Sangeetha (1537257) : Popular Culture and Ideological Discontents: A Theory

Bar-Haim, Gabriel. “Popular Culture and Ideological Discontents: A Theory.” International Journal of Politics 03.03 (1990): 279-96. JSTOR. Web. 16 June 2016.

The author aims to arrive at a contemporary definition for the term “Popular Culture”. He develops on the definition of Shil to state that popular culture is not mere representation but also an indirect symbolic commentary on a specific ideology or even social life. The author outlines three features of popular culture as escapism, liminality and rituals of resistance. He agrees with Cohen and Boorstein that popular culture also becomes “a route to escape the mundaneity of everyday life” (292).

He begins by examining the limitations of dominant approaches to decipher the relationship between ideology and pop culture. In order to arrive at a fundamental definition for an ideology, he contrasts the former with another belief system, that of religion. Thereby resulting in the definition of ideology and religion as:

They both strive to produce meanings and interpretations that either shape a present social order or subvert it in order to replace it. These meanings and interpretations become motivations for social action. (281)

The author then arrives at his first definition of popular culture. He places it as opposite to ideology and religion and states that it cannot be regarded as a belief system aimed for or against a normative order (281). He further goes on to say:

Popular culture thrives on disillusionment, frustrations, anxieties and changes effected by ideology, religion, or other belief systems. It prospers in times of disappointment with “redeeming vision” and with supporting social and value systems. (281)

He is of the opinion that various aspects popular culture like yoga clubs, discotheques gained wide-spread popularity because no existing belief system was able to interpret the daily life of the people. Talking about popular culture as a neutral domain as opposed to ideology and religion, the author says:

Popular culture suggests neither realistic nor Utopian alternatives. If alternatives are proposed, they are in the form of allegories that allude to events and incumbents, the social reality which is either a source of concern or of disillusionment. Popular culture comments on ideological effects without taking either an alternative stance or a transcendental position. (285)

The author states, towards the conclusion that popular culture involves a certain degree of social commentary but contradicts himself in saying that not all forms of popular culture deal with social relevance and does not justify this sudden shift in his argument.

 

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