at the moment, like the western culture. A culture is essentially a collection or domain of ideas and perceptions that can have an impact on society in general and on people in particular. It is believed that pop culture has the power to change a person's perspective or approach toward a subject. These days, the entertainment sector, which includes movies, music, and most significantly television, is seen as having a significant impact on our official culture. However, politics, news, fashion and technology also comes under the popular culture as its categories.

It is often observed that the popular culture is criticized by some of the non-mainstream sources such as some extremist religious groups or maybe some countercultural groups. According to these non-mainstream sources, the ideas and perceptions portrayed by the emerging culture is corrupted, shallow and sensationalist. Also according to them, some of the aspects of a popular culture are seen to be against the norms and the values of a society.

While looking at the history and the development of a popular culture, it is important to observe the major contribution made by the mass media and the pop music. Mass media is known to be the significant force in modern and particularly westernized culture. It reflects and thus creates the culture, also termed as the mediated culture. We individuals are exposed to millions and millions of messages every day from multiple sources including television, print and social media. These messages not only promote the products but also shape the attitudes and the perceptions of the individuals. This idea can be explained using the culturist theory. According to this theory, individuals interact with media playing an active role in constructing their own meanings out of the messages they receive. They interpret the messages based on their personal perspectives and interpretations. In other words, how we understand and interpret media messages actually helps us shape our own self and identity, both individually and as groups. An individual’s identity is mostly self-constructed, based on the social interactions and most importantly influenced by the ideas presented by the pop culture (Adorno, Theodor).This important aspect contributes to the notion of how emerging the popular culture is.

Today in this contemporary world, popular culture plays a significant role in almost all of the spheres of life whether it is politics, fashion, industries or even administration. These days the popular culture is also called the mass culture since it is followed by masses. The most important role here in the amalgamation of the popular culture is played by the technology. Technology makes our life easier and possesses the power to turn our mental images into immediate reality. Nowadays, all psychology is said to belong the social point of view, thus it is the mass culture that helps redirect the claims that are closer to reality. Hence all mass culture is said to be fundamentally an adaptation. Those sectors in which the dynamic bourgeois art is subjected to adaptation, mass culture represents the living reality as a technique for occupying and suspending its development (Adorno, Theodor).

The rap culture observed today mostly revolves around a certain genre of music but not to forget that the technological changes have inflicted a loss of history upon music. The rap culture music is trendy and cool. However, it undermines some of the aspects of traditional classical music. These days’ youth is seen to be involved in contemporary subcultures. These subcultures are not only contrary to the societal norms and values but also direct youth to deviance and antisocial conduct. Contemporary subcultures, also known as youth-cultures are extremely popular these days among the teenagers and young adults. Individuals who are seen involved in such popular groups are heavily criticized by the cultural and religious groups. They construct their identities and personalities based on the ideas of their “cool group”. Consequences of adopting such deviant attitudes are harsh and adverse. However, today’s youth don’t realize and understand the shortcomings.

Coming back to the characteristics and the system of mass culture, there are three stages to its development and process: Advertising, information and command. The media particularly brands or advertises the products and services; it provides the active audience with the certain amount of information regarding the product. The information provided by the media or culture helps an individual make decisions based on their own perception and interpretation of the product or service. Similarly, the popular culture commands and help individuals shape and construct their identities. The identities created are more or less based on the collection of ideas presented by the popular culture. Overall, the mass culture is said to culminate the demand that no one can be any different from itself. This means that we individuals know ourselves better than anyone else. Though we construct our self, using the information from the environment and the culture particularly, we do have the power and potential to reflect on ourselves and to be self-aware (Adorno, Theodor).

As mentioned earlier, politics and administration are also influenced by the contemporary ideas of a popular culture. Culture does help and influence a system organize, distribute, assemble and evaluate, in a way that when an organization or an institution hire individuals, the way the recruitment process and the rules are formulated are directly or indirectly influenced by the ideas and the approaches of a popular culture. The way the individuals behave in social and corporate situations reflects how the popular culture in engraved in their lives (Adorno, Theodor).

A culture is said to be a subjective matter for the individuals and is not at all objective. Interpreting a cultural aspect varies from an individual to individual. Due to this, a culture suffers damage when it is pre-planned and administered. It is meant to be unpredictable and the aspects to be surprising enough to result in varying interpretations. However, these days’ culture and administration are considered two separate aspects and are seen alienated from each other. Reason being, administration is an external affair, whereas culture is comprehended and interpreted internally. Because of this, culture is also considered to be rather irrational. On the contrary, the essence of administration is itself considered rational. However, which of the two is more objective is still a matter of debate (Adorno, Theodor).

With the advent of the process of neutralization, culture is observed to be transformed into something independent and external which actually makes it possible to integrate completely into the form of an organization. Due to this integration, it is not only the administration system that is influenced by the aspects of popular culture, but it is also the culture itself that is some affected by the new administrative standards (Adorno, Theodor).

Another division of a popular culture is the cultural industry which is quite different from the mass media. Culture industry missuses the concern for the masses in order to duplicate, reinforce and underpin their mentality. On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, mass media is basically how the media of any form influences the masses and help them form identities. Both of these are separate entities and thus affect an individual differently. However, both of them are related to the popular culture (Adorno, Theodor).

In a nutshell, popular culture is constantly evolving, representing an array of complex and mutually independent perspectives. It does influence the societies and institutions in varying ways. The subcultures are specifically different from the mainstream culture. Hence the way it influences the individuals are unique and contemporary. Popular culture is found to have a lot of categories; some of them are discussed above with their relation to the contemporary ideas and values.

Works Cited

Adorno, Theodor. "Culture and Administration". The Culture Industry, Theodor Adorno, 1st ed., pp. 107-131.

Adorno, Theodor. "Culture industry reconsidered". The Culture Industry, Theodor Adorno, 1st ed., pp. 98-106.

Adorno, Theodor. "The schema of mass culture". The Culture Industry, Theodor Adorno, 1st ed., pp. 61-97.

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