Sangeetha (1537257) : Toward a Definiton of Popular Culture

Parker, Holt N. “Toward A Definition Of Popular Culture.” History and Theory 50.2 (2011): 147-70. JSTOR. Web. 16 June 2016.

The author is of the opinion that the common definitions of pop culture cannot be applied to pre-industrial or pre-capitalist societies. He begins by considering already existing definitions of popular culture and critiquing them. He quotes Tony Bennet in saying:

The concept of popular culture is virtually useless, a melting pot of confused and contradictory meanings capable of misdirecting inquiry up any number of theoretical blind alleys. (147)

He then takes up definitions as stated by Strinati and Dick Hebdige (149) moving to the definitions provided by Bennett and Storey. He is of the opinion that these definitions are quantitative due to the problem of “exclusion of minority tastes” (150).

Taking into consideration the commonly accepted view of pop culture as “the culture which originates from the people” (153) and points out that there is a certain hegemony involved in deciding who falls under the category of “the people” which can then lead to further division resulting in high and low culture.

In attempting to define pop culture in a broader sense, he is of the opinion that more accuracy can be achieved in moving away from the Marxian ideal to a Weberian one (158). He draws inspiration from Bourdieu’s work on cultural capital to arrive at his first tentative definition:

Popular culture consists of the productions of those without cultural capital, of those without access to the approved means of symbolic and cultural production. (161)

He adds to this definition by stating that popular culture also includes “those things that require only small amounts of cultural capital to produce and to consume.” (163). He continues to draw from Bourdieu while citing examples of popular culture as seen in Andy Warhol and ABBA to define popular culture as “unauthorized culture” (165).

The author limits his field of study by looking at popular culture elements in the Artworld and in Visual Media while neglecting other consumer-oriented fields.


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.


Sangeetha (1537257): The Popular Cult of Pop Culture

Kurlansky, Mark J. “Pop Goes the Culture.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 9.6 (1977): 36-39. JSTOR. Web. 09 June 2016.

The author attempts to locate Leslie Fiedler between two contradictory opinions of Popular Culture as expressed by Berger and Gowans respectively. He examines the treatment of the area by Berger and then by Gowans and proceeds to justify his placement of Fiedler between two ends of the spectrum.

Berger, he believes, is one of the earliest teachers of Pop Culture as a subject (36), he says:

Berger believes that Popular Culture is manipulating us, reshaping our lifestyles, and molding our children. As an educator, he hopes to fracture the media’s omnipotence through greater understanding of the subcutaneous messages that are slipped to us in massive doses. Berger hopes to arm his students to resist through comprehension.(37)

Presenting the opposite view, he cites Gowans, who believes that Art as a subject must be studied horizontally (38). He says of him:

He does not believe that the study of popular art is valid as an end in itself. . Popular Culture is used as the only available modern reference point to demonstrate how art traditionally functioned in a given epoch. (37)

Fiedler, he says makes no distinction between high and low art (38). In talking of Fiedler’s views on televison as an enjoyable activity and a legitimate art form, he contrasts Berger’s views of television and advertising as a diabolical element. He informs us:

Fiedler is more concerned with Berger’s concern. He sees the attack on television violence as a continuation of the impulse to censorship that art has always had to endure censorship not only of violence, but also of sex, sentimentality, and “irreverent humor.” (39)

In quoting Fiedler’s position, the author likens the growing fame of Pop Culture to the success of the penny novel and thereby brings in the role of technology in shaping the tastes of the society. He is of the opinion that there is a desperate need for a discipline with the ability to keep up with mass culture, and he believes that Popular Culture can achieve that.

Sangeetha (1537257): Popular Culture – Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson

Mukerji, Chandra, and Michael Schudson. “Popular Culture.” Annu. Rev. Sociol. Annual            Review of Sociology 12.1 (1986): 47-66. Web. 9 June 2016.

The authors assert that critical analysis of popular culture by major schools of thought like Marxism, Structuralism, Psychoanalysis and Linguistics have played a major role in providing new dimensions to its study and subsequently, the study of the society (17).

The authors cite Clifford Geertz’s essay “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” (1973) as his single most influential work on popular culture which they believe helped scholars who believed that “the neglected parts of a culture, the popular parts of a culture, contained profundities usually located only in elements of high culture” (4). Thus drawing a parallel between anthropology and it’s importance in the study of popular culture.

They touch upon the analysis of food culture by Mary Douglas and mass culture by Ann Douglas. They introduce the nexus between mass culture as defined by Hannah Arendt, Erich Fromm and Karl Mannheim and popular culture. They speak of Marxism thus:

Marxism’s relationship to popular culture began to change with the “discovery” of Althusser and Gramsci (Althusser 1971, Gramsci 1971)…Althusser provided a reason and a means for studying the sources of ideology in popular culture, to understand the fictional aspect of all consciousness, i.e. false consciousness. (14)