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    What is popular culture? Essay Paper

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    This involves the theory that culture is ‘mass produced for mass consumption’ (John Storey, Cultural theory and popular culture, page 10, 1993) and that those consuming are oblivious to their exploitation. This is then connected to a sense that this component of our culture has been imported from America as it is seen by many as the birthplace of commercialisation. In contrast a further theory suggests that those responsible for popular culture are the people themselves, contending other theories that claim it is something enforced upon us by the powerful.

    This view does leave unanswered questions though, one being who do we define as being ‘the people’? Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci has also contributed with the concept of hegemony. ‘The hegemony of a political class meant for Gramisci that class had succeeded in persuading the other classes of society to accept its own moral, political and cultural values’ (Joll, J 1977, in An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture, page 165, Dominic Strinati, 1995). With this Gramsci proposed that dominant groups in society are able to impose themselves over subordinate groups in a bid to gain control over them.

    The postmodernist has also added to the debate with the idea that there is now no difference between high and popular culture, all culture is in fact post-modern culture. This has resulted in further clouding of the difference between commerce and culture, with the two now often overlapping. And so it is that popular culture is an ever changing terrain that has many influences, be they historical texts such as music or literature, or lived cultures and practices such as religious festivals.

    A product of industrialisation due to the manner in which the period changed relations within the cultural landscape, it would appear that its interpretation can vary depending on what has influenced the definer, as this quote shows. ‘People are constantly struggling, not merely to figure out what a text means, but to make it mean something that connects to their own lives, experiences, needs and desires. The same text will mean different things to different people, depending on how it is interpreted.

    And different people have different interpretive resources, just as they have different needs. ‘ (Lawrence Grossberg 1992, in Cultural Studies and the Study of Popular Culture, page 6, John Storey, 1996).

    Bibliography Storey, J. (1993), Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, Harvester Wheatsheaf. Storey, J. (1996), Cultural Studies and the Study of Popular Culture; Theories and Methods, Edinburgh University Press. Strinati, D. (1995), An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture, Routledge. Turner, G. (1990), British Cultural Studies; An Introduction, Unwin Hyman.

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